Sailing on the many lakes within the borders of the United States is a great way to enjoy your boat. But don’t forget to consider a nice voyage up and down the picturesque coastline on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. A coastal cruise can be an opportunity to experience new sailing conditions and possibly deepen your love of sailing.
However, planning a trip out on the water can include a lot more than making sure you’ve packed enough sunscreen, food, and drinks for the duration of the trip. A little bit of preparation can go a long way to help ensure a safe and pleasant passage out on open waters. Whether you’re only headed out for a day sail or a longer voyage, here are a few items you may want to keep on board and helpful tips that may come in handy for planning a safe, enjoyable trip down the coast.
Before your boat leaves the dock, it is a good idea to make sure that all systems are working properly and you have the necessary safety equipment aboard, like personal flotation devices. Becoming familiar with your boat and all its workings is important for any person heading out on the water. Also, don’t forget extra items you may need aboard for general marine purposes or in case of emergencies. Consider consulting the a list of equipment and requirements to pass the U.S. Coast Guard’s vessel safety check. Some key items on that list include: properly displayed boat registration numbers, fire extinguishers and navigation lights.
Regardless of if you are a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of person or a detail-oriented scheduler, you’ll typically need to incorporate both personality types for a sailing trip down the coast. While it’s a good idea to research ports available to you and know where you plan to make landfall or anchor each night, there are oftentimes no guarantees for schedules on the water. Sailboat speeds tend to average between four to six knots, although elements such as winds, currents, or engine issues can have you saying “bye-bye” to your original schedule. It is nice to set daily goals, but be prepared for delays that may leave you spending more time on the water, or entering a different port than originally planned.
Nautical charts for coastal areas come in either paper or electronic versions, and whichever method is preferable to you, charts are very important to sailing the coast. They will help alert you to not only the depth of the water in an area, but known shoals (areas of shallow water) to watch out for, navigational buoys and aids, and situations that may pose a threat to your craft. For information on basic chart reading, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers instructions on reading nautical charts.
For many people, but particularly for sailors, weather can help create a fun-filled day, or may be a cause for concern that could potentially put you in danger. To help ensure a safe trip, it’s a good idea to do a thorough check of the weather during the time you will be on the water. This can includes wind speeds and direction, as well as any storms or precipitation that may pass over you. Sailors can find some helpful wind and sea forecasts online at websites like Passage Weather for GRIB (gridded information in binary) files, and NOAA’s Marine’s Forecast, which can give a written explanation of current conditions and outlooks for your zip code.
Taking a sail down the coast should be an experience that gives you butterflies of excitement instead of any cause for worry. By following some simple tips above you should find your time on the water pleasurable, and may not even want to return to land anytime soon.