Charter Boat Navigation


Charter Boat NavigationOne of the big concerns for first time charterers or for lakes/inland sailors is, "Will I be able to handle navigation 'in the open ocean'"? Charter companies have a tendency to picture heavenly settings in all the charter areas they cover. And fact is, most companies try to set up their bases where sailing is rated from very easy to moderately difficult. But truth is:

Before Booking a Charter

Before you book any charter, even if you are not a first-timer:

What You Will Need

Minimum Skills


Your Preparation

For most sailors, including me, the fun of a charter cruise starts way before we board the boat, and that is when we prepare the itinerary. You see, it's like we are already there, cruising... Besides, it is not a good idea to wait until you get there to start preparing this. Even if you decide to make changes after you attend the charter briefing, at least you will have a pretty clear idea of what the briefer is talking about. Now, you may proceed: If you are going to one of the charter destinations covered in our Cruising Logs, download the log and print it as a reference.

Whether you are using our logs or not, use the cruising guide and the chart at the same time, make a list of the places you want to visit. Always keep in mind your skills and your crew's, as well as prevailing winds -they will shape your itinerary- and currents. Plot the route, the distance and the sailing time of each segment. Caribbean charterers will generally be exposed to shorter distances between anchorages. Whereas in Europe, distances between ports tend to be longer. Also, in many parts of Europe tide tables have to be followed closely.

Get familiar with the weather patterns of the area where you are going. Again, all the charter cruising grounds are depicted with blue sky and gentle winds. It is not the reality all the time, by far. For example, in the Caribbean, depending on the seasons, the weather can be as brutal as anywhere else. A sudden arrival of the "Mistral" in the Med will may catch you completely unprepared and scare you. And, very importantly, make sure that you know where to get your daily weather reports. Exotic locations can be challenging to get your reports.

TIP: For your first charter day, plan a short down wind or reach sail. Try not to schedule a long beat segment on your first day. Give yourself and your crew time to unwind and take your marks on the boat and the area. Keep that long beat segment for the middle of the week. You will not escape at least one of those, anyway!

CAUTION: Especially in the Caribbean, be very careful about sunset times. The sun sets very quickly over there and you do not want to be caught sailing in the dark. a) Charter companies strictly forbid it. b) You will be really scared, as the reefs and shallow areas are everywhere in particular in the Bahamas.

Now, STOP right there. There are 2 things you should know:

So unless you know the area very well, reduce your itinerary. It is a very bad idea to try to cover huge grounds every day, because you might get at your destination very late, and it could be dark, or there could be no more moorings balls or safe anchorage room. As a result, you will get scared or at least nervous. Totally unnecessary.

Personally, I always schedule at least 1 or 1.5 day per week of charter where we just stay put and relax. For that, of course, we choose an anchorage that has a lot to offer, like peace, nice snorkeling, a great beach, a hiking trail, or a good restaurant, etc. Don't forget that a charter cruise need not be a race - You're supposed to take it easy!

TIP: While plotting your itinerary, take notes of everything you have questions about or that you do not understand. This is your list of questions to ask the briefer when you get at the pre-charter briefing, which you need to attend, with your chart please! The briefer will give you the latest news and updates, like some markers missing in this channel, etc.
OK, let's go sailing!

Your Navigation on the Boat


What You Must Know