Hannah Cotterell
Written by
Hannah Cotterell

Passage planning steps

Posted on Saturday, Dec 1, 2018 | reading time: 4 min

Why is passage planning important? What should you take into consideration when creating your plan and how can you make the process as comprehensive, quick and easy as possible?

First we must note that having a passage plan is, at least in the UK, a legal requirement of the SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) convention. Under regulation 34 (safety of navigation and avoidance of dangerous situations) skippers must, under UK law, create a passage plan for all vessels proceeding to sea.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Planning and pilotage is an essential part of any skippers’ preparation for going to sea. A question we often get asked is, “how long should I spend on it” and “how detailed should it be?” The reality is the time spent on passage planning and the detail involved varies greatly from one sailor to another. It is the way with which sailors provide a complete description of their voyage from start to finish, before leaving port. Your passage plan will include everything from the pilotage of leaving the marina and arriving at your final destination to the logistics of the route, weather forecasts and sea state predictions.

So what are the steps for making a perfect passage plan and how can we ensure it doesn’t take us longer to plan than actually sailing to our destination?

Key passage planning steps to consider before you sail:

  • Weather forecast
  • Tidal flow
  • Safety equipment
  • Proposed route
  • Navigation factors such as dangerous shallows, reefs and shipping lanes
  • Boat limitations
  • Number of crew and experience
  • Required paperwork
  • Victualing
  • Fuel
  • Shore-side contact
  • Estimated time of departure and arrival
  • VHF numbers
  • Pilotage plans and Almanac notes for each port of departure and entry
  • Up to date chart information

Taking into account all of these factors it is also a good idea to have a backup plan, for example, if something goes wrong whilst sailing you must ensure there are alternative ports or safe bays within which you can pull in for refuge. Thinking on the spot is not ideal in an emergency!

When deciding on routes, plot your waypoints and ensure they are appropriate for the predicted wind, sea and tidal conditions of the day or days you are sailing. Ideally you want to leave with the tide and fly through tidal gates.

Onshore contact

It is advisable to ensure you have a contact on shore that is aware of your predicted departure and arrival time. They can then raise a red flag should you not arrive within your window.

The RYA has a useful app called RYA SafeTrxApp, this monitoring app allows you to enter your route and estimated time of arrival. You can share this with your designated emergency contact that will then be notified if you don’t arrive within your predicted window. Future versions of savvy navvy are likely to have similar options, to allow you to “share” your route with your nearest and dearest.

Save time on passage planning with savvy navvy

So how long does it take to put together a good passage plan? Well it really depends on how long and complex the passage is; however with savvy navvy it can certainly take less time!

Our integrated sailing app allows you to save time by enabling you to plot your route in just two clicks. To start drop one pin where you want to depart from and another on your final destination. Savvy navvy will then plot you the safest and fastest route based on your boat details, and real-time wind and chart data (with tidal data coming soon). You can then export your waypoints and use them on your chart plotter!

Don’t worry, your charts will never be out of date

We work with hydrographic offices across the globe to gain the latest up to date chart data, so you will never need to worry again that your chart information is inaccurate.

Passage planning with savvy navvy means you can drastically shorten your preparation time, allowing you to spend more time sailing with your friends and family and less time below deck.

Check out our pricing plans and join today