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Voyage preparation

The American Practical Navigator

One of the useful resources for a voyage preparation is the 9th edition of Nathaniel Bowditch's "The American Practical Navigator". The first edition was published in 1802. It is continued to be updated and published by NIMA and the electornic version is available on their web site. It contains plenty of information about nautical charts, marine publications, navigation aids, piloting, dead reckoning, astromony, meteorology and hydrography. I consider acquiring a hard copy of it to keep on board at all times.

Nautical Texts

Sailing Directions (Planning guides)

There are 5 planning guides publishded by NIMA. Each describes a relative part of the world. It gives general information about each country within the region such as a geographic location, a climate, a terrain, a buoyage system, currency, industries, a goverment, a flag, languages, holidays, a time zone, SAR and navigational information such as Sailing Directions Enroute' publication number and maritime claim territorial boundaries.

North Atlantic ocean is described in Pub. 140 among with Baltic sea, North sea and the Mediterranian sea.

Sailing Directions (Enroute)

Sailing Directions Enroute are much more detailed than the Planning Guides.

Pub 147 and 148 cover Caribbean sea.

As for the charts, they are not free for non-US waters. One reason I love the United States for is the free electronic charts. I don't know of any other country that provides free charts for its waters. Among these non-NOAA charts I found the electonic version is much more affordable nowadays than paper one. Both NIMA and British Admiralty paper charts are astronomically expensive. Navionics charts for the Central Americal and Caribbean including Bermuda are packaged on a CF or SD card and cost $200. Paper charts for this area would cost a few thousands. They are $20 to $30 a piece.

Coast Pilots

Coast Pilots are similar to the Sailing Directions Enroute but only cover US coasts and its territories in even greater details compared to foreign countries.

Coast Pilot 2 Chapter 5 describes the New Bedford area. The following charts are related to sailing in New England waters:

NOAA RNC (Raster) charts
Chart NumberTitle
13232NEW BEDFORD HARBOR AND APPROACHES
13230BUZZARDS BAY
13218MARTHA'S VINEYARD TO BLOCK ISLAND
12300APPROACHES TO NEW YORK NANTUCKET SHOALS TO FIVE FATHOM BANK
5161PLOTTING SHEET NEWPORT TO BERMUDA

US Virgin Islands, for example, are in Coast Pilot 5 Chapter 14. Here is the list of charts for that area:

NOAA RNC (Raster) charts
Chart NumberTitle
25641VIRGIN ISLANDS VIRGIN GORDA TO ST THOMAS AND ST CROIX
25647PILLSBURY SOUND
25649ST THOMAS HARBOR
Imray-Iolaire paper charts for the Caribbean sea
Chart NumberTitleScale
ALesser Antilles-Puerto Rico to Martinique1:930,000
A2A2 Puerto Rico to Anguilla1:395,000
A23 Virgin Islands1:282,000
DVenezuela - Trinidad to Curacao1:100,000
D2Carenero to Aruba1:583,700
D232Curacao1:88,300
E5Bermuda
NIMA Radio Navigational Aids (Pub 117)

This publication has a list of radio stations that transmit time signals and weather reports among the other information.

International Code of Signals

The Code of Signals provides means for communicating information between parties when language difficulties arise. Such means include visual flag signals, sound, light, hand flag or arm morse code signals, voice over a loud hailer, radiotelegraphy and radiotelephony.

Weather

Pilot Charts

The NIMA published Pilot Charts have statistical information gathered over many years in meteorology and oceanography to help a navigator to select the quickest and safest routes. They have winds, waves, temperature, pressure, currents, visibility, tropical and extratropical cyclones data averages for each month of a year. They also depict great cirlce routes for the given month to provide the shortest distance between major ports.

I'm going to get just an ICOM IC-R75 communication receiver instead of a transceiver for offshore and high seas weather reports. Weather fax, radiotelex, NAVTEX can be decoded on a computer via a sound card (well, a microphone in case of Mac iBook G4) input from a receiver with software. Here is a nice overview of the weather fax provided by a software development company that designs Multimode program for Mac. This product is about 5 to 6 times cheaper than a standard radio fax receiver providing one already owns a laptop.

It sounds like a good idea to find out ahead of time on which frequencies relative broadcasts can be obtained and at which time. Complete radio navigational aids are provided by NGA publication 117 unfortunately in a zipped .exe-format. They think that every computer on the planet runs MS Windows - intelligence people, what else can I tell.

It makes sense to get familiar with the information given in these broadcasts and learn any unknown abbreviations and signs on weather maps. Here are an example of North Atlantic weather sources:

Buoys
Wind/Sea Charts
Surface Charts
Upper Air Charts
Tropical Cyclone Charts
Satellite Imagery
Other weather disseminations