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Safe Boating in Poor Visibility

Safe Boating in Poor Visibility

How to Navigate and Stay Safe on the Water when Visibility is Restricted


Boating requires all your senses to ensure you stay safe. If you have restricted visibility due to poor light or bad weather conditions, knowing what steps to take to keep you, your boat and other boaters safe is very important.

The weather off the coast of Vancouver Island can change quickly, and on the west coast in particular, sudden fog is not unusual. 

Would you know what to do if you found yourself in thick fog? Or if you needed to sail in the dark?

Reduced Visibility and Why it’s a ProblemReduced Visibility when Boating

Restricted, or reduced, visibility is something that prevents you from seeing other boats and being seen by other boaters and is usually caused by:

  • Reduced light – i.e. sailing at night
  • Bad weather – i.e. mist, fog, rain, snow

Boating in reduced visibility brings an increased risk of collision – with another vessel or a fixed object or the shoreline.

Visibility levels are classified as follows:

  • Very poor visibility – Less than 0.45 nautical miles
  • Poor visibility – Between 0.5 and 2 nautical miles
  • Moderate visibility – Between 2 and 5 nautical miles
  • Good visibility –  Over 5 nautical miles

What Should You Do When Operating a Boat in Reduced Visibility?

If you find yourself in conditions of poor visibility when boating, there are some important steps you should take right away to ensure you can remain safe and in control:

  1. Slow Down – Go slow enough to be able to stop in half the distance you can clearly see. It’s better to keep moving than to stop; however, if you feel unsure, anchor up until the bad weather has passed.
  2. Turn on all your running lights – The lights you must display differ according to the craft you are operating. Make sure you know what applies for your boat.
  3. Locate your equipment – Know where your noise-making and other emergency equipment (such as flares and lifejackets) are kept.
  4. Allocate a look-out –Ask someone to look and listen out for other vessels around you.Chart and track your current location
  5. Chart and track your current location – It’s easy to drift off your path in poor visibility, so keeping track of your position is important. GPS navigation can be used for this, but boaters should also know how to chart with a map and compass and ideally use both methods when in poor visibility.

Understanding the basics of marine navigation, and what the tools in your yacht can do, are important when you are in poor visibility conditions.

Using Navigation Lights at Night

Turn on running lights in reduced visibility

Using, understanding and interpreting navigation lights are vital when you are sailing in the dark.

Recreational vehicles must display red and green sidelights,a stern light, and a masthead light. 

Using the sidelights to determine which direction a nearby boat is moving, use the same right-of-way rules as you would in daylight.

Navigating in Foggy Conditions – What You Need to Know 

Foggy conditions in particular mean that the usual visual clues to what is around you are gone. You may not see the lights of another boat until you are very close to them. It is important you know how to make others aware of your vessel and you know how to work out what is around you.

Navigating in Foggy Conditions

Let other boaters know you are there. Use your horn and bell to make the internationally recognized marine sound signals to let others know that you are moving, stationary or grounded. In return you should listen for sounds coming from other boats.

Radar is very helpful in limited visibility as it locates both moving and static objects in the water around you such as other vessels, buoys and rocks. To maximize the benefit of your radar in poor visibility do the following:

  • Set your electronic bearing line on a vessel that is heading towards you. If it continues to travel along the line they are on a collision course with you and you need to take action.
  • Set your guard zone out 1-2 miles and at 360 degrees to provide maximum warning of possible dangers.

Prepare For Poor Visibility Before You Sail

Complete a pre-sail check

Educate yourself – Everyone who operates a recreational boat in Canada must hold a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, which is obtained after completing an accredited safe boaters course. It’s a good idea to regularly review the content of this course to ensure you remain familiar with the rules and regulations.

Get to know your boat – Learn stopping distances at different speeds, know where your sound signals and light controls are located and how to operate them. Know how to tune your radio to the emergency channel. 

Complete a pre-sail check – Inspect your safety equipment every time you go out. Check the lights and horn and make sure you have everything you need on board. 

Check the weather forecast – Weather can change very fast on the ocean. Transport Canada publishes up-to-date marine weather reports for the whole of Canada.

Carry an emergency kit – make sure you have emergency equipment such as whistles, flares, flashlights, life jackets and a first aid kit on board.

Navigate With Confidence on a Yacht from Van Isle Marina.

Does your boat have the up to date navigation equipment that can help you deal with poor visibility? Van Isle Marina, in Sidney BC, is the exclusive dealer for Pursuit boats, which contain the latest state-of-the-art equipment.

The Pursuit OS 385 Offshore provides optional navigational tools including:

  • Garmin GPSMAP – A 9-inch touchscreen advanced navigation solution
  • Garmin Radar Open Array – A high definition radar perfect for limited visibility conditions
  • Garmin rear-facing camera – Useful if you are sailing alone
  • FLIR night vision with image stabilization
  • SiriusFM weather receiver (with subscription)

To find out more about this meticulously designed luxury yacht and the other boats we currently have available, contact the Van Isle Marina sales team and arrange a viewing today.

a guide to green boating in bc

A Guide to Green Boating

How to be an Environmentally Friendly Boater

For boating enthusiasts, simply being on the water brings us joy. However, with that pleasure comes the responsibility to protect the marine environment and preserve it for generations to come. 

The good news is, adopting green boating habits isn’t difficult. Just like the simple steps you’ve taken to be more environmentally friendly on land, green boating can be achieved by making a few changes to your usual routine.

Does Sailing Cause Pollution?

It’s important to recognize that what we do in and with our boats has an impact on aquatic environments. 

Over 700,000 boats sail in the British Columbia waters each year and each of them has the potential to cause environmental damage through:

  • Sewage and grey water dumping: which can pollute our food sourcesgreen boating in bc
  • Fuel and oil spillages: half a litre of oil can produce a slick one acre in size
  • Garbage pollution: plastic and other garbage is often dumped overboard
  • Gas emissions from engines: older vessels can discharge up to 25% of their fuel directly into the water
  • Chemical pollution from cleaning products and paint: cause harmful algae blooms and poison sea-life

The good news is, there’s lots you can do to be a greener boater – and if everyone takes a few small steps it will make a big difference to the health of our marine environment.

How to be a Green Boater

Protecting the marine environment and practicing sustainable boating does require some effort. Use the green boating tips below to get started:

1. Prevent Oil Spills

  • Practice Safe Fuelling – fuelling spillages cause much of the oil pollution in our waters. To prevent drips, use an absorbent bib or collar. Fill your tank slowly to a maximum 90 percent full to allow for expansion. Regularly check your tank and lines for damage.
  • Keep your bilge clean – spilled oil, fuel and other toxic liquids build up in your vessel’s bilge area and can spill into the ocean. Use absorbent pads and pump-out into a designated bilge pumping tank when required. 

If you have an oil or fuel spill, notify the marina or the coast guard immediately, no matter how small it seems.

2. Stop Pollution

  • Dispose of sewage and untreated water safely– black and gray water contains pollutants and soap residues which can impact water quality, poison marine life and encourage algae growth. In Canada, it is illegal to dump sewage within 3 nautical miles from shore.
  • Bring your general waste back – Over 17 billion lbs of plastic enters our oceans each year. Do your part in reducing plastic pollution by bringing all of your garbage back to the dock. 

Use designated sewage pump stations, garbage and recycling facilities at your marina to dispose of waste products. The Georgia Straight Alliance’s Green Boating Guide contains a list of marinas with designated sewerage pumping facilities around Vancouver Island and the southern BC coastlines – including Van Isle Marina in Sidney.

  • Use Non-Toxic cleaning products – phosphorus and nitrogen in some cleaning products may dissolve grime, but they damage the marine ecosystem. Clean your yacht regularly with fresh water to prevent dirt build-up; research eco-friendly cleaning products (or make your own) and follow the dilution instructions.
  • Choose non-toxic Bottom Paint – copper in bottom paint leaches toxins into water as it dissolves. Aluminum-based paint is one more eco-friendly option.

3. Reduce your environmental impact

  • Reduce fuel use – reduce your speed, don’t idle and consider upgrading your engine. You’ll use
    less fuel which reduces pollution and saves money too.
  • Have a regular maintenance routine – tuning up your engine will increase efficiency and catch issues before they can cause environmental damage. Remember to do maintenance on dry land to prevent leakage into water.
  • Upgrade your engine for lower emissions – traditional 2-stroke engines lose up to 25% of unburned fuel directly into the water. Change to a Direct Fuel Injection, a 4-stroke or an electric engine to reduce fuel loss, reduce pollution and save in gas costs.

4. Make the switch to renewable energy

Boating enthusiasts and manufacturers are at the forefront of finding ways that renewable energy technologies can reduce the environmental impact of boating. 

Instead of idling your engine to charge electrical items on board, consider generating your own electricity by installing renewable energy technology such as: 

  • stand-alone solar panel
  • wind generator 
  • water generator 

Check out Sailors for the Sea’s Green Boating guide for more comprehensive advice on environmentally friendly sailing.

The Future of Green Boating

Imagine taking a ride on a boat which is almost silent, doesn’t vibrate with engine rumbles and produces no emissions. These things are possible thanks to rapidly developing electrical engine technology including:

  • Electric outboard motors – these motors are charged via electrical hookup in dock and can provide the speeds and longevity most boaters require.
  • Hybrid Vessels – these vessels combine a traditional combustion engine with an electrical engine, providing the ability to reduce environmental impact while retaining the reassurance of a traditional engine if needed. High performing boats are increasingly being powered this way including superyachts.
  • Solar powered boats – solar panels are used by many boaters to power onboard equipment, but new technological advances mean boat builders are now able to design vessels entirely powered by the sun!

Van Isle Marina Supports Environmentally Friendly Boating

Recognizing that what we do in our boats can impact the waters we love sailing on, Van Isle Marina is proud to offer services to support environmentally friendly boating. Located in Sidney, BC, the marina has a full service haul-out facility to enable out-of-water cleaning and maintenance. Power washing and bottom painting facilities and services are offered, along with ground sheets to prevent waste leakage.

Our state of the art fuel dock includes a holding tank pump-out to prevent oil spillage and we offer a sewage pump as well as complete garbage and recycling facilities on site. Considering an upgrade to a more environmentally friendly yacht? Contact our sales team today.

Bow and Stern Anchoring Best Practices

Bow and Stern Anchoring Best Practices

How to Set Two Anchors

Knowing a variety of stern and bow tying and anchoring techniques is essential for any boater’s toolkit. Here on the West Coast of Canada, we have such a wide variety of anchorages. Knowing which anchoring technique to use will come in handy many times over and bow and stern anchoring is one of the best since it’s so versatile.

When to Use Bow & Stern Anchoring

  • Anchoring in small bays
  • For mooring, if required
  • Anchoring at the narrow edge of channels
  • Anchoring in busy areas
  • Anchoring in soft ground
  • Anchoring amid shifting currents and tides
  • Anchoring right over a great fishing spot
  • Anchoring in a storm situation
  • Anchoring at an angle that protects your boat from rolling waves

For best results when using a bow and stern anchoring technique, make sure you get plenty of practice in sheltered waters. This way, you can deploy and retrieve both anchors and cruise away in just a few simple steps. At the same time, brush up on your knot tying skills with our guide to 9 easy knots for boating.

On the West Coast of BC, we’re so lucky to have our pick of spectacular anchorages all the way around the Vancouver Island. For areas with high winds and strong currents, like Cape Scott through to Quatsino Sound, we highly recommend using the bow and stern anchoring technique. This is also an excellent technique for a calmer but tight anchorage like Telegraph Harbour, just off Chemainus. Dual anchoring techniques can also make it possible for you to sail or cruise to areas you’d only dreamed of. In fact, having a boat and knowing how to best operate it is like having a pass to some of the most exclusive and secluded destinations.

Prepare your Primary and Secondary Anchors and Lines

Find a calm space away from other traffic on the water and get your stern anchor and lines ready, making sure knots are securely tied.

  1. Attach a buoy and trip line using a hitch knot or anchor knot (optional) to your stern anchor’s trip line hole. A trip line and buoy allow other boaters to clearly see that you have an anchor out.
  2. Load the anchor and line into your dinghy, making sure your line is tied securely to the boat or through a fairlead and winch if you have them.

Anchors Aweigh

  1. Facing the wind, set your primary anchor.
  2. Slowly back away, paying out extra line.
  3. Next, you or the skipper will board the dinghy and get the stern anchor ready. Refresh your knowledge on dinghy and tender safety.
  4. Drop the stern anchor behind the boat on either the port or starboard side. You’ll want to angle your boat at 15 degrees off the windward swell (on a diagonal).
  5. Drop the stern anchor from the dinghy with a scope of minimum 5:1. This means you’ll want to anchor at 5 feet for every 1 foot of water depth.
  • If you’re anchoring overnight, aim for at least a 7:1 scope. To increase length, you can add chain to the lines. Add at least 20 feet of anchor chain for best results, especially in strong winds. If there isn’t enough room to let out as much rope as you need for a good scope, you can also use a kellet for extra weight. The kellet should be placed on the mid-line of the rope. This will help to keep your anchor rode nice and horizontal in the water, keeping the boat in position.
  1. Take in the slack for the stern anchor and set it.
  2. Moving back to your primary anchor, adjust the scope as needed, making sure to pay out enough line for the secondary anchor. When you’re done, both the bow and stern anchors should be tight.

Retrieving your Anchors

  1. When you’re ready to keep moving, make sure your engines are ready and willing.
  2. Create some slack in your stern anchor line.
  • If you used a tripping line and buoy, take the dinghy out to haul up the anchor. If you didn’t use a buoy and tripping line, give the bow line slack. Then move the boat back to the stern anchor drop point. Haul the anchor just like you would for your primary anchor.
  1. Bring your stern anchor and rode onto the boat and stow them safely.
  2. Secure the dinghy
  3. Haul in your primary anchor as you normally would and head out!

The stern and bow anchor technique takes some finesse. Be sure to practice it regularly to keep your skills sharp for when you want to anchor in a small bay or inlet. Also always make sure that you have the right anchor and ground tackle for the size of the boat and wind conditions. This is known as holding power.

For instance, a 25 foot yacht in winds of 30 knots would require holding power of 490. If this boat were using an anchor made for lighter wind conditions and a smaller boat, you’d run the risk of damaging your equipment and losing the anchor.

Our team at Van Isle Marina know that your boat is your baby, so if you have any questions or concerns about the right anchor for your yacht, check out our two-part series on anchors and anchoring or contact us for help.

Part One- Types of Anchors

Part Two- Anchoring Your Boat

Are you looking for the perfect boat to make this summer unforgettable? Come and see us at Van Isle Marina where we have a fantastic selection to choose from, plus a large (and growing!) selection of luxury Pursuit Boats. Fully loaded with everything to make lifelong memories on the water, Pursuit Boats are made in the USA and built with world-class features and amenities. Browse our new and used boat listings, then contact our expert yacht broker, to find your new boat today.

9 easy knots for boating

9 Easy Knots for Boating

9 Simple Boating & Sailing Knots You Should Know

When it comes to boating, there are many types of knots used for everything from securing line when mooring, handling heavy loads, towing and of course, adjusting your sails.

As boating experts at Van Isle Marina, we’ve narrowed it down to this list of 9 tied and true (pun intended) knots, hitches and bends. These knots will assist you with everything from anchoring to joining two different lines in a pinch. Armed with this basic knowledge, you can cast off with confidence.

Note: When in use, the end of a line is called the standing end. If hanging loose it’s known as the working end, sometimes referred to as the tail end.

The Knots

A knot is mainly used to secure a line to an object, like a piling. It is also used to form an eye, or a noose. Knots used at the end of a line can function as a stopper to keep the line from slipping away, a loop to fasten to an object, or to add weight to the line when tossing.

Bowline Knot How to tie a Bowline Knot

The bowline is the most widely used in boating. A bowline forms a fixed noose at the end of the line and can also be used to connect two lines. The bowline is a go-to because it doesn’t slip and the knot can easily be untied, no matter how tight it has become.

How to Tie a Bowline Knot

Make a loop in the line, with the working end over the standing end. The working end goes through the loop, around behind the standing end and back into the loop. To close the knot, pull tightly. To untie, turn the knot over and bend it downward to loosen it.

Video Instructions

 

how to tie figure eight knotFigure Eight Knot

The figure eight is used as a stopper knot that can easily be undone. It’s most often used to keep a line from sliding away and should never be used for bearing a load.

How to Tie a Figure Eight Knot

Pass the working end over itself to form a loop then loop under and around the standing end. Finish the knot by passing the tail of the line down through the loop.

Video Instructions

 

Heaving Line Knothow to tie heaving line knot

The heaving line knot is excellent for weighing down the end of a line, making it easier to throw the line farther and keep it under control.

How to Tie a Heaving Line Knot

Make a bight (loop) in the line and hold it so that it encloses the working end. Wrap the working end around the first two strands, then around all three to use up the line of the working end. Finish the knot by passing the working end through the loop.

Video Instructions

how to tie half hitch knotHitch

A hitch is commonly used for tying line together (bending) or tying line to an anchor or a pile. A well-tied hitch will hold tightly to whatever you need it to, and still untie quickly and easily.

Half Hitch

The half hitch is used to bear loads as well as tie line around an object. It’s also used to finish many other hitches securely.

How to Tie a Half Hitch

Form a loop around the object you want to tie on to. Pass the end around the standing end and through the loop then tighten into the completed half hitch, which is designed to take a load on the standing end.

Video Instructions

Anchor Hitchhow to tie anchor hitch knot

Used for tying anchor line to the anchor.

How to Tie an Anchor Hitch

Pass the working end twice around the post keeping the second turn slack. Pass the working end over the standing end and under the original slack turn to tie the first half hitch. Pass the line around the standing end to tie a second half hitch and finish the knot.

Video Instructions

 

how to tie a cleat hitchCleat Hitch

The cleat hitch is used to attach line to a cleat. In sailing terms, a cleat is a T-shaped piece of metal or wood to which ropes are attached.

How to Tie a Cleat Hitch

Pass the line around the bottom horn of the cleat and then around over the top. Pull the line down across the middle and then up across the top again. Twist a loop in the line and hook it on the cleat as a half hitch.

Video Instructions

Midshipman’s Hitchhow to tie midshipmans hitch knot

The midshipman’s hitch creates an adjustable loop at the end of the line. Even though the loop can be adjusted, when used in combination with a half hitch, it provides a secure hold.

How to Tie a Midshipman’s Hitch

Pass the working end around the standing end then pass it around again. Tuck it beside the first turn and pull tightly. Pass the working end around again and then tie a half hitch to complete the knot.

Video Instructions

 

Bend

how to tie sheet bend knotA bend is used to connect two lines together. In sailing terms, bend means “to join”.

Sheet Bend

A sheet bend works well for joining different sized lines.

How to Tie a Sheet Bend

Form a bight (loop) in the thicker line and hold it in one hand. Pass the thinner line through the bight and behind first the working end and then the standing end. Tuck the thinner line under itself to finish.

Video Instructions

 

Alpine Butterfly Bendhow to tie alpine butterfly bend knot

Based on interlocking overhand knots, the alpine butterfly bend is used to join similar sized lines.

How to Tie an Alpine Butterfly Bend

Join the two ends, then wind the line around your hand so the join is by your fingertips. Wind the line around your hand again, then fold the join back and up under the other lines. Push the knot off your hand and tighten. To finish the knot, release the temporary join.

Video Instructions

 

Carrick Bendhow to tie carrick bend knot

The Carrick Bend is a great solution for a load-bearing bend that can be easily untied when no longer needed.

How to Tie a Carrick Bend

With one line, form a loop with the working end under the standing end. Pass the line under the loop of the other line and then over and under. Thread the working line across the loop passing under itself. To finish, pull both standing ends to tighten the knot.

Video Instructions

 

The number of knots, bends and hitches out there is staggering. We narrowed it down to these nine sailing knots since they’re all simple to master and have many practical applications for boating. If you’d like to learn more, we recommend visiting Animated Knots for a complete list of knots used in yachting.

At Van Isle Marina, we are Western Canada’s exclusive authorized dealers for top of the line Pursuit boats and Riviera luxury yachts. If you’ve been considering upgrading your boat, browse through our wide selection of new and used yachts and boats or contact our team of expert brokers to find the perfect model for your lifestyle.

Tides & Weather - what boaters need to know

Tides & Weather: What Boaters Need to Know

Tips for Navigating the Ocean’s Tides in Your Boat or Yacht

An essential part of safely cruising the ocean on your yacht or boat is knowing about the tide levels of the areas you’ll be cruising. Even if you’ve chartered the same passage countless times, it’s good to have access to tide tables and knowledge of what types of things affect tide levels.

The topic of tides is covered in safe boating courses, but if it’s been awhile, check out our brief overview of what all boaters need to know about tides.

Key Facts About Tidesboaters and tides in bc

Tides are one of the universe’s most fascinating forces – for boaters and non-boaters alike. Simply put, tides can be defined as the rising and falling of sea levels. Here are some more key facts about tides:

  • During a changing tide, the ocean’s waters are either being pulled towards the poles of the earth or pushed towards the equator. It’s all based on the position and gravitational pull of the moon, the sun, and the rotation of the earth.
  • Along most of the earth’s coasts, tides rise and fall (go from low to high and high to low) two times per day, meaning the tide changes 4 times per day – approximately every 6 hours. These are known as semidiurnal tides.
  • In just a few places around the world, the tide rises and falls only once per day. These are known as diurnal tides.
  • In some places, the first daily high tide is a lot higher than the day’s second high tide, and these are called mixed tides.
  • Depending on the position of the moon and the sun, there are two types of tides that can occur. A spring tide appears when the moon and the sun are aligned with the earth. A neap tide is formed when the moon is at a right angle to the line between the earth and the sun.
  • When the moon is closest to the earth, tides are higher than usual. When the moon is farthest away from the earth, tides are lower.
  • Tides are influenced by the geological differences in the shape of the ocean floor as well as the shape and dynamics of the coastline – they are not consistent across different areas.
  • A narrowing inlet may increase the speed of the tidal currents, while islands in the open ocean don’t usually experience significant tides.
  • Wind and other weather conditions can have an effect on tides. For example, high-pressure systems depress sea levels, while low-pressure systems produce tides higher than predicted.

Why Do Boaters Need to Care About the Tide?

Tides essentially affect the height of the water you’re cruising on, which is subject to change based on the tide. The changing tides can cause several feet of change in the water depth (sea level), so it’s important boaters are aware of the tide’s direction (is it coming or going?) and timing whenever they are boating. Even if it seems like a minuscule level of water depth change, tides can affect things like:

  • what boaters should know about tideshow much rope you need to tie onto a dock
  • how much clearance you have to sail underneath a bridge
  • whether or not your boat bottoms out on a shoal where just a few hours ago the water was deep enough to cruise across
  • your ability or desire to cruise into a harbour where you might be moored, anchored, or docked for several hours at a time
  • how long you can safely stay anchored somewhere. If you underestimate the tide, if the tide goes out, your yacht might just end up beached in place until the next tide rolls in. If the tide rolls in and your anchor isn’t fully dug into the seabed, your boat is likely going to drift.
  • when you’ll be able to pass narrow channels. For certain channels, boaters need to plan their passages around the direction of the tidal flow. In some locales, it may be impossible to travel against the current.

Get Familiar with Tide Tables

Always familiarize yourself with the seascape you’ll be navigating and try to have access to a tide chart whenever you’re out on the water. Tide charts or tables help boaters predict the sea levels of any coastal region at any time of day. Learn how to read them (consult your safe boating books for a refresher) and you’re far less likely to experience any of the issues as noted above.

In Canada, tide tables are published by the Canadian Hydrographic Service. Each tide table shows the predicted times and heights of the high and low waters that are associated with the vertical movement of the tide. They are available in three formats – table, graphic, and text – for more than 700 hundred stations in Canada.

Tide tables are also available on third-party websites like tide-forecast.com, as well as local newspapers, television news, and radio news outlets. No matter where you find your tide tables, look for three important details on one, including the time of high tide, the time of low tide, and the heights of each. For the times in between, you’ll need to use the Rule of Twelfths to best guestimate the sea level based on the stated low and high tides.

Rule of Twelfths

Using the rule of twelfths is a good way to approximate tidal levels if you don’t have access to a complete guide that lists tide levels by the hour. For boaters on the go, this formula is all you need. The basis behind the rule of twelfths is that it takes a period of about six-plus hours for tides to get from low to high tide and vice versa. (Lunar high tides occur every 12 hours and 25 minutes, which means that it takes 6 hours and 12.5 minutes to go from high tide to low tide or vice versa.)

Therefore, the difference between high tide and low tide (the range of tides) can be divided into 1/12th units. During the first hour after low tide, the water level rises by one-twelfth of the tidal range, in the second-hour two-twelfths, and so on. Using this calculation, in the third and fourth hour there is an abundance of tidal movement, but in the first and sixth hour, there is much less.

When You Don’t Have Access to a Tide Schedule

If you find yourself out on the water with no knowledge of the tide schedule for the day, all is not lost! Simply look to the water at the shoreline. The tidal current is actually visible – watch closely and you’ll soon see the sea either flowing towards or ebbing away from the land. You can also follow what other boaters appear to be doing, and tune in to your VHF radio for advice on tides.

Getting to know the tides isn’t difficult once you get the hang of reading tide charts and seeing the tide for yourself. Unlike the weather, and whether or not the fish are biting, tides are a relatively stable, predictable part about boating. They change slightly as the moon changes – and slightly more depending on the weather – but for the most part, tides are a constant, integral part of boating. Whenever you are out boating in unfamiliar locations, try and learn as much as possible about the area, which we believe is all part of the fun!

At Van Isle Marina – your go-to boat marina in the Pacific Northwest – we regularly post snapshots of Sidney, BC’s tide schedules on our Twitter page. Our staff love to help our fellow boaters learn about all the ins and outs of boating, including all about tides and weather patterns. Give us a call, come see our boats for sale, or pull up your boat to learn more about why so many people love to moor with us.

How to Enjoy Winter on the Yacht

Winter on the Yacht

Tips & Tricks for Boating in Cold Weather

One of the things most yacht owners love is the freedom to pick up and go whenever the mood strikes – and sometimes the mood strikes during the coldest months of the year. When this happens, boating in the wintertime is fully possible, even out here on the Pacific Northwest!

In the right conditions, boating in the winter can be a true joy. So, keep your boat afloat this winter and continue to go boating or live onboard all year-round with our tips for yachting or boating in cooler temperatures.

what to wear for winter boating

Benefits of Winter Boating

  • Peaceful cruising grounds give you room to move
  • Reduced off-season rates for moorage
  • Increased opportunities to brush up on your night cruising skills
  • Keeps you tide over until the warmer weather comes again
  • Keeps your boat in a usable condition so there is less to do come summer

In no particular order, here are our top tips and tricks for winter boating.

Keep Fuel and Water Tanks Topped Up

winter boating - keep your gas tank full

Fill up your fuel and water tanks at every chance you get in the winter. You’ll want to keep both tanks filled up because fuel berth operating hours are usually reduced in the off-season, and water supplies at marinas might even be turned off completely to protect the pipes during cold snaps.

Keeping your fuel tank topped up also helps reduce condensation from forming in the tank. The fuller the tank, the less room there is for condensation to form. This reduces your chances of a diesel bug forming (microbial contamination of the diesel tank), especially when paired with an additive designed to ward off diesel bugs.

