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While Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) have been appearing on more commercial and recreational vessels, many sailors still find it to be cost-prohibitive. As an alternative, I recently used a combination of smartphone apps and AIS websites...

Avoid a GPS-induced incident

by Steve Henkind, Posted November 21, 2008
GPS has greatly simplified certain aspects of navigation; at the mere touch of a button, a boat’s position can be determined within about 30 feet. Despite the reliability of these devices, boats are still being damaged because of navigational errors. After several decades of both navigating and teaching navigation, I’ve suffered a few close calls of my own and can recommend some ways to use your

Night Flight

by Patrick Childress, Posted July 7, 2009
Not a sliver of moon nor a single star could pierce the thick clouds. We were sailing, levitating, in total darkness. Keeping Brick House, our Valiant 40, just half a mile off the unlit rocky shore was the only way to stay out of the swift counter-current as we fought our way south along Mexico’s Caribbean coast. It was important to sail all night and make good time

Search Patterns for Sailors

by Sail Staff, Posted April 5, 2011
It’s late at night and you’re sailing downwind in a moderate breeze. You hear a faint scream, quickly go up top to investigate and discover, to your horror, that no one is on deck. Apparently, your shipmate has fallen overboard. You hit the MOB function on the GPS, get the boat turned upwind and proceed to the approximate spot where your companion fell overboard. He is nowhere to be

Rescue 21

by Gordon West, Posted May 9, 2011
First the good news. Throughout most of the continental United States, calling the Coast Guard on your marine VHF radio now ties you into one of the most modern marine radio networks in use anywhere on Earth. As of November 2010, the 26 Sector Command Centers in the Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 radio network can monitor transmissions along nearly 37,000 miles of coastline.

Sudden Exposure

by Steve Dublin, Posted June 23, 2011
This story originally appeared in the December 2009 issueWe were on the return leg of our round-trip cruise from Florida to the Dominican Republic. The crew included my wife Lucy and our sailing friends, Joe and Mary Merchberger, and we had all enjoyed the beautiful countryside and friendly people of the Dominican Republic. Our sleigh ride back north had all but erased the memory

Extrasensory Perceptions

by David W. Shaw, Posted September 28, 2011
The night sky over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel flashed white with lightning, like a silent artillery barrage. The storms were so far up the bay the sound of the thunder never reached Sonata, the 1981 Pearson 36 cutter...

Do You Know Your Racing Flags?

by Sail Staff, Posted March 1, 2012
Everyone knows the Answering Pennant (AP or “Cat in the Hat” flag) means racing has been postponed and that the “P” flag means a standard starting sequence. But what about the “M” flag, an “N” flag over an “A” flag, or an answering pennant flying above Pennant 2? 

Judging Leeway

by Tom Cunliffe, Posted March 14, 2012
Any boat under way in a crosswind, whether it’s a rowboat crossing a lake or a powerful cruiser reaching along the coast, will be pushed sideways to some extent. The effect is called “leeway,” and even big ships are subject to it. Sometimes leeway is insignificant; often it is not.
There aren’t many sinking sensations to compare with the one you get when your GPS decides to take an unscheduled break, especially if you’ve been relying on an electronic chartplotter. One minute you know exactly where you are. The next you’re surrounded by a trackless sea, feeling distinctly insecure. 
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