Category: Navigation

Passage Planning

DividersIn my experience, people make passage planning far more complicated than it needs to be. Remember, it is just an overall plan of your intended voyage.


You need to work out rough time of departure, distances etc. but the detailed courses to steer, waypoints and bearing should be done once your voyage is underway. There is no point doing a detailed plan to only find that when you depart the wind direction has changed by 180 degrees!


I always think that passage planning need to be broken into 2 main areas;


One element is the general things that need to be done prior to departure, i.e. boat preparation, crew selection etc. The second is the nitty gritty of the navigational plan. The second element is the one that most people associate with passage planning, but for real, the first element is also important for a successful voyage 

Passage Planning – General 

This list varies considerably depending on whether we own our own boat or not. If we are familiar with the vessel we are making the voyage on, a lot of these details are known to us already. If we are chartering a boat, there is a lot to find out.

In no particular order;

  • Boat Familiarisation
  •      Electrics Master Switch
  •      Electric Switchboard
  •      SeacocksToiletGas / Cooker
  •      Engine Starting / Stopping and Controls
  •      Depth Calibration
  •      Rope familiarisation
  •      Reefing systems (both sails)
  •      Anchor Equipment
  •      General Stowage

  • Check Safety Equipment
  •      Locate and fit Lifejackets / Harnesses
  •      Locate and check operation of flares
  •      Check operation of VHF/SRC Radio
  •      Check location and operation of Fire Extinguishers / fire Blanket

  • Check sufficient fuel on board
  •      Diesel
  •      Petrol & 2 Stroke oil for Outboard
  •      Spare Engine Oil

  • Fill water tanks

  • Check cooking Gas/Gaz bottles

  • Food
  •      Do you have sufficient food aboard for the journey?
  •      Do you have suitable food for poor sea conditions?
  •      Have you prepared some food for the first night at sea?

  • Crew
  •      Who’s coming with you?
  •      What is their experience?
  •      Is this a suitable journey for your crew?
  •      Does one of the crew have sufficient knowledge to take over if required?
  •      Do the crew have suitable clothing / footwear / waterproofs

  • Skipper
  •      Is this a suitable journey for your level of experience?

  • Details of Voyage ashore
  •      Does someone ashore know of your overall plans?
  •      Does the Coastguard have your details on a CG66?

Passage Planning – Navigation

This list should cover all aspects of the navigation of your vessel. To start with, I have a list of general considerations, followed by a specific set of questions regarding a particular journey.

In no particular order;

  • Long Range Weather Forecast
         As well as looking at daily forecasts we need to consider our overall strategy, especially if we have deadlines
         where we have to ensure the boat can return to her homeport.
  • Suitable charts on-board for intended journey and destination(s)
  • Up to date Nautical Almanac (Reeds) / Tide Tables
  • Tidal Stream Atlas
  • Pilot Books / Cruising Guides
  • Pilotage Plan(s) for Departure / Arrival
  • Navigational Equipment
  •      Plotter / dividers / hand bearing compass / Pencil!
  •      GPS / Chart-plotter / Radar / AIS / Depth Sounder

Passage Planning – 7 questions to ask yourself

Ask yourself these questions for a particular journey. Once you have answered them you will have a workable Passage Plan. Remember this is only a basic overall plan. You only need to work out rough departure times, journey duration and ETA. The details of the journey will be added once under way.

Do your plan BEFORE departure!

 I have assumed that we have checked the weather to confirm whether the journey is feasible or not. If it is, look at each of these points;

  1. 1. Are there any restrictions for departure?

Are we locked in, if there a sill / bar that restricts access, when can our crew turn up?

  1. 2. Are there any restrictions for arrival?

Do we need to lock in? can we only access a harbour at certain states of the tide?

  1. 3. How far is it? What is my estimated boat speed? How long will it take?

Be realistic in average boat speed

  1. 4. Are there any Tidal Gates?

If there are, we need to turn up at precisely the right time

  1. 5. What are the general tidal streams doing?

Makes sense to travel when the tide is in our favour if possible

  1. 6. Are there any hazards or dangers on route?

Familiarise yourself with rocks, reefs, overfalls, shipping lanes etc.

  1. 7. What are my alternative destinations (Bolt Holes)

Where can I go if the weather changes, a crew member gets sick or we have some form of mechanical / electrical breakdown 

Answer these 7 question, you have a plan!

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