Up the Antifreeze

If you’re leaving your boat in saltwater for the season, chances are the temperature won’t get so low that any leftover water in your engine will freeze, but just to be safe, make sure your engine’s coolant has enough antifreeze in it. This is especially important if a cold snap is forecast, which does happen every now and again around the Gulf Islands. If required, consider adding some antifreeze through your raw water system as well.

Charge Your Batteries

Keep your batteries charged at all costs! This might require taking them home every so often to recharge them, or using a small solar panel if you can source one. Keeping your engine’s batteries fully charged in winter is especially important because starting a cold diesel engine in frigid temperatures uses up more power than it does in the summer.

Vacuum sealed linens for boating in winter

Stow Bedding, Linens, and Cushions Properly

If you’re planning to keep bedding, towels, and other assorted linens on board year-round, make sure to store them properly so they don’t get damp. Keeping them in a vacuum-sealed bag is your best bet. This will help keep everything dry and mildew-free.

As for your fabric cushions, there is no need to vacuum pack them, simply propping them up on their sides or placing them in slated storage is sufficient. Just make sure there is some airflow around them.

Keep Your Decks Ice-Free

Ice can form quickly on your boat’s decks. Fortunately, it’s easy to take care of – simply pour some buckets of saltwater and scrub a little bit and your decks will effortlessly be de-iced and much safer for all on board.

Don’t Stow Stuff Against the Hull

To prevent mildew from forming inside your accommodation level, do not  store stuff against the hull. Clothing, boxes, fishing tackle – you name it – these items should not be pressed up against the hull. If moisture gets trapped between your items and your hull, mildew will develop and things will start to smell.

Only Plan Short Trips

Since you only get a small window of daylight hours in the winter, we recommend planning shorter trips if you’re new to boating in the off-season. If you’d like to go out for longer, aim to leave before dawn so that it is still light outside upon your return. This is not only safer, but likely to be more enjoyable for guests.

Enjoy Hot Drinks & Warm Mealswinter boating tips - bring lots of coffee

Bring more tea, coffee, hot apple cider, and hot chocolate than you ever think you’ll need for your winter boating excursions. Have enough travel mugs for all on board to keep drinks nice and warm. Hot meals will also help. There is no such thing as too much soup when it’s cold outside, but in today’s luxury motor yachts with gourmet kitchens, the sky’s the limit!

Switch Your Gas

If you’re running butane gas, consider switching to propane for the cooler months, since propane is not as likely to freeze as butane.

Dress for Success

Pack plenty of clothing so you always have something dry to switch into. Don’t go for anything too bulky – layers are best at trapping air and keeping you warm while allowing you to move around.

Bring gloves, hats, face masks, scarves, thick socks, and spares of each. Waterproof everything, where possible. Don’t forget your sunglasses as well – the sun does peek its head from time to time during the winter, albeit a lot lower in the sky.

Read More: Sailing Essentials – Important Items to Bring on Your Boat

Pack an Icebreaker

Just in case you come across a marina located close to brackish water, which can freeze in cold weather, you’ll be happy you have a boathook handy.

Keep Lifejackets Dry and Nearby

Lifejackets are just as important in the winter as they are in the summer, probably even more so, as extreme cold temperatures reduce the amount of time you’ll be able to stay conscious in the water. Keep lifejackets dry when not in use and make sure everyone on board has one that fits them and that you all know where they are stored.

Check Your Insurance

Double check your boat’s insurance policy to make sure you are insured year-round if you plan on venturing off in the winter.

Invest in Cozy Cabin Comforts

There are plenty of things you can do to make things comfortable inside your cabin all winter, which all involve keeping condensation at bay.

  • For extra heating, consider diesel space heaters when cruising, or oil-filled radiators when using shore power. Running a small dehumidifier at night can also reduce condensation while you’re sleeping.
  • Bettering your hull’s insulation is labour intensive but might be worth doing if you plan on winter boating year after year. To do so, apply a product called Celotex to the inside of your fibreglass hull, then add headlining over top. This will also help with climate control in the summer.
  • If you can’t get to your whole hull, try adding better window coverings. They needn’t be fancy, even just some cut-to-size insulating board or old foam camping mat can make a difference.
  • A cockpit tent or enclosure can add a bit more protection from the elements while helping to reduce condensation in your cabin. It’s also great for storing wet clothing, as it keeps it away from your living space.
  • Try and use the marina’s showers whenever you can to reduce overall humidity and condensation on your boat, brought on by your onboard shower.

Do you have questions about life on a yacht during the wintertime? Wondering what boat would be best for year-round enjoyment? Contact a yacht broker at Van Isle Marina to learn more.

Old Boating Superstitions

Old Boating Superstitions

19 Things Boaters Used to Be Superstitious About

At Van Isle Marina, we have rounded up some of the most popular superstitions held by boaters. Some of these superstitions are meant to ward off bad luck, while others are meant to bring good luck to everyone on board. Many of the following superstitions date back to the earliest days of sailing – although, like most superstitions, some of their origins remain either unknown or unconfirmed.

Do you abide by any of these old superstitions while onboard your motor yacht or boat?

Bad Luck Omens

These items were said to bring bad luck, and therefore were banned from being on board.

  1. old boating superstitions - bringing bananas on boardBringing Bananas on Board

Back in the day, bananas brought boaters more than just bad luck. They also brought the breeding grounds for spiders and perished too quickly, leading to unpleasant rotting containers of fruit.

The notion of bananas being bad luck on boats is said to have started in the 1700s, during the height of the trading empire between Spain and the Caribbean, where several of the ships that disappeared were carrying banana cargos at the time of their disappearance.

  1. Changing a Boat’s Name

Changing a boat’s name is considered a huge no-no that can lead to bad luck. So, if you purchase a pre-owned vessel, it’s best to leave her name alone to avoid bad luck. The reason is based on Greek mythology, where Poseidon is said to keep a record of every vessel’s name.

If you must change the name of your boat and you are superstitious, be sure to carry through with the ceremony that involves removing all traces of the boat’s name from public record. (A little tough in the age of the Internet, however!) The paperwork with the old name ought to be burned in a wooden box, and the ashes thrown into the sea with the outgoing tide.

  1. Saying the Word “Goodbye” When Departing

Ancient mariners thought that saying the word “goodbye” actually doomed the voyage. Of all the superstitions on this list, this one is still quite popular. It’s a little bit like telling an actor to “break a leg” instead of wishing them “good luck.”

  1. Whistling Towards the Windold boating superstitions - whistling in the wind

Boaters have long believed that whistling towards the wind will “whistle up” stormy weather. We wonder if whistling on the accommodation deck poses the same risk?

  1. Redheads

It used to be believed that redheads in general were unlucky. They weren’t allowed on board, even as guests, and even a boater seeing a red-headed person right before setting sail was considered bad luck.

  1. Women

Having women onboard was also believed to be unlucky. Despite many boats being named after woman, and the presence of female sculptures being used to adorn the bows of vessels, for a time it was thought that women angered the seas, which led to dangerous voyages.

