One of our NauticEd students (Doug) called us today asking where to go on a sailing vacation. In particular, he was asking about Tonga or Tahiti. He had been to the Caribbean plenty of times and was looking for something a little different. He’d heard that we were pretty knowledgeable on this.
Doug was right – we’ve been to both locations and have plenty of advice. So here is a summary of our conversation.
Both places provide completely different experience.
First Tonga: Tonga, located 250 miles East of Fiji and 1200 miles NNE of New Zealand, in the pacific, is a wonderful remote experience. The Island you go to for sailing is Vava’ u which is its own archipelago about 150 miles north of the main Tonga capital island of Tongatapu. The yacht charter fleets in Vava’u are small and so there are not many yachts around. Most of the yachts there are world cruisers.
Where Is Tonga
The islands themselves are mostly uninhabited. So your experience is mostly to yourselves and a few whale watching tourists. There is no reprovisioning in the islands so you have to stock up before you head out, but everything is pretty close so, to drop back mid week is not a biggy.
The islands are low-lying and close together so there are no great sailing distances you need to do in a day. Rather the days are more spent with a few hours of sailing then exploring, snorkeling and relaxing on the beaches.
Navigating is not hard but you will be a little challenged. With no distinguishing land features on each island, it is difficult to easily point at an island and immediately know what it is – you have to follow along on the chart as you go. Of course, GPS is the savior of this but you always need to monitor where you are because the reefs are numerous. GPS can be up to 100 feet (30 meters) off from reality so give everything a wide berth. There is about a 6 ft (2 meters) tide. This is usually not an issue except for one lagoon inside Hunga Island whereby you must only enter which has to be done 2 hours either side of high tide.
Hunga Island Entrance
Marina’s Cave is a must. The entrance is underwater about 10 feet down and the swim is about 30 feet long under the water to the cave to come up in an air pocket. Easy but… not for the faint at heart. At certain lighting conditions, it is pretty spectacular inside. When there is a swell, the pressurizing and de-pressurizing of the cave causes a mist and de-mist oscillating condition inside – freaky.
The humpback whales start arriving around the Vava’u islands late June and early July and there are plenty among the islands by mid-July and into August.
Snorkeling is awesome, as the coral is untouched by pollution or over diving.
Best coral ever
The sail over to Kenutu island to the east of the archipelago was through a very difficult patch of reef. But it was worth it to take a hike on the island and see the pacific waves crashing into the island wall.
Plan on a week minimum but a 10 day charter is recommended. There is plenty to do and see and in just one week we ran out of time trying to see it all.
The Tongan people are overly friendly and welcoming. Some of the Villages will put on a Luau if you give advance notice which can be done through the sailing base manager.
The Charter base in Vava’u is Moorings/Sunsail and in operated by my friend Shane Walker – a fellow Kiwi. Shane is a great guy and also runs the local resort there called Tongan Beach Resort. Stay there for a few nights either side of your charter.
Getting there is easy(ish). Fiji Airways now go direct from Fiji to Vava’u twice per week.
Overall – a bareboat yacht charter sailing vacation in Vava’u, Tonga is not to be missed in this lifetime. It is one of the more remote places you can go.
NauticEd staff can book this trip for you and give you advice on the kind of sailing/navigation experience you need. Make an inquiry on this page.
Tahiti: 1200 miles further east of Tonga is French Polynesia, known by many as Tahiti which is the main island of the entire French Polynesia archipelago. The sailing area is more done out of the island of Raiatea. So you fly into Pape’ete (on Tahiti Island) from where ever and then take a puddle jumper 300 miles NW to Raiatea.
With a weeklong sailing venture, you’ll spend 1/2 of the time around Raiatea and the island of Tahaa, a few miles to the north. Both of which lie in the same giant Lagoon area. Then the rest of time you’ll probably pop 20 miles north west over to the famous Bora Bora and the stunning Lagoon surrounding the awe inspiring volcano of Bora Bora.
An absolute highlight on Bora Bora was the Coral River. It is a place where the water flows into the Lagoon through the reef. You jump in and float through the reef checking out the most colorful fish and coral you have ever seen. You end up inside the Lagoon then run back along the path to do it all over again.
Coral River Bora Bora
But, anywhere throughout the entire week, you will experience many snorkeling spots where the coral and fish are spectacular.
Navigation is easy – but you need to keep constant watch on where you are. Coral reefs come from 80 feet deep up to 3 feet in a wall. You can easily run aground.
French Polynesia, like most of the world, uses Cardinal Marks for indicating safe water.
West Cardinal Mark (Safe Water to the West)
But also the locals use sticks to indicate not so safe water.
Sticks As Navigation Marks
The sail from Tahaa to Bora Bora is easy and the volcano of Bora Bora becomes really impressive as you close in on it. The Lagoon around Bora Bora produces the most gorgeous water colors. Obviously there are a ton of really nice resorts and restaurants to stop at.
Getting there is easy. There are daily flights to Papeete and onto Raiatea.
Doug, our student, was asking which one? Which one? Tahiti or Tonga? He has two older teenagers he wants to take. So my answer was both, one trip this year and one next. Bora Bora has brand bragging rights in terms of brand because everyone wants to go to Bora Bora, but for showing teenages a place on this planet that is vastly untouched, I suggested the Kingdom of Tonga first.
NauticEd are agents for both Tahiti and Tonga yacht charter locations as well as most other sailing destinations world wide.
NauticEd is the world’s more advanced sailing education and certification company. Yacht charter companies worldwide accept the NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master Resume and Certification. We specialize in helping people realize their sailing vacation dreams. You can do it!
Each of our course pages has a nano-forum (called SeaTalks) attached so that students can comment on the content of that page. Recently a student asked a question on the nano-forum about the distance off/double the angle method and pointed out something which when we did the geometry analysis it turns up something quite revealing.
The distance off method uses basic geometry to determine the distance from an object without doing a fix on a chart. It is quite brilliant. First I’ll explain the concept then show you the failings of it.
The concept is basic triangle geometry.
Distance-off or double the angle method
It says that when you have traveled a distance so that the angle to an object has doubled that the distance you traveled is the same as the distance from the object. All you have to know is your speed and the time you traveled. This comes from the fact that when the angle is doubled then the inside angle next to it is 180 – 2 x the angle. Thus since the sum of all angles in a triangle must = 180 then the unknown angle becomes the same. Thus it is an equilateral triangle and b must equal a.
So for example, say you are traveling at 5 knots and you spot a lighthouse ahead and to port @ time 1030. You measure the angle from your bow to the light house which you find to be 33 degrees. Over time you monitor the angle, when it reaches 66 degrees you note the time of 1105.
The time you traveled was: 35/60 = 0.583 hours
The distance then was speed x time = 5 knots x .583 hours = 2.92 nm
So simple! Right?
Here is the catch. What is your course? Do you know it? Not really, there is leeway (sideways pushing of your boat on the wind) and quite possibly current. The geometry equation fails when the heading (direction your boat is pointing) and the course over ground do not match. It is because you are measuring the angle from the bow to the object, which is not necessarily your course over ground. Often times these can be 10-20 degrees or more in a sailboat. Less so in a power boat where the speed is higher so current is less of a % and leeway is reduced.
All well if you know your course, but where did you get it from? GPS? Well then you definitely know where you are so you don’t need this method. 3 point fixes? Well then you definitely again have a chart and know where you are. So hmmmm what is one to do with this seemingly useless geometric wonderland that in practice does not work?
You could estimate your leeway and apply the correction to your heading and you could consult the tide current table to estimate the current effect of your heading. For example, say your leeway was 10 degrees to starboard in the example above (no current). Then the real angle from your course to the object would be 43 degrees. You should wait until the object then is at 86 degrees off your course which is 86-10 =76 degrees off your heading off the port bow.
Distance off with correction
We have this same discussion in our Coastal Navigation Course.
Take the NauticEd Coastal Navigation Course online NOW. Get real practical training and examples. Do it in your own time and take the tests as many times as you like – forever.
It is such good stuff that we made it available for free here. You’re Welcome!
Provisioning for a Bareboat Charter Trip
Many charter companies can stock and provision your boat before you arrive. This is a good idea for the basics but there is usually little imagination in the food that is supplied. So we recommend allowing the charter company to provision for basics but plan on a trip to the supermarket for the sometimes delectable local foods and cheeses. There is typically a large supermarket close to the charter base. But check with them before you arrive via phone or email. Even in non-English speaking countries, most people who will answer the phone at the charter base speak pretty good English.
In the BVI there are two good provisioning grocery stores in Road town that do a great job of catering to Yachties. You can order the provisions online through an online web portal, enter when you start your charter, which charter company Base and boat name (or your name on your charter contract) and they will reliably deliver everything to you.
Also, it’s a good idea not to go overboard on provisions. On most islands that you’ll visit during the trip you can get extra provisions and ice, so don’t buy too much. For those that are used to ice in their drinks, however, the Mediterranean is definitely lacking in ice machines so get used to one cube in your drink. There are often other remote places like Baja and Belize that have limited ability to re-provision. So definitely find out that information before you head out. Once while in the remote Baja region, we pre-arranged for a dive master to come out with their dive boat and meet us to lead a dive about 3 days into the trip. We also cleverly arranged for him to bring us more ice at the time.
Here’s a list of extra things to make sure you provide for your boat
Trash bags (big tough ones)
Zip lock bags
salt and pepper
TP (probably more than the charter company provides)
More bug repellent
Cheap little hand towels
Rum (for your guests of course)
Once on the boat, the charter company will provide a check list, however also check these simple things that may not be on their check list:
Cooler that does not have a leaky drain. Very Important!
The charter company will probably supply all your bedding but it’s a good idea to check each cabin is supplied
Things to bring from home
Little 12v dc to 110v AC inverter if you want to charge iPod, cell phone etc that need 110 volts.
Some boats do have inverters or generators but do you really want the noise of a generator just to charge a cell phone?
A 12-volt splitter. This allows multiple 12-volt plugs to allow multiple devices to be charging at one time. Very important if you’re taking more than a few people on the trip. Everyone thinks their cell phone/iPod is more important than everyone else’s. You’re a hero when you pull one of these devices out of the bag.
European to American style plug adapter. (Many charter boats are made in Europe and thus have round style ac plugs. Check this but most of your chargers these days take 230 or 110 volts input so you’ll just need an adapter and not necessarily a transformer)
Hand-held GPS. Many charter boats have a GPS. Some don’t and some will be broken when you arrive or will break sometime during the trip
Cruising Guide and Anchorage Guide
A local area travel guide like Frommers etc.
Many times the charter co. will provide masks, snorkels and fins, however if you bring your own you’re guaranteed to have a good set.
Digital camera with extra memory sticks.
Cheap little hand towels. The charter co. will give each person two towels for the whole week. So these little towels can serve as face and hand towels and then finally as floor wiping towels.
Book of knots and short piece of line – for entertainment of the crew.
Deck of cards.
Other Fun stuff – we really have fun on our charters and we get into the mood. One time we took a Grinch suit.
On a catamaran, a good suggestion is to use a used towel as a floor mat just inside the doorway to the saloon. This eliminates sand and grime being tracked into the saloon area and throughout the boat.
Don’t bring from Home
A hard suitcase: There is just no room on the boat for it. Ensure you send out an email to your crew prior to the trip informing them of limited space and not to bring suitcases. Instead bring pack down and away duffle type, soft bags. Sometimes there is room at the base but they really don’t appreciate every charterer wanting to store bags in their small locker room for a week. (In that email we recommend that you recommend this Charter Clinic to your crew as well. They’ll learn lots of tips to help improve your experience as well.)
Only ten years ago America’s Cup contenders achieved around 13 knots boat speed. Now they are achieving close to 45 knots – in just ten years! Sailors in such a competition used to wear deck vests. Now they need body armor. Sailing is changing, fast.
Sailing Virgins is a sailing school born in this new environment: cool, fun, fast, and highly professional. With its core market of 20-40 year old adventurous professionals, the Sailing Virgins group quickly realized they would require a learning platform that suited the demanding lifestyles of people who don’t have a lot of free time and EXPECT 21st century cloud-based and App-based eLearning.
That’s why NauticEd and Sailing Virgins Work Well Together
As soon as a Sailing Virgins client signs up for a course, they are given online access to the NauticEd courses and can begin the theory component. No books; everything web and app based.
Then when students arrive at the Tortola, British Virgin Islands-based sailing school, they get straight on the boat and start sailing using their theory knowledge they have already gained (and passed the tests). Thus, exam day, which normally takes out most of a precious sailing day, is no longer a thing. When in the BVI it’s all about sailing – gaining confidence and competence (and a fair bit of partying).
Courses are one week in duration, starting on a Sunday morning and finishing on a Saturday at lunchtime. There are three streams; Awesome Crew (for people who are figuring out the basics), Bareboat Charter Master (for people who want to charter their own boats) and Advanced Coastal (for people wishing to do longer sails and work in the industry). The calendar of courses is shown here (https://sailingvirgins.com/calendar-20162017/)
What does a typical day look like for a student in this Tortola, BVI Sailing School?
Waking up in a bay, a pre-breakfast swim off the back of the boat is a good idea. Then it’s coffee, breakfast, and a talk about the day. The instructor, using teaching methods refined in aviation training, has a mandate to balance professional teaching methods with keeping things fun.
What about the instructors?
All Sailing Virgins instructors have done time either skippering, route managing and/or instructing for sailing phenomenon The Yacht Week. They are fun, young, smart, professional, and hand selected. They have instructor certifications from the most revered sailing associations in the world. They can’t help but bring a little of the Yacht Week spirit into their courses. What they are definitely NOT are crusty ol’ sailors with a bearded boat.
How do you get there?
What is the best way to reach the Virgin Islands? In Canada and the US there are direct flights from major east coast cities to St Thomas (STT). These include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York, Newark and Philadelphia. Other US cities (including Los Angeles and other west coast cities) can typically reach St Thomas with one connection.
From St Thomas it is an easy one hour ferry to West End, Tortola. Then you have arrived in the home of Sailing Virgins. Their base, at the Fish n Lime, is literally a walk from the ferry terminal. The Fish n Lime also has accommodation for anyone wishing to spend time before and after their course on land.
If you would like to know more about the courses offered by Sailing Virgins, click here. For a free e-book from them titled “How To Become A Professional Skipper” click here.
Welcome on board Sailing Virgins to the NauticEd Platform – your clients are going to love the whole experience.
At 2245 your GPS fixes your position at LAT 41 deg 01.75′ N and LONG 72 deg 48.40′ W. You are steering course 086 deg psc at a speed of 6.0 knots. At 2400 you fix your position at LAT 41 deg 04.2′ N and LONG 72 deg 38.85′ W. What were your set and drift?
Use the following
(1) Here is a pdf of the chart for you to work on
(2) On the chart, the variation is 14 deg W
(3) Since the problem says psc (per ships compass) we need to account of the ships compass deviation. In the NauticEd Coastal Navigation course exercises we used the following table.
Ships Compass Deviation Table
Set up the TVMDC table
D 2E C 086
Thus, your True heading on the chart is 074 deg T. Your water speed along this line is as given is 6 knots.
The time difference is 1 hour and 15 minutes = 1.25 hours. Thus in 1 hour and 15 minutes, you would travel 7.5 nautical miles.
Scribe a line 7.5 nm from the origin along 074 deg T line. This is your water position. The ground position is described by the GPS coords. Draw a line from your water position to the ground position. This is your 1.25 hour long current vector. It is headed due north and is 0.5 nm long. Since this happened in 1.25 hours the current speed is .5/1.25 = 0.4 nm/hr (knots).
Set (or Direction) is 0 deg T
Drift (or Rate) is 0.4 knots
Note: Current is always expressed in deg True and always expressed in the direction it is heading whereas wind is expressed as where it comes from. Note and remember the difference – important.
This is the start to a 10-day blog series sailing on a Lagoon 450 with the yacht charter company BVI Yacht Charters based in Road Town, British Virgin Islands.
The Indians, arh the Indians – my favorite. If you miss the Indians you have missed the BVI. It is an integral part of any trip here. It is a staple of the snorkeling diet – an appetizer of what is to come for the week. We just finished an hour with the head pointed down in colorful wonderment. Wow. (Click the Arrows for a slide show)
The Indians are generally the first stop on a BVI roundabout. They are 5 miles Southwest of Road Town. So your first sail is easy. Pop the main and the jib and an hour and a bit later you’re there.
While I’m writing this we’re parked up in The Bight in Norman Island.
The Bight Norman Island
The Bight, Norman Island
The day started as an awakening blur of yesterday’s travel. Not bad – 12 hours door to door from Austin, Tx to Miami to Saint Thomas, USVI. Then a haul ass to the ferry to catch the 3:30 ferry from Charlotte Amalie, USVI to Road Town, Tortolla. The last ferry was at 4:30 which coincided with catching BVI Customs closing at 6:00. Whew – basically seamless travel just a lot depends on things being on time which are out of your control like airlines.
At the end of it all, you sit back with a drink and say – Hey we’re on Island time, what does it matter? Stress has been banned from the Virgin Islands so you have leave your corporate training at home.
BVI Yacht Charters are located close to downtown Road Town – a really short taxi ride from the ferry terminal. Very convenient. And even more convenient, close to two Grocery stores RiteWay and OneMart. Most of the stuff you can order online through their websites and have delivered directly to your boat before you arrive. For the remaining items, you can take a short stroll to the store with a cold beer in hand.
Road Town BVI
Tony from BVIYC gave us our boat check out briefing this morning and after signing my life away, as usual, we were ready to head out. We were exempted from the chart briefing because … well… I did write the book on it. I had to laugh with Kirstie in the office when she said “I know you wrote the book on it but have you been here before”. She was right to ask – any area you go sailing, you need a familiarity with the area for two reasons: (1) to make sure you have a good time and take advantage of all there is to offer, and more importantly, (2) to make sure you know where all the dangerous stuff is. The NauticEd BVI Chart Briefing book and associated test is a comprehensive guide to sailing in the BVI. Those that have taken the test and passed it are able to skip the chart briefing and speed up the check-in process. In addition, it means you have all that information on hand.
I must say that the BVI check out crew were so efficient and awesome. The boat was immaculate and ready to go. They even lent us an audio jack cord for plugging in from the stereo to our iPhones (haa haa – everyone on our boat figured that each other would bring that cable – not one between all of us – don’t ever forget to bring a 3.5 mm audio jack to play your tunes.)
So, after a crew safety briefing, we released the dock lines and headed out. Yay. A short sail to Norman Island and my fav. the Indians.
For now, we are listening to a little Lyle Lovette in Pirates Bight, Norman Island. I hear some laughter on the front deck – I’m heading that way.
On shore in the Pirates Bight are two restaurants. Both are very (very) nice. Take a recently emptied credit card. But the experience and the beach is worth a visit at least.
On shore at Pirates Bight
At Willie T’s there is a universal singularity point. The laws of the universe are just different. What you think should apply, doesn’t. After drinks on the front deck of our boat, we moved to Willie T’s to observe this anomaly. But that is my point – soon observation turns into participation. If you can resist, the two things to try to avoid are: (1) the ski shots. This consists of a water ski with 4 shot glass holes drilled into the ski. When it comes off the ceiling 4 souls are drawn seemingly by magic to put their lips to a shots glass and the ski tips back on its own volition with the smooth liquid pouring down warm throats; (2) Rafter swinging – these do not end well. Assuming you’ve been working out at the gym, the challenge is to swing hand over hand along the steel rafters. The problem is that the rafters are rusty and all four crew members who tried and completed it (including one of our better-looking crew members) ended leaving the boat with less skin than they started with including yours truly. But at least the gym work paid off with a success grade in the swing. Skin was traded for self-esteem.
Willie T’s. A Universal Singularity
And, in case you don’t know about Willie T’s – William T. Thornton was the architect who designed the U.S. White House. His boat was purchased and permanently anchored in Pirates Bight. It is now a floating bar with a dinghy dock. They serve some food but the main focus is the bar. It is not really a family place if you get my points from above.
NauticEd and its expert team are global brokers for the best sailing vacations. We’ve been just about everywhere and know the best spots. We can arrange the best boats and the best prices. In particular, if you want to go to the BVI, we are absolute experts.
If you’re unsure about your competence, well we are the absolute best in the world to bring you up to a proper and safe level of knowledge, skills, education, and globally accepted certifications.
This is Day 6 of sailing in the BVI with BVI Yacht Charters for 10 days on a Lagoon 45 Catamaran
In the morning we snorkeled the coral garden in the north east end of Savannah Bay for a second time. See day 5 for a quick underwater video of the coral. This area is by far the best snorkeling area we found in the BVI. It is about 10 feet deep with towering coral columns. Awesome.
While the crew fluffed their aura readying for the day, I took the opportunity to shoot some video of how to operate a dinghy. I’ve found over all our dozens of trips all over this awesome planet that it is important to have your crew members know how to properly operate a dinghy. It’s just a really good idea and you will avert disaster. For example, you might know but you crew won’t understand just what happens if you let your dinghy get sideways to the waves at the beach.
Here is the great training video we created that we will put into our coming Bareboat Charter Crew Course.
Next stop a snorkel at Seal Dog. There is only one mooring ball there which is reserved for commercial dive boats. This is a designated dive by dive operators in the BVI. The water was clear and the snorkel was refreshing. Nothing too much to write home about in regards to snorkeling however. Still, it was a picturesque stop with clear clear water.
North Sound Virgin Gorda here we come!
On the sail there we called ahead to Levereck Bay Resort and made reservations for the Pig Roast that evening. They set aside a nice table in the sand for 8. Awesome. Meanwhile, while in North Sound we decided to do a pub crawl of the bars to check them all out. Why not?
North Sound Virgin Gorda
Saba Rock is a really nice restaurant and bar. I mean really nice. It is well worth a drink stop if not for lunch or dinner. They have a nice boutique gift shop for a few good souvenirs as well. BVI Coffee cup for me so that I remember this trip every morning when I get back. It helps keep life in perspective. Sometimes we all get mixed up on what life really is about. Speaking of perspective, from Saba rock you have a nice view of Sir Richard Branson’s world famous resort, Necker Island. Once Sir Rich invites me over I’ll write a nice blog about his resort. Looking forward to that. I’ve read his inspiring autobiography, “Loosing My Virginity” about building his life and I once saw him on the dock in Monaco walking onto his boat the Virginian and my brother is a pilot for Virgin so I think all that qualifies me for an invite right? Hint Hint Sir Richard!
Saba Rock, Virgin Gorda, BVI
Saba Rock, Virgin Gorda, BVI
From Saba Rock we dinghied over to the famous Bitter End for afternoon cocktails. They have a new Tiki bar outside on the beach which makes a good hang out. The entire Bitter End Yacht Club is a must must stop for a trip to the BVI and in fact it is tempting to stop there for 2 nights. They have water sports, really nice rooms for a potential night off the boat, multiple restaurants, a pub bar, a resupply store, water hose for the boat, probably a hundred mooring balls and generally all around nice atmosphere and good staff.
Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, BVI
Bitter EndYacht Club, Virgin Gorda, BVI
Still, we needed to fulfill our pub crawl edict and so we pushed on over to the Fat Virgin Bar just around the corner in Biras Creek Bay.
At Fat Virgin, we enjoyed the most delicious Conch fritters and a few libations. Fat Virgin is a great little stop over and worth at least a drink and fritter. Now out of time, we pushed off and sailed back to Levereck Bay missing the last bar called Freddies Sand Box. Sorry Freddy – next time. Your place did look like a nice relaxing joint from the water however.
Freddies Sand Box Bar
Levereck Bay in the west end of North sound is also a must stop. They provide everything you need: water at the dock, ice, reprovisioning store, giant restaurant, and resort.
Levereck Bay, North Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI
At 7, we dinghied ashore where our table was ready right next to Jumbies Bar in a gorgeous setting. The pig roast is a giant amazingly great quality buffet with more food than you can think of. The cost is $35 which albeit quite expensive – you might as well do it. You’re on vacation after all. What is really worth it is the band the followed. It was a reggae/pop/cover band if you can think what that is. Anyway they were so good that can turn any song into fun. Then the real fun started; the Jumbies. They are a group dressed in brightly colored clothing on about 7 foot stilts. Oh wow – they got the party started. On the stilts they dance and do tricks and whoop up the crowd into a frenzy. They really made the night! Thanks Jumbies!!!!
This is a partial section out of our NauticEd Skipper Course and our NauticEd Coastal Navigation Course which discusses lights on ATONs. If you find this useful then perhaps you might consider taking either of the courses. Coastal Navigation is only $39 and covers most everything you need to know when navigating a yacht. When you pass the course it automatically adds to your NauticEd Sailing Resume.
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ATONs are Aids to Navigation. The term is primarily used in the United States and Canada. Most of the rest of the world refer to them as Navigation Marks.
Lights are installed on some ATONs. The lights are usually alternating on and off on some consistent interval to distinguish one ATON from another. The series of “ons” and “offs” are listed on the charts. This helps identify exactly which ATON you are observing. The time between each series is called a “period”.
Lighted ATONs are grouped into Flashing, Quick, Occulting and Isophase.
Flashing: A light in which the total duration of light in each period is clearly shorter than the total duration of darkness – and in which the flashes of light are all equal in duration.
Example: a quick flash on then a longer period off
Example: the flashes might be grouped meaning that the ATON flashes quickly a number of times followed by a longer period of dark then repeating.
Quick Light: A light turning on more than 60 (but less than 80 flashes) per minute.
Occulting: Showing longer periods of light than darkness (opposite of flashing)
Isophase: showing equal periods of light and darkness – remember that “iso” means same.
A Long Flash: (L Fl.) A light which exhibits a long flash of 2 seconds followed by a period of longer darkness.
Morse Code: (Mo. (letter)) A Morse coded letter
Colors of lights are listed with the ATON. They are red (R), green (G), yellow (Y), and white (W). Blue is reserved for law enforcement. Or if the color is not listed then it is white.
Examples of the various types are shown below:
There can also be a composite group flashing light. In the example below the green light flashes twice then one – then repeats after some time.
You can identify the lights on the charts from the information next to the light. In the example below, the Bifurcated Lateral Maker “U” flashes composite green twice then once every 6 seconds – Fl G (2+1) 6s, while the Green Lateral Can number “9” flashes green twice every 6 seconds – Fl G (2) 6s.
At night, you’ll be able to pick out the lights against their backdrop of city lights because of their alternating nature. In the example below you can see Fl G (2+1) 6s and Fl R (4) 6s. Notice however, that you have to concentrate on one at a time, so that the other does not distract you.
Here is a slightly visually annoying summary.
Fl R (2) 5s
Occ Fl R
Iso Fl R
Composite Fl (2+1) 6s
In most countries, including the USA, the white quick flashing light is used to mark Cautionary ATONS
Safe Water Marks
In many countries, including the USA, the Safe Water mark is used and is a white flashing Morse code “A”. One short followed by one long and then repeating at least 8 times per minute. Just remember A – ok.
But also, a safe water mark can be exhibited by other white lights as shown specifically on the chart.
A long 2 second flash over a 10 second period (L Fl. 10s) is also reserved for a safe water mark.
Special Purpose Marks
If a Special Purpose Buoy is lighted it displays a yellow light with fixed or slow flashing characteristics.
Isolated Danger Marks
If lighted, a white light shall be used and the chart will announce the flashing sequence. The image below shows Fl (2) 5s but this is just an example. Any time you see a white flashing light you should be on guard.
Sector lights are sectors of color that are placed on lantern covers of certain lighthouses to indicate danger bearings. On a chart, the sector bearings are true bearings according to the chart and must be converted from magnetic bearing if using a compass. A red sector indicates a vessel is potentially in danger of running aground. Note however, that red can be seen beyond the danger zone as well.
This is also seen here below in a real case of a Nautical Chart #12354 Long Island Sound Eastern Port. Can you spot the Red Sector light?
Spot the Red Sector Light
Cardinal Mark Lights
Cardinal Marks if lighted use white quick flash lights. They are easily remembered from thinking of a clock dial.
North – Continuous quick flash
East – 3 quick flashes (3 o’clock)
South – 6 quick flashes followed by a long flash (6 o’clock)
West – 9 quick flashes (9 o’clock)
Publications that list all the lights usually exist for each country. In the United States the Coast Guard publishes the Light List, which can be found at http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=lightlists For your country, or the country you are visiting, just search on “coast guard light list (country)” or you might replace coast guard with navigation or atons.
Below is an excerpt. Each ATON is listed by number (from the index at the back of the light list), it’s name and any distinguishing location, its lat and long position, its characteristic, height (if it is a light house), the range that the light can be seen from, the type of structure and any remarks about the light.
Light List Excerpt
Putting It All Together
The graphic animation below shows what a harbor entrance may look like at night.
And the corresponding chart symbols might look like this below
Day six of seven: Sailing out from Athens with The Moorings on a Leopard 3900 Catamaran
Thursday Epidavros to Ancient Theater to Vathi
Clang Clang Clang go the Saxons to wake everyone’s ass up. We gotta get to the Ancient Epidavros Theater.
Well at least that was the intention. The crew was dancing pretty hard on the quay last night. Anyway by 9 am we were up and at em. It’s a 40 euro round trip taxi ride to the theater about 15 kms away from the port. Rather than talk about it too much here, here is an excellent youtube video on the Epidavros Theater.
Quick run down – it was built in the 4th Century BC yes that’s BC. What was interesting to me was to note how conceited we are in this day and age to think that nothing was going on back then. Here is an incredibly constructed theater that is an acoustic wonder. You can talk in the center stone at the bottom and be heard at the top. Dave stood in the center while we climbed all the way to the top. When we were ready, he began to sing Elton John’s “Money,” which was very rudely interrupted by the guards telling us that no one is allowed to smile or have fun (not really). Apparently you can’t sing or have fun there. Anyway, Dave was only one line away from the end when he had to stop. Everyone there clapped and appreciated his talent. Rules – bar hum bug.
Here’s the fun video we snapped of Dave Singing at The Ancient Epidavros Theater.
The theater seats 12,000 people who, in ancient times would come from miles away to indulge in the arts. And here we are in the 21st century thinking all smart and stuff but we still can’t figure out kindness and benevolence and stop warring with each other. Come on humanity – let’s up the game here a little shall we?
The museum next door to the theater was incredible – displaying ornate statues carved in marble which had been dug up from the ruins and recovered and restored. Truly amazing.
Back at the boat, I paid the port authority 2 euros and 30 cents for the mooring fee. Really? E2.30? The ice cream I bought next door cost the same. Compare that to the BVI where you often pay $US 30 for a mooring ball overnight.
In all, we’re all finding that this is a cheap holiday. So far with all the food, booze, taxi rides, ouzo shots and dinners out, we have spent a total of 1000 euros total for 5 of us. Oh and that includes the mooring fees as well.
I’ve always wanted to shoot this photo. Just my weird sense of humor. So here it is shot in the Port of Epidavros.
Down the Hatch
The motor sail over to Vathi for our next evening was about 6 miles on calm seas. The steep cliffs to the west display was another impressive array of wind turbines. A good time to think about how wind has shaped our past from ancient trading and discovery to awesome sailing vacations and generation of electricity to power our modern day “necessities”. Wind is cool!
Epidavros To Vathi
The tiny Port of Vathi is a must visit. It is a small port with space for 8 or so charter boats. You back up to the quay where there are 4 great little restaurants. The staff from the restaurant come out to help grab your docklines – so awesome (which makes you feel obliged to buy a round of ouzo shots from them).
Click the arrows for a slide show.
The bartender Micheaonos (something like that – everything ends in nos in Greek – no offense meant, rather our own ignorance to be able to pronounce things that don’t come off our English speaking tongue so well) suggested that we take a visit to a volcano not far away. Wow! What a highlight and a must do. The track is a bit steep and a bit rocky and a good trek after almost a week on the boat. The view from the top is impressive – we could see all the way to Athens. There is a crack in the rock wall that we were able to climb into. The crack turned out to be the vent of the volcano. Slightly scary for the weak at heart, but kinda cool to say you’ve been inside a volcano – albeit it hasn’t exploded since the 2nd century BC.
Fun Video of some BS we made up along the trail.
For dinner — my favorite, Anchovies and a Greek salad (again) – oh man, yum!
This was Day 6. I mean come on – what a day! These are the kinds of things you do on a trip like this. You just have fun – you sail a bit, you visit a piece of history, you meet cool people, and see cool things you did not expect. Ever thought about being inside a volcano vent?
Cock-a-doodle-doo goes the local town rooster. “Last day” he says in rooster talk. I want to kill him. This has been such an amazing trip. But still … another day of fun ahead.
Over a coffee in Vathi Port, I had a chat to our dock neighbors Di and John. A lovely retired couple from England who spend 4 months every year sailing their boat around the Greek islands. They leave in August they said because it gets too crazy with tourists and “bling” power boats. Next week they are heading up through the Corinth Canal over to the Ionian islands and up to Corfu to spend the rest of the summer. Note to self for retirement ideas!
Remembering the awesome coffee in Pardiki which coincidently is on the way back to Athens we left our Vathi home and set off for a quick stop in Pardiki to visit Remetzo restaurant rated 5 stars on Trip Advisor. They lived up to their rating with me with the Sardines, Baked Feta Cheese and Beetroot salad. Just don’t stir Greek Coffee – learned that one the hard way.
I feel like I am writing up a foodie tour of the Greek islands.
Perdika is about 20 nautical miles from the Athens Moorings Base in Marina Zea. At just over 6 knots (under power no wind L) will take just over three hours. We had to have the boat back by 5 into the marina so we left Perdika at 1pm leaving some time for time sake.
Here is a pic of the route I set up on my Navionics App on iPad showing we will be in by 3:56pm as we rounded the top end of Aigina.
Route To Athens
So this is it – last leg home. Boo!
Summary: A sailing trip around the Greek islands out from Athens is a huge bucket list item checked off. It was just big wow and a fantastic experience. From the people to the food, from getting 3 lbs of swordfish from a local fisherman to the gelatos and bakeries, from the quays to the back street ouzos at local bars, from the amazing sailing to the dead blue flat water of the Aegean sea and from the stories we created to the ones we can’t talk about – we all had an experience not to be missed.
Get trained up to go bareboat chartering.
Get trained up for Med moorings.
Get trained up for maneuvering under power.
Get your ICC license.
Get your butt on an airplane to Athens Greece.
If you want to book a charter to Greece or any other place, NauticEd is happy to help out. We’ve been to most charter destinations in the world and know the cool places to go. We are brokers for Sailing vacations – we don’t charge you a fee. You get the same price as going direct but… you get a ton of expertise and advice with the booking through us. Fill out our Sailing Vacation request form here