Waypoint Navigation

Continuing our series on the basics of navigation based on Bob Sweet’s book, The Weekend Navigator, we’re now going to discuss one of the most important aspects of getting around: waypoint navigation.

As mentioned last time, chances are when you’re out traversing the water, you’re going to run into some sort of obstacle. It would be nice to be able to go in a straight line, but that’s going to be pretty tough if you encounter a bunch of rocks, a shoal, or a landmass. That’s why you want to plan out your route in waypoints rather than one big line across the chart.

What are waypoints? According to Sweet, “Waypoint navigation is the process of navigating along a series of straight-line segments, called legs. The beginning and endpoints of each segment are defined by their coordinates and a name… these points are called waypoints.” Just make sure you check that each leg is clear of obstacles.

If you plot out your route ahead of time during the planning stage (see the first post), then you’re going to want to plan out your journey with waypoints.

Waypoints are easy to enter on any GPS. Just put in the latitude and longitude coordinates, and you’ll be sailing away in no time. On a chartplotter it’s even easier, just scroll over to the desired waypoint and push a button. However, as Sweet points out, “even though GPS computes courses and distances for you, it’s a good idea to measure the old-fashioned way while you are measuring waypoint coordinates on an OceanGrafix chart.” That way, in case you accidentally put in the wrong destination in your GPS, you’ll be able to figure out your mistake quickly because your paper chart will show the mistake. Also, the chart gives you the whole picture.

It’s worth it to take the five minutes or so to double check your GPS with your chart. Five minutes is much better than finding out later and having to travel an extra hour or so to get back to your waypoints.

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