Chart Navigation Made Easy - Five Tips to Make Sailing Navigation Fun!

If you are anything like me, you find chart navigation to be a challenge on a small sailboat. Wind, spray, and foul weather can cause big headaches for any small boat skipper. Use these five easy tips to make a cockpit navigation tool that's a snap to use.

Forget the nautical charts==go electronic! Unfortunate as it sounds, lots of sailors do this==recreational and professional skippers, too! Nothing could be more dangerous than this practice. Have you read the disclaimer on that black box when you fire it up? It tells you right away that you should not rely on a single source for navigation information.

Paper navigation charts give you the best detail for close coastal or inside navigation. GPS receivers and chart plotters are wondrous, but you still need the paper stuff aboard to back them up. In a small exposed cockpit, use these five tips to make your charts fun, easy, and practical.

1. Buy a Clipboard

Purchase an artist sketch-board or large clipboard. You can fold or cut your chart to size to fit the board. This makes for a compact, portable chart table that can take a licking and keep on ticking.

2. Highlight the Chart

Grab your highlighters, colored pencils. Enhance dangerous shoals or wrecks with yellow or blue. Circle major aids to navigation so that they stand out. Put small anchor symbols in areas off the main course line that you might use for emergency anchorages. Now, you have a customized chart that will be easy to read at-a-glance.

3. Pencil-in Each Compass Course

No need to make permanent course lines on your nautical chart. Instead, draw light pencil lines to mark each course line. Cover each line with transparent tape (the kind you can mark on).

4. Draw Bold Course Lines

Make those light lines beneath the tape stand out. Use a black, waterproof fine-tip marker and straight edge to make each course bold and easy to see. Write the course on top and distance on the bottom. Keep your writing on top of the tape to protect your navigation chart.

5. Band and Bag It

Snap a few rubber bands around the base of your clipboard or sketch-board. For a more waterproof affair, buy one of those giant ziplock bags, put your board inside, and zip it shut. Now you're ready to face wind, spray, or any other marine weather that comes your way.

Use these five tips to make chart navigation fun, easy and portable. This will boost the safety and reliability of your sailing navigation wherever in the world you choose to cruise.

Captain John Jamieson shows small boat cruising skippers how to reach their sailing dreams today! Get his popular free report "Ten Top Safety Checks for Cruising Boat Skippers" at

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