Compass Headings
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The Checklist:

Weather Planning
& Resources

Spare Parts &
Boat Outfit

& Equipment

Celestial Navigation
Vessel Conduct
Rules of the Road

Safety Equipment &
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Trip Planning
Maneuvering, Anchoring
& Enroute Checks

Bar Entrances, Passes
& Narrows

Distances Reference
Mariner Math
Port Information
Panama Canal

Vessel Delivery
Selecting a Vessel
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Purchase Checklist

Navigation and Equipment

Three Basic Tools
Visual…..Chart (plotter)……Radar

Always be in the habit of correlating what you see visually with what is on the chart and with what is displayed on the radar.

Buoys, lights, points of land, shoreline, other boats.

Note: The more you practice this, the better you will become and the safer you will be. Crosscheck what you see outside with what you see inside. Do not stare at your plotter!!

From what I observe, far to much time is spent with Focused inside the pilothouse staring at the chart plotter. Look outside, look ahead, identify what you see outside with what you see on the chart.

Chart Plotter
Like Visual, Radar and your Depth Sounder, your Chart Plotter is a tool. Learn to Cross Reference it with your other tools. Do not completely rely on it!

Aids to Navigation
Lights, Buoys and marks are there to mark the navigable channel and hazards or obstructions to navigation. Never assume on what side to take a light or buoy. Always check your chart!! They are there for a reason!!

The Waypoint
Ensure that there is always safe water between your current position and the Waypoint you have created.

Navigating to your Waypoint
Ideally, you want your Course over the Ground to match your Bearing to your Waypoint. When you keep the two matched the vessel will follow the track line created by your Chart Plotter.
Select a vessel heading that gives you the desired Course over the Ground.

Course over the Ground (COG)
vs. Vessels Heading (HDG)
vs. Bearing to the Waypoint (BNG) or (CSE)
Or sometimes referred to as Course to the Waypoint.

It is very important to understand the differences between these different terms.

All will be described as a direction referenced to the Magnetic or True Compass. Zero degrees (North) 90 degrees (East), 180 degrees (South) 270 degrees (West) back around through 359 degrees.

Most boats will only have Magnetic. It is recommended that everything be kept in magnetic to avoid confusion.

Only vessels equipped with special GPS receivers or a Gyro Compass will have the ability to reference True.

Vessels Heading (HDG)
Stand at the Helm and sight down the bow of your vessel.
Look at what your Magnetic Compass reads.
This is the Vessels Heading.

Range (RNG)
Distance to Waypoint. Should be in Nautical Miles.

Course over the Ground (COG)

Your GPS takes several fixes per second and plots them on a digital chart. The direction of the track created by this succession of fixes is your Course over the Ground.
Note: Depending on the vessels drift created by wind and current, your vessels heading may be several degrees different. Do not confuse the two.

Speed over the Ground (SOG)
The same succession of fixes plotted by your GPS is used to calculate your Speed over the Ground.
Note: Speed over the Ground will change with the direction and speed of the water current.

Bearing to Waypoint (BNG)
Or Course to Waypoint (CSE)

The direction from your vessel to the waypoint as referenced on the Compass is your Bearing to the Waypoint.

The Autopilot
Your Autopilot is a very useful tool. It handles the very tedious chore of steering the boat while freeing you up to focus on safely operating and navigating your vessel.

Your Autopilot uses a Magnetic Compass. When properly setup, the heading you select will be relatively close to your desired Course over the Ground, but not exact.

If the pilot has trouble holding a course or struggles in a following sea, the settings need to be increased. Go into setup and check rudder settings. They may be too low. Check rudder feedback unit next to steering gear. Compass may not be properly swung.

The Magnetic Compass
Magnetic Compasses are inherently inaccurate. You can have 5 compasses onboard and they will all read something different. Compasses are affected by anything metal, electric and electronic.

The Depth Sounder
Is your sounder reading depth under the keel or under the transducer. There can be a difference of 6 inches to a couple of feet. Ensure that your offset correction is properly entered. Your depth sounder can be just as important as your chart plotter. Always be in the habit of checking depth against the chart.
Ensure your sounder is properly adjusted.
Check gain adjustment.
High frequency for shallow water.
Low frequency for deep water.

The Radar
Your Radar transmits on a frequency in the Microwave band. It is line of sight. Proper adjustment is the key to your Radars operation.
Check proper adjustment of:
Sea Return

Note: Any one of these can eliminate the picture. Adjust each one for best picture. Check for accurate alignment of the radar picture.

Ask the Captain
The Checklist
Purchase Checklist

Purchase books, cards CDs and Calendars
Books, cards and prints
offered by author
Chris Couch
Compass Headings Publishing.