Passage Planning

Report Text: 

I consider myself to be an experienced Skipper and racer, but would like to share an experience I had a little while ago whilst on passage from St Peter’s Port to Torbay in a 10m yacht with 8 persons onboard.

We arrived in St Peter’s Port after having competed in a race from the Solent.  The race instructions included a passage through The Needles, leaving the Casquettes to port.  I programmed the GPS with a clearing or safety waypoint to the NW of the rocks and we had an exhilarating and largely uneventful race.

After spending some time in St Peter’s Port we departed for Torbay, in ideal conditions, with a southