Our Club Night on 24th June was devoted to learning a little of the art of navigation at sea.

After a few quips about our ability to find our way to the venue, finding our way to the door, losing our bearings etc we began the serious business of avoiding being lost at sea. The club members who came along were thrown into three hypothetical situations where some knowledge, teamwork and common sense would help solve a navigational conundrum.

The aim was to have fun playing with charts, parallel-rulers, dividers and other gadgets to find where you might be from the information provided and work out how to get to a safe harbour.

We had three teams, Wanderlost, Sailastray and Pathwinder, with three crew in each team. Each navigation exercise was designed to take about 15 minutes to plot the bearings, find a position and set a course for a safe harbour. Although Chris Kelly suggested that a team of three will take about three times as long to work out the problem as a person on their own.

These novice navigators leapt straight onto the chart tables and plotted running fixes or three point bearings, calculated time, distance and speed and imagined themselves finding a quiet anchorage after a tough passage. Great seagoing stuff - and all done in a nice warm, stable APYC clubroom.

The three simulated challenges were:

  1. On chart AUS 806 Gabo Island to Montagu Island
    Plotting a running fix off Green Cape at 4am to set a course for Eden.
  2. On chart AUS 817 Hervey Bay
    Getting a 2 point fix in Hervey Bay before smoke haze reduced visibility and then deciding on a route to sail to find the fairway mark at the entrance to The Sandy Straits.
  3. On chart AUS824 – Bailey Islet to Whitsunday Island
    Using a three point plotter to find your position in the Whitsundays and deciding what course to sail to the Long Island anchorage near Schute harbour.

The photos show the exertion of intense concentration on the faces of the participants as they solved these navigational mysteries.

After the chartwork activity we finished off with a short quiz on issues such as why Americans insist on having a buoyage system which is the opposite to the rest of the world. Is there a sensible answer to this?

The results of each team’s efforts were recorded in a logbook which was marked, using a scoring system similar to Stephen Fry’s on QI. Team “Sailastray” did not sail too far astray and took the prize. They took away a stash of Boatshed Bay wines to stow in the bilge and some small amount of kudos.

The supper after all the hard work gave us a chance to discuss the ways in which we had been lost and found during the evening, and enjoy Kerrin’s cake and biscuits, and a tea or coffee. The photos are Kerrin’s too.

We can now count on our participants to have a heightened awareness of their position, course and destination, whether on a sailing day at Albert Park or on their next ocean crossing. It was a fun night with a great club atmosphere.

Leigh McNolty