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Navigation Equipment

I already have a full set of admiralty leisure folio detail charts for whole of southern England, including the South East which is my regular cruising area. I have supplemented this with a set of full size (smallish scale) admiralty charts to cover East, North and West.

I have a set of pilot books for all coastal areas and, of course, a 2015 Reeds Almanac. I have decided not to kit myself out with tidal atlases as I think I can get this information from the charts, the almanac and my electronic plotters.

The leisure folio charts I have for the South are very detailed and I won't have the same elsewhere. To get this level of detail for every inch of coast would be very expensive and, in some areas, plain impossible.

So I have electronic charts and navigation. I love paper charts and will always use them for my passage planning, but the ease of electronic navigation is a huge bonus for the single handed sailor. I will use this method as my principle means of navigation, knowing that I have the expertise and resources to navigate "the old fashioned way" should this gadgetry fail or as a double check. Having said that, I will have no less than 3 independent means of GPS positioning so total failure in this department is unlikely and will come about either through complete power depletion on board (which would have other scary repercussions) or through the GPS system itself becoming unavailable. Both fairly unlikely events.

On Principia I have a Garmin 152 GPS display that performs well as a basic positioning and navigation tool. I used this as my principle means of electronic navigation up until last year when I fitted a Raymarine a65 multifunction chart plotter. Seeing your boat on a chart while helming in the cockpit saves so much angst, quite frankly, that I really would not want to do this trip with out it. So the chart plotter is now my main aid and the Garmin GPS my backup (I still have it on all the time). Lastly I have Navionics on my phone. This app is, quite simply, a work of exquisite beauty and towering genius. It is a complete chart plotter in its own right. Can't recommend it highly enough and for the price it is quite unbeatable.

The other really handy app I have on my mobile is a GRIB file viewer, which is brilliant as I can see the wind patterns predicted for many days in advance. I downloaded SailGrib V1.8.3.

For both the Raymarine chart plotter and Navionics I have full chart detail for every bit of sea I will encounter. That's piece of mind. And if they go wrong I've got my eyes, ships compass, hand bearing compass, charts, dividers and pencil & paper. They rarely fail.

I've also got a sextant, which I am going to learn to use. I've now understood the theory (see my writeup) so I'm now going to try it out!

I have an AIS receiver which I have found very useful. When it comes to larger vessels I generally take the view that I'm going to stay out of their way. In other words, I'm not relying on them seeing little me. Stuff the sail trumps power rule. AIS is an ideal way by which to judge if a boat is going to present a problem, even when it is several miles away. You get to see its course and speed. You also have the ships name so that, if necessary, you can call them up on the VHS though I've never had to do this. All commercial boats seem to have AIS. I could opt to transmit AIS and many (larger) leisure boats now do this. But a transponder costs several hundred pounds and, besides, leisure vessels transmit  as a "Class B" vessel and I suspect many ships will have these transmissions filtered out to prevent clutter on their screens. My AIS is a stand alone one from Nasa Clipper as per the picture.

VHS radio is obviously a must-have and I have two. One fixed on the boat and one mobile which I can carry. I have a Standard Horizon handheld which has served me well as I use it a lot to speak to harbour masters on approaches (I can hold it nice and close to my not-so-deaf ear).

Finally I have Nasa Clipper NavText. I think this will be more useful once I am permanently stationed on the boat as it will always be picking up the latest weather forecasts and warnings. It's no use for day trips as it needs to have been on for a few hours to have recorded recent transmissions. I've also a standard VHF/MW/LW radio and CD player with which I can receive weather forecasts as well as to listen to music!
So here's a summary of what I have navigation-wise:
  • Pilot books
  • Charts
  • Ships compass, hand bearing compass, dividers, rulers, calculators, pencils, eraser, sharpener, paper, log book
  • Reeds 2015 almanac
  • Ships radio and handheld radio
  • Garmin 152 GPS
  • Raymarine a65 chart plotter
  • Navionics on smartphone
  • SailGrib on smartphone
  • AIS receiver
  • NavText receiver
  • SW/MW/LW CD/radio