Navigation

You should take a course with the Power Squadron, unless you are already familiar with navigation from experience. Before GPS, I used a sextant because satellite passes were so infrequent, but once I had cloud cover for two weeks - so no star shots or sun shots. It may be fun to take sun and star shots, especially if you are bored on a long passage.

Today it makes sense to have three GPS units on board, two should be battery operated, one permanently stored in a metal box four feet away from the mast and ships wiring.

The cost of a sextant is much more than 3 GPS units.

What you need today is a handheld satphone ($1500) to call home and the Coast Guard. Or you can rent one for Ocean crossings for a few hundred dollars.

Even less expensive is a satellite positioning devices that allows you to send text messages via satellite (like the Spot) and the internet. You can type the text using the keypad on your iPhone or Android phone.

When you get to the Islands there is always an internet connection near the anchorage. If you have a wi-fi high gain dish antenna you can connect to a shore wi-fi up to two miles away. Otherwise use the internet when you go shopping. Cellphone is getting cheaper, and you can always use skype and the internet. With a skype phone number, family can simply dial your phone number and the computer will ring. I use skype on my iPod which has no phone service, and it sounds to people like an ordinary phone call. You can also do face to face video with skype. I use it to check on my dogs - there is a wi-fi camera pointing at the kennel run.

You still need a radio for radiofax charts.

Weather

There is no excuse today for choosing to sail in bad weather. Your wife will feel much better about going to sea if she knows that you will be sailing in good weather. You can learn to read the NOAA Marine radiofax charts, at home and at sea. You can position the boat to always be in the best winds. The radiofax charts forecast the location of winds and waves four days ahead. In four days you can travel 400 miles and move the boat towards good winds and away from gales.

In the Caribbean sea, winds are always from the East. In the North Atlantic wind direction depends on the position of the Bermuda high, and low pressure fronts coming from the West. In the Spring there is almost no chance of a storm South of Hatteras, and the biggest winds come from fronts as they sweep from West to East. These fronts are usually forecast four days ahead. You can jump on the back of a front and take the SW -NW winds towards  Bermuda. For a few days you will sail well until the Bermuda high settles back in to produce light winds. Go to http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/nwatlanticbrief.shtml   for a briefing package showing the next four days of weather on surface and at 500mb pressure level (5250 meters high).


Go to this page for where to download the Weather Book you will need.