Women were also seen as distractions to ancient mariners, keeping them from their duties, which also led to dangerous voyages.

  1. Never Set Sail with Someone Who Has Debts to Payold boating superstitions - seeing a shark

If there were no other signs of bad luck to blame when things go awry on a vessel, mariners might default to blaming any seaman on board who hasn’t settled his debts before setting sail.

  1. Seeing a Shark or Manta Ray

Seeing a shark’s fin swimming near your boat was said to be a bad omen; it signified that death was near – and not necessarily by the jaws of the shark. Seeing a manta ray was just as nerve-wrecking.

  1. Setting Sail on a Thursday or a Friday

When it comes to sailing, it’s not just Friday the 13th that should be avoided – it’s all Fridays. The superstition of Friday being considered an unlucky day to start a voyage is said to have religious roots, with some people believing it’s likely because of Jesus Christ being crucified on a Friday.old boating superstitions - never set sail on a Fridays

Thursdays are also considered by some to be bad sailing days because Thursdays are “Thor’s day” – Thor being the Greek god of thunder and storms.

Good Luck Omens

These items and routines were said to bring good luck, and were therefore encouraged to be on board or practiced.

  1. Setting Sail on a Sunday

Old sailing superstitions state that Sundays are the luckiest day to set sail.

  1. Tattoos & Piercings

Gold hoops were considered not just good luck, but they also signified when a boater had sailed around the world or crossed the equator. Many boaters also believed nautical tattoos were good luck, with both piercings and tattoos warding off evil spirits.

  1. Stepping onto a Boat with Your Right Foot

Which foot you use to take the first step onto your boat before a journey is said to bring either good luck or bad luck. The right foot is the good luck foot, while stepping on with your left foot first is to be avoided.

  1. Having Cats on Boardold boating superstitions - having cats on board

Cats served the important function of rat control onboard cargo ships back in the day. Seeing one or inviting one onto your vessel was inviting good luck to come your way (and less rats!). On the flip side, a cat thrown overboard meant extreme bad luck or even death was on the horizon. Boaters strove to keep their cats content and happy for this reason.

  1. Seabirds & Dolphins

Seeing an almighty albatross was considered good luck, which meant that killing one was definitely bad luck. Likewise, swallows and gulls were also considered good luck birds. The souls of perished boaters were said to live in seabirds, so their presence was welcomed.

Seeing dolphins swimming in line with your boat was also a sign of good luck.

  1. Pouring Wine on the Deck

In the earliest days of sailing and yachting, pouring wine on the deck was said to bring good luck. Nowadays it just sounds like a mess and a waste of wine!

  1. Hanging Horseshoes

Hanging a horseshoe on a ship’s mast was done to turn away stormy weather.

  1. Tossing Coins Overboardred sky at night sailors delight

Throwing a few coins into the sea as a boat left a port was said to be the same as paying a small toll to Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, to ensure a safe voyage.

  1. Seeing Red Skies at Night

Seeing a red sky at night, as in the phrase, “red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning” is still considered a popular superstition, and perhaps the only one on this list based on science. A red sunset is said to indicate stable air and high pressure coming from the west. On the other hand, a red sky at dawn is a marker for rain and stormy seas.

Learn more about the history of yachting.

If you’re in the market for a new boat or yacht, there is plenty to choose from here at Van Isle Marina. We specialize in Riviera Yachts and Pursuit Boats and also showcase a wide variety of pre-owned yachts. Come visit us in Sidney, BC near Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal!

Sailing Around the world in a yacht

Tips for Long Range Cruising

Sailing Around the World? Here’s How to Prepare

Before taking your motor yacht or sailboat out on the open ocean for weeks, months, or years at a time, there are a lot of important things to consider. Here is a list of things you need to do to prepare for life on the open sea.

Read More: Important Items to Bring on Your Boat

  1. Communications Plan
  • Inform your family and friends back home of your approximate travel itinerary. This is mainly so they don’t worry about your whereabouts.
  • As cellphone fees can be extraordinary out at sea, plan ahead by expanding your data plan. And keep in mind that relying on a cellphone alone will not be adequate for long range cruising.
  • Ensure you have a working VHF radio onboard and that everyone knows how to use it. A VHF is essential for weather updates, making or responding to mayday calls, and communicating with your fellow cruisers. Make sure your EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) is also in working order.
  1. Paperwork
  • Ensure you have acquired all the necessary paperwork required to operate your boat. This includes your Registration papers (registration required if leaving Canada) , boat insurance, VHF operator’s certificate, and personal photo identification (passports) for everyone onboard.
  • Research any applicable visa requirements for the destination countries you’ll be visiting for long periods of time.
  • Plan to obtain all of the paperwork you need well before your intended cast off date to avoid disappointment if paperwork isn’t filed in time.
  • Make sure your financials are in order. Pick up foreign currency if you can ahead of time, and let your credit card companies know you’ll be travelling.
  • Consider any additional paperwork, such as for your pets.
  1. Pack the Right Provisions
  • Stock your yacht with specialty foods you won’t be able to get in other parts of the world that you might be craving. Some examples include your favourite condiments, coffee and teas, cereals, candies, chocolates, canned soups, and sodas.
  • Pack produce that has a long shelf life, like apples and oranges, carrots, celery, and onions, while avoiding produce that perishes quickly, like bananas.
  • You can typically source staple foods like rice and beans from your destination countries.sailing around the world tips - life jacket
  • Remember that going to restaurants while moored or anchored is one of the major expenses of sailing around the world that can be drastically reduced by preparing as much as you can onboard your yacht.
  1. Toiletries and Medications
  • Planning to have enough of the right toiletries and medication on board might take more foresight than you’d think. It takes time to book appointments with your doctor and get prescriptions filled, depending on your physician. Don’t leave this to the last minute!
  • Don’t overstock items like over the counter medications, as these have expiration dates. You might also be able to find common OTC medications at your destination countries for much cheaper.
  • Check the contents of your First Aid Kit and find out who on board your boat is familiar with everything in it. Does more than one person on board have First Aid training?
  1. Mechanical, Electrical,& Plumbing
  • A boat mechanic can be hard to come by when you’re at sea, so do all you can to learn about the mechanics of your boat. You want to be able to troubleshoot and repair your yacht’s engines and mechanical systems yourself as much as possible. Take classes, watch YouTube videos, and find other boaters who can give you a rundown on your boat. Tinker on land as much as possible prior to your trip.
  • Don’t leave home without the tools and spare parts to get jobs done quickly on the go.
  • Study your boat’s sink, shower, and toilets to understand how they operate and what to do if there are leaks or clogs.
  • Your yacht’s electrical system powers everything from your lights and appliances to your navigational instruments. Study boating manuals and know what batteries on your model need to be prioritized, and how long they last. Again, try for hands-on tinkering where possible.
  1. Entertainment Options
  • Think about how you’ll spend your downtime on the boat in between ports and pack up whatever you’ll need for rainy days, including books, board games, cards, laptops, movies, music, and more.
  • Find out ahead of time what your fellow passengers are most looking forward to during the trip. If your goals aren’t all that aligned, it might be worth reconsidering the duration of the trip, or postponing the trip until all parties are “on board”, so to speak.
  • If you’ll be working or otherwise checking in with the office from time to time, make sure you have all the supplies you need to earn a living while at sea if need be.
  1. SafetyChecks
  • Ensure everything you need for safety’s sake is accounted for. This includes life rafts, life jackets, that First Aid Kit as mentioned above, fire extinguishers, a working radio (also mentioned above), and the right anchor for the seabeds you’ll be navigating.
  • Safety also means ensuring handrails are screwed tightly in place, there are no tripping hazards anywhere, and there are no burned out exterior or interior lights.
  • Debrief everyone who will be travelling with you on the location of all safety equipment on board.
  1. Consult Your Fellow Cruisers
  • Before setting out on the journey of a lifetime, ask other boaters for their tips and suggestions. They can be especially helpful when it comes to favourite destinations, routes, durations of stays, dangerous areas, expensive cities, and so on.
  • Experienced boaters have up-to-date information as well as the wisdom of trial and error. Learn from them! If you’re new to the yachting community, start by talking to your yacht broker, chat up other boaters entering the marina and at trade shows, and check out online forums.

