Before reading this page grab a copy of the training almanac and chart (and a real ones if possible).
Why is this important?
Before you set out on a journey you need to make sure you have all the equipment you need, your crew are up to the trip and you have checked the weather. These are just some of the things you might want to consider before setting out (it is a starting point, not an extensive list).
People and boat
A safety briefing should give everyone onboard enough information to allow them to keep them self and the boat safe. See the safety page of this website.
Have a plan for food and water on passage making sure you have enough if conditions change.
If the passage is overnight you will need to think about a shift pattern for your crew.
Make sure you know if any members of your crew suffer from seasickness and what actions you can take.
Preparing the boat and make sure all equipment is in good working order. See the safety page of this website.
Charts, pilot books, almanac and distance
Find the approximate distance and use this along with our estimated speed to calculate the time it will take to complete the passage. Allow for extra time to allow for the unknown.
Find out the time of sunrise and sunset to aid your safe passage.
Charts, pilotage books and an almanac which cover all the area of your passage and any areas you might to forced into if conditions change. Try to do as much of the navigation and tide calculations before you set off.
How do you arrange a berth at your destination? Note down the VHF channel and phone number or phone in advance.
See the weather page of the website and make sure you have methods of receiving forecasts while on passage.
Using the tide
Tidal heights at each port with a tidal entrance to see when you can enter or exit (don’t forget ports you might be forced to if conditions change) – see the tidal height page of this website.
Tidal Streams can help, hinder or even be dangerous – see the tidal stream page of this website to see how you can use tides to your advantage and avoid tidal races.
Wind against tide can have a radical effect on sea state. Check the wind forecast and check this against the tidal stream.
Pilotage Plan for ports you an planning to enter or might enter if conditions change are better done in advance.
Waypoints in key positions allow you to use GPS to aid your navigation.
It might be possible to do a basic course to steer calculation before you set off, however prepare to re-calculate if condition or your speed change.
Dangers along the way
If you are crossing a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) plan a route that takes you as much as practical on a heading at right-angles to the TSS.
Mark any off-lying dangers clearly on the chart and ensure your waypoints and routes takes you to a safe distance from these.
Consider setting up cleaning bearings.
A lee shore is a stretch of coast with the wind blowing onto it. These areas can be dangerous particularly in strong winds and you should plan your route to take you a safe distance from these.
When making plans always have in mind, what if? Have alternative destinations in mind and plan for entering these ports or anchorages.
Make sure you have enough fuel to complete your passage and make sure you have spare. Remember a sailing boat might need to motor if you loss a sail or have gear failure.
Paperwork – going abroad
If you are travelling outside the UK make sure you have the correct paperwork. See this RYA article.
As a basic starting point for passages with in the English Channel think about the following:
– Boat registration (SSR or Part 1)
– Boat insurance documents
– Radio Licence & Personal Radio Operators Licence
– European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
– Travel Insurance (do your research about which countries and areas are outside the EHIC)
– Proof that you have paid VAT on your boat.
Imagine we are planning a passage from Newlyn to Milford Haven. You would first find the tidal and port information for Newlyn, Milford Haven and any contingency ports as well as standard ports, in this case Dover and Plymouth.
Not for use in navigation
This allows you to see that the main restriction on this passage is your arrival time in Milford Haven. If you arrive at the wrong time you will not get into the Marina.
You can them set up a route on a chart, measure the distance and calculate the time it would take to make the passage. You might need to allow for different speeds.
Not for use in navigation
In this case, we calculate that the passage will take 6 and a half hours. On the day of our example, the docks in Milford Haven are open from 1242 until 1442. We are therefore aiming to arrive by 12:30. This would be ideal and allow 2 hours leeway, however there are other openings after that.
If we miss the lock completely we could wait outside or anchor or moor at other places in the estuary.
Working backwards to calculate our departure from Newlyn as just before 06:00.
We record the details of our passage including our Course to Steer for each leg.
Not for use in navigation
View a full copy here: Newlyn to Milford Haven Passage Plan (not to be used for Navigation)
Download an editable version: Blank Passage Plan
Once we are in the Milford Haven estuary we would need a pilotage plan. See an example of this on the Pilotage Plan page.
Now watch this video from Motor Boat & Yachting
RYA: Channel Crossing
Preparing for your first Channel crossing.
Practice these methods in the real world, first in places with which you are familiar.
The content of these pages is put together in good faith and is constantly evolving. It is possible that errors exist within this content. If you spot an error or would like to add anything to these pages please contact use via email.
Reading the content of these pages is not a substitute for completing a RYA Shorebased course or similar.