How to make a distance scale for faster navigation

Captain John Jamieson

Captain John Jamieson

If you are anything like me, sailing navigation can be a challenge when short- or single-handed sailing. But you still need to be able to plot fast and accurate positions for sailing safety. Here one little-known sailing tip used by the pros that will help you do just that!

Distance scale measurements on a chart can be a pain–in particular on an unstable platform like a sailboat in a seaway. Sure, you can use the Latitude scale, but that requires you to move back and forth across the chart from the Latitude scale on the left of right margins back to your plotting area. You can lose your place in the blink of an eye. Why not make a portable scale you can use right next to your plotted sailing course? It’s fast and easy.

Just how important are distance measurements in navigation? Recall that distance forms one third of the foundation we call navigation: Time, Speed, and Distance. In order to calculate Time or Speed, you must measure Distance. Once you know your distance, you will be able to:

* Calculate time to turn onto the next course.
* Estimate time of arrival at a destination.
* Plot a DR position for safe navigation.
* Plan for landfall or for arrival at an anchorage .
* Find your actual sailing speed over ground.
* Sail between two points to determine speed.
* Provision with food, water and fuel for cruising.

Follow the five steps below to make a customized distance scale for the coastal or inland navigation charts aboard your small sailboat.

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