Be Sure the Boating Lifestyle is Right For You

enjoying life yachting around the world

There are so many things to love about life on a yacht, but it’s understandably not for everyone. Cruising can be considered physically and mentally challenging at times, especially if you’re not used to being away from home for long periods.

Before journeying out for weeks or months at a time, be absolutely certain that yachting for long durations is the right choice for you. Ask yourself, do you have a passion for the outdoors and will you be happy constantly being at the mercy of Mother Nature?

Experiment with any long range cruising “thresholds” you might have by staying close to shore for extended periods at a time before heading out for longer ocean crossings to see how you manage.

When yachting, you might have to contend with things like:

  • sea sickness (yourself or your passengers)
  • cooking and sleeping while the boat is rocking
  • not being able to follow a strict schedule
  • not being able to make quick trips to the mall or grocery store
  • missing family and friends back home
  • anxiety around stormy, rough oceans
  • never feeling like your clothing is completely dry
  • giving up your regular spa treatments and gym membership

Fortunately, today’s modern yachts provide so many luxuries and comforts that long range cruising can be made ultra-comfortable. From laundry machines to dishwashers and smartphone chargers, to enclosed decks and enough storage for all of life’s necessities on board, modern luxury motor yachts present today’s boaters with everything they need to experience life at home while out at sea.

Many of the yachts for sale at Van Isle Marina are suitable for long range cruising, whether that’s up and down the coastline, or across continents. We hope the above suggestions help you plan for smooth sailing and the trip of a lifetime. Contact us for more information on any of the above or to learn more about our boats for sale.

VHF Marine Radio Etiquette

VHF Marine Radio Etiquette

10 Basic Rules of Radio Etiquette When Using Your Yacht’s VHF Radio

If you’re new to the boating community, familiarizing yourself with some simple radio etiquette will help you feel more confident when out on the water. Van Isle Marina has you covered with our handy beginner’s guide to VHF radio etiquette.

But before we get to the etiquette, there are 2 main housekeeping rules:

1. Never Leave Shore without a VHF-FM Radio Onboard

Motorboat operators, and especially yacht operators, should never leave the shore, dock, or marina without a VHF-FM radio on board their vessel. VHF stands for Very High Frequency, and when you’re out at sea, a VHF radio is your primary way to send and receive distress calls to and from the Coast Guard and other boaters.

Why Your Cellphone Won’t Cut It – VHF radios are still the preferred communication method for boaters, despite everyone having a smartphone these days. They are more reliable than cell phones out on the open sea because they can withstand rough weather, are wired to your boat’s battery so they are always charged, and consistently provide more reception than cellphones. They are of large benefit to boaters because they can reach a larger audience than a cellphone, and you don’t have to memorize any phone numbers to communicate with other boats.

2. Take a VHF Course & Get Certified

It’s better for all boaters if every operator of a VHF marine radio is trained up on how to use one. That’s why, as required by the Radio Communications Act, all VHF marine radio operators must carry a Restricted Operator

VHF marine radio etiquette

Certificate (Maritime). Get your certificate, often referred to by its abbreviation – ROC(M) – through the Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons (CPS), which handles training and testing for Industry Canada.

Find a VHF marine radio course in your area. The training course will prepare you for a short exam and go more in depth on the etiquette mentioned here, as well as show you how to use the device.

Note that you don’t need an ROC(M) to just listen to weather updates over your radio.

Now, let’s move on to radio etiquette.

10 Basic Rules to Marine Radio Etiquette

1. Keep chatter to a minimum on open channels.

On a VHF radio, channel 16 is an open channel, where all conversations are essentially public and overheard by other boats. You’re not on a private phone call when you’re speaking over a VHF radio. Keep side conversations about dinner plans on general-use channels like 68 or 72. Or better yet, use your cell phones for these types of plans.

2. Be aware of the working channels for your area and keep the right ones clear.

For example, a local water taxi company might use a specific channel to run their business, so try and keep it clear, simply out of courtesy. This will happen naturally if you abide by rule #1 regarding keeping chatter to a minimum in general. Commercial craft and drawbridge operators will also have their own dedicated channels they prefer, so keep them clear as well.

Channel 16 is reserved for maydays and other warning calls, so it’s also definitely one to keep clear.

3. To indicate you’re done speaking and awaiting a response, say “over”.

The word over is used to signify that your sentence is over and that you are now waiting for a reply. Of all the radio etiquette out there, this might be the one rule you already knew about, as it’s featured on TV and the movies constantly. However, it’s easy to forget to say it after awhile, so make it a habit right from the start.

4. When you are finished with the conversation, do not say “over and out.”

Contrary to popular belief, “OVER” and “OUT” are never used at the same time, since their meanings are mutually exclusive.

5. When you’re first calling on another boat, repeat the name of the boat you’re calling three times.

…Then repeat the name of your boat three times as well. For good measure, also mention the channel you’re using, and remember to conclude with “over”. For example, this would be a proper way to contact a vessel named Annabelle: “Annabelle, Annabelle, Annabelle, this is Christine, Christine, Christine, channel 1-6, over.” It may seem wordy, but it’s proper VHF radio etiquette.

6. When responding to another boat who has called you, state their name, then your name.

The other boater will know right away that you received their message and are now responding. Saying their name back right away grabs their attention immediately. There is no need to state their name and then your name three times each. Once is fine when you’re responding to a call.

For example, to respond to Christine, the response would simply be, “Christine, this is Annabelle. Over.”

7. Learn and use the NATO phonetic alphabet.

When you’re having to communicate single letters, use the NATO phonetic alphabet so that the person receiving your message is absolutely clear on each letter you’re speaking. This means familiarizing yourself with the “Alpha”, “Bravo,” “Charlie,” “Delta,” names that refer to letters. It’s a universal language when out on the water.

8. Read numbers as single digits.

Another universal standard for VHF radio use is reading out single digits instead of longer more complex numbers. So, it’s clearer and easier to understand “one-six” to refer to channel sixteen, and “six-eight” referring to channel sixty-eight. This especially helps when there is a language barrier amongst boaters.

9. Know about the types of calls you’ll hear

There are  three main types of calls you’re likely to overhear on your VHF radio: securité, pan-pan, and mayday calls. Knowing the severity of each one of these calls and how they affect you is important. Likewise, when making these types of calls, using the right call at the right time is more than just proper etiquette – it’s proper efficiency!

  • Securité (a French word, pronounced “securitay”) calls are meant to alert all nearby boaters to something. This is an informational call or message, and nothing more. For example, a commercial ship leaving a dock might broadcast on channel 16 the fact that they are on the move. Other times, the Coast Guard will broadcast securité messages too, such as missing navigation marks, upcoming storms, or debris in the area. There is no true danger, but something to be mindful of.
  • Pan-pan (pronounced pahn-pahn) calls are meant to alert all nearby boaters when there is an emergency onboard a vessel, but it is not a life or death situation. Pan-pan calls are not a call for help, although they do signify that something significant has happened on board, which may lead to an all-out mayday call. The Coast Guard and other nearby boats are made aware of the situation but do not provide immediate rescue.
  • Mayday calls are broadcast when there is a catastrophic event, such as a sinking vessel, a fire on board, or someone on board requiring immediate medical assistance. The proper etiquette here is to not abuse the use of a mayday call. Use it as a last resort only! If you hear a mayday call and are close enough to respond, you must do so.

10. Watch your language

While we’re on the topic of etiquette, we thought it would be worth it to mention avoiding foul language. Remember, your conversations on VHF radio are heard by other boaters, so it’s best to be respectful and watch your language. Keep it clean out there!

The above guide to radio etiquette covers the basics and is a good place to start if you haven’t spent much time operating a vessel before. However, there is still much to learn when it comes to the use of your radio and yacht’s navigational system. (See housekeeping rule #2 above about taking a course and getting certified).

Van Isle Marina’s yachting experts will be happy to provide you with more radio tips for any of the boats you’re interested in at our marina. Contact us to learn more about touring our marina and our new and used boats.

marine navigation basics

Basics of Marine Navigation

Marine Navigation Basics – How to Navigate a Boat

Whether your watercraft of choice is a speedboat, yacht, or something in between, knowing the basics of marine navigation is absolutely essential when you’re spending time on the water. Below is Van Isle Marina staff’s quick guide to the basics of navigation. We’ve included some short definitions to go with our roundup of the traditional manual tools that truly experienced sailors swear by, as well as electronic devices with all the bells and whistles.Navigation buoys

Marine Navigation – Learning Your Directions

Latitude & Longitude – A coordinate system that allows you to pinpoint exactly where you are on Earth, whether on land or at sea. Latitude measures north & south, while longitude measures east & west.

True North – Also known as geodetic north, this marks the position of the geographic North Pole according to the position of the Earth’s axis. Not to be confused with the magnetic North Pole, which shifts by kilometres every year due to moving sea ice, the geographic North Pole is where the lines of longitude converge. The same is true for the South Pole.

Knots – 1 knot or kn is 1.15 mph or 1.852 km/h, a measure of speed for boats and aircraft.  This unit of measurement has been used since the 17th century, when the speed of ships was measured by a rudimentary device made of coiled rope with evenly spaced knots.

This rope was attached to a pie-shaped piece of wood that floated behind the ship and was let out for a certain amount of time. When the line was pulled back in, the number of knots (roughly the speed of the ship) between the wood and the ship were counted.

Nautical Mile – A nautical mile is equal to one minute of latitude and is based on the Earth’s circumference. One nautical mile equals 1.1508 statute (land measured) miles.

Marine Navigation – Tools Marine Navigation - magnetic compass

Magnetic Compass – Tried and true, and something that every sailor should have on hand since it doesn’t require any electricity to operate. The magnetic compass points to magnetic north and you can read your direction using the needle or the “lubber line.” There are 360 degrees, with 0 degrees to the north, 180 degrees to the south, 90 degrees to the east, and 270 degrees to the west. The direction your boat is heading in measured in degrees relative to magnetic north.

Rules – A set of parallel rulers that determine the angle (degrees) between the starting point and destination. They are attached by swivelling arms that you can “walk” across a nautical chart, while maintaining the correct angle.

Dividers – Used to measure distance on a nautical chart, dividers are used to separate two points on the chart to represent one or many nautical miles.

GPS – Global Positioning System (GPS) devices receive signals from satellites to pinpoint your position, plot your course, and determine speed. They’re increasingly popular among boaters for their simplicity, ranging from very basic to high end, complete with depth alarms and chart plotters, among other extras.

Marine Navigational Aids

marine navigation - buoys

Buoy – An anchored buoy serves as a marker for watercraft. Port hand buoys are green and mark the left side of a passage, or an obstruction in the water. Starboard hand buoys are red and mark the right side of a passage, or an obstruction in the water. A simple rule is to keep green buoys on the left side and red buoys on the right to keep with traffic and avoid hazards. Buoys also come in different shapes and sizes.

Cardinal Marks – There are north, south, east, and west cardinal buoys, which mark the safest direction to travel. These may have a white light on top that each follow a specific pattern, and they’re coloured for easy direction identification:

  • North- Painted black on top, yellow on bottom
  • South- Painted yellow on top, black on bottom
  • East- Painted black on top and bottom, yellow in the middle
  • West- Painted yellow on top and bottom, black in the middle

See complete details on the different types of marks.

Lights – Lights used on buoys for marine navigation are all assigned specific patterns of speed and number of flashes. Cardinal buoys have white lights with a flashing speed and pattern that corresponds to the position on an analog clock. For instance, east buoys flash at a rate of 3 times every 10 seconds.  Special types of buoys, like anchorage buoys and cautionary buoys have a yellow light that flashes once every 4 seconds.

marine navigation - paper charts

Paper Charts – A paper chart is still the most reliable form of charting when on the water and is used to plot courses between point A and point B, determine depth of water, any charted obstructions, navigation aids, and information on currents and tides.

Electronic Charts –  The Electronic Navigational Chart (ENC) uses computer software and databases to provide details for charting when on the water, ENC’s use a dynamic map that shows your location in real time. The most complex are Vector charts, which allow you to filter out any layers of

Marine Navigation - Electronic charts

information you may not need at all times, such as location of buoys, direction of current or depth of water.  This navigational tool can be used on a waterproof chart plotter, smartphone or tablet, and laptop.

Read More: Important Items to Bring on Your Boat

 

Whether you’re brand new to boating or a seasoned skipper, we at Van Isle Marina believe it never hurts to brush up on the basics to ensure everyone has a great—and safe—time on the water. Rely on our expertise to help you choose the navigation tools and equipment that are right for you, and pick up a cruising guide, chart or tide book, or other supplies for your aquatic adventures at our Dock Store.

Come and see us – we are your Pacific Northwest boating experts!