Home Port


The theory , the planning

Course Material
Memory Aids
Coastal Navigation
Beaufort Scale
First Aid
Marine Electrics


The practice of sailing



Good Links - to Sailing in general and to Irish/UK information



Ashore - Things about 'Afloat' that you need to know before leaving dry land.

This section is a collection of on-line resources relevant to Day and Coastal Skipper courses, with additional information beyond the limits of those courses.
There's also information on sails and sail trim, which isn't what those courses are about.
This is not intended to be any sort of self-contained on-line course. What you get here are texts, diagrams and animations that I found to be useful supplements to the formal courses and the standard materials.

My tuppence-worth is that you should try to attend a formal shore-based course if at all possible. Planning a passage like Dover to Boulogne could be done out of a set of textbooks on the kitchen table, but it's very useful to be able to run your theory past the eyes of someone who's actually done it on the water. There are a few subtleties (and a few things not-so-subtle) which might not jump out of a book at you. My experience of the courses was that time could always be made for a one-on-one to clarify or expand on the topics being covered.


Course Material

Day Skipper Course material from Motor Boats Monthly. Everthing bar the basic sails for yachties. http://www.motorboatsmonthly.co.uk/mby/dskip/day1b.htm

Colin Walls teaches the RYA shorebased coastal skipper/yachtmaster course. His slides for the course are available for "anyone who wants them" at http://www.murorum.demon.co.uk/sailing/
The slides are presented as graphic files, so they are a bit slow to load. It's worth going through. I found the slides on Secondary Ports to be a useful clarification.



International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea , Collregs, Rules of the Road, ..

A plain English guide to the Rules of the Road is at http://www.tecc.co.uk/marine/mbm/rule/intro.html

Texts of the IRPCS are available online at http://www.glenans-ireland.com/Resources/colregs.htm.

More animations of various light combinations are available at http://www.sailnet.com/collections/learningtosail/rules/start.htm

Memory Aids

Definitions and Mnemonics for Sailors and Powerboaters at http://fmg-www.cs.ucla.edu/fmg-members/geoff/mnemonics.html


Coastal Navigation

There's a free online course at http://www.sailingissues.com/navcourse0.html

It's the very best that I have come across. Navigation and tides are coved to an advanced level.



Animations of common knots at http://www.mistral.co.uk/42brghtn/knots/42ktmenu.html

More than you ever wanted to know about knotting in general at http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/knotlink.htm


Beaufort Scale

The Meteorological Service of Canada site includes a : photograph from a ship at sea for each point on the scale


First Aid

Basic 'First Aid at Sea' at http://www.mpconline.com/marinersinfo/marinerinfo/firstaid.html

Deliver a baby while removing your own appendix with the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) - UK Ship Captain's Medical Guide


Marine Electrical

The graphics in the Marine Battery primer at http://boatsafe.com/nauticalknowhow/marine_battery.htm are slow-loading, but worth the wait if you are unfamiliar with battery technology.

There's extensive information in the Marine Electrical Check List at http://www.islandnet.com/robb/marine.html
If you think that you are 'handy' with things electrical, then this page will tell you a lot about special considerations for the marine environment. Even if you don't intend inspecting/tackling boat electrics yourself, the section on factors influencing corrosion are well worth reading.



I'll have to take some time to hunt more informative VHF links. These below were some I found in a hurry just before my VHF exam.

Aside - My 7-year-old daughter helped my studies by testing me on the phonetic letters. We had only done a few iterations through the alphabet when I noticed that she had stopped using the book to check my answers. Makes one feel old!


The Radiocommunications Agency control the UK radio spectrum.
They have a very useful list of online documents relating to maritime VHF. This includes licencing arrangements, radio procedures, allocation of channels, and use of EPIRBS.

See http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/boating/vhfcall.html for an example of a VHF call. The rest of that site is Canadian-centric, but global agreements mean that we have much in common.
I noticed that the link above used the term 'Roger' - which I believe is a bit non-U on this side of the pond , Rubber Duck.
On the same tack, a group of us watching an RYA video on VHF procedures were taken aback by a Traffic Routing message in which the words TANGO or ROMEO did not feature, a link call in which the parties seemed to waffle on for ages, and a marked absence of call signs and repetitions of vessel names. I suppose we 'knew' too much :)

Global Maritime Distress and Safety System: The GMDSS Examination page at http://members.aol.com/ab0di/ gives a good picture of the culture that yachties are heading into in pursuit of VHF certification.



News as at May 1st, 2000
It seems the US military have decided to stop degrading the GPS signals as of now - meaning that standard GPS accuracy will approach 10 metres rather than the old 100 metres.

Get the horse's story from the horse's mouth ( the Interagency GPS Executive Board )

GPS ?? I've worked with computers since they had valves. I still wouldn't trust my life to one. So keep traditional navigation skills as your primary method. Your battery or a flaky GPS set may kill you long before the military makes you unsure of your position.


The last bit of this little story might be useful. Even with a fully-functioning GPS, you might still kill yourself.


The Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Resource Library - Yale University http://www.gpsy.com/gpsinfo/index.html says: "This is a page of links containing information about the Global Positioning System (GPS) and handheld GPS units. There are links to other GPS information sites, online Internet Mapping Programs, GIS (Geographic Information Services), Grid Overlays, DGPS, GPS resellers, GPS manufacturers, Radio modems for GPS use, and the Year 2000 (Non) Problem."
It is.

More on GPS at http://www.apparent-wind.com/gps.html



Meanings of International Maritime Signal Flags at http://www.anbg.gov.au/flags/signal-meaning.html



There are people who know a great deal but who are not good at explaining it. There are people who are sort of opposite. There are those in between.
The following links are different takes on much the same topics from different angles. Somewhere in or across them you may find things that relate to your questions on the topic.

Those of us with a dinghy sailing background have an advantage over others starting on cruisers. The Racing Basics at http://www.uiowa.edu/~sail/skills/racing_basics/ will help people catch up. Chapter.2 of this online document has a good description of how sails work and how they can be tuned.

This site : http://www.northsails.co.uk/media/articles.asp includes two "Fast Courses" for main and genoa. It's the best online beginner's guide I've found on sail trim. 'Best' in that it uses animations to illustrate the points. (I'm a sucker for useful uses of 'kewl'). It uses the Flash plugin for the interative animations, which allow you to play with sail controls and see the effects.
If you don't know what Flash is, don't worry. It's in widespread use. If you don't already have it, there's a link on the site to download it.

The Neil Pryde Sails Owners Manual has some good information on sail trim at http://www.paw.com/sail/neilpryde/manual/trim.htm See the internal links within that site for more information on rig tuning and terminology.

More than you ever wanted to know about sails, sail trim and tuning at http://www.uksailmakers.com/encyclopedia.html


Bill Gladstone has three chapters of his book on Performance Racing Trim online at sfsailing.com. I came across them while looking for online info on Genoa Trimming. The chapters are worth reading even if you are not interested in racing.

It's not blindingly obvious how to get to each chapter on the site, so here are links to the online chapters:
(4) Upwind Boat Handling;
(5) Genoa Trim & Controls;
(6) Mainsail Trim & Controls;

There used to 7 chapters online. You'll have to buy the dead tree version now.

Sections of his book on Performance Racing Tactics are on line as well:
Chapters : 4, 6, 7a, 7b, 7c, 9




"Sailing - is that moment when you turn the bloody engine off" - Me

It's the modern age. Marinas and everyone-in-a-hurry have made engines excessively useful.
The first big boat that I sailed in was a Cork Harbour One Design. When I was a kid, the Royal Cork was called the Royal Munster, and everyone sailed off moorings. My first blissful view of East Ferry was from Denis Doyles's boat (way before Moondusters I think - when he wouldn't have an engine). We came in on a rising tide. He slung out an anchor and swung in to come precisely alongside the pier.

An online version of "Sailing by E.F Knight" at http://arthur-ransome.org/AR/literary/knight.htm should probably be a bible for those interested in classic boats. It's still a good book for anyone who wants to learn about sailing. As a matter of opinion, it would stand up well as the only reference material for Day/Coastal Skipper. Read the sections on Mercator's Projection or anchoring, for example, and see if the standard texts do as well after over a hundred years of reflection.
Technology may have replaced romance to a great extent since the 1800's, but the basics (even the COLLREGS) are the same.
Did you ever wonder where the phrase "chock-a-block" came from? No - well maybe you've just started wondering :) . The answer is in the Glossary at the end of the book.


A small digression

I came across the E.F.Knight book while looking for sailing in general. Stepping back up the directory structure brought me to http://arthur-ransome.org/AR/literary/ardocs.htm , where I found that the book had been one of the influences for Arthur Ransome (he of "Swallows and Amazons").

I remember reading Swallows and Amazons and really enjoying it when I was around 10. I could relate to it as at this tender age, my friends and I were exploring every inlet in Outer Cork Harbour in small boats. We had a freedom that would get many people tut-tut'ing today, and a freedom which will probably become illegal in a few years.
I've tried to get my children to read Swallows and Amazons, but the thing belongs to a bygone age of a less complicated form of innocence. "Aw Da-aad! It's got a girl called 'Titty' in it for goodness sake!".

The page mentioned above links to a number of old sailing books available for reading online. Amongst them are "The 'Falcon' on the Baltic" by E.F. Knight and "Sailing Alone Around the World" by Joshua Slocum, of which AR said "Boys who do not like this book ought to be drowned at once."
(That must have been before the days of lady-sailors? Hi to Toni & Claire !)