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RYA Training Centre MCA PCA

Electronic Chart Plotters

Boating Knowledge, Theory

Did you know

Most chart plotters and electronic aids to navigation, just like your car SatNav, carry a warning when you first turn it on and you usually need to ‘Accept’ in order to progress to the main screen.

Electronic charts are made for the leisure market and although all possible effort and care is taken to display the most up-to-date and accurate information, they are not official navigational charts and are not considered to be suitable for use as a primary navigation source. Publications such as official paper charts, Sailing Directions and Notices to Mariners should be used to verify the information displayed on electronic charts. It’s always prudent to use an independent means of position verification.

Being prepared

Being prepared is very much part of being a skipper. There is always the possibility of electrical failure of some kind which may render the electronic chart plotters useless  Carrying up to date charts and knowing how to use them is a fundamental skill all boaters should have and practice.  Being prepared for a worst case scenario is better than trying to find a youtube video on ‘using paper charts’ when the timing couldn’t be worse.  Many skippers enjoy and have mastered navigation using paper charts. Those skills develop with time and much practice not just on the water but also at home.


Things that you need to know or know how to do.

  1. Can you identify if a chart is in date and up to date
  2. Can you fix your position – do you know where you are
  3. Can you identify what effect both wind & tide will have on your ground track – where do you find this information
  4. Can you plot a course to steer based  on 2 & 3 above
  5. Can you identify if there are any hazards to navigation on your newly planned passage
  6. Can you estimate how along your plotted passage will take.
  7. Buoyage – shapes and light characteristics – you may be arriving after dark

The above list is by no ends exhaustive. They are, however, essential to enable you to get home or to some other port of refuge.

As an RYA training school we would always advocate undertaking some kind of training. There area a number of online and classroom courses designed to get your knowledge to an appropriate level for the kind of boating you do. For some RYA Day Skipper theory is adequate – familiar waters, daylight hours and in fair weather. For those that venture further afield the RYA Yachtmaster certificate may be more suitable – extended passages, night passages etc. The important thing is to be prepared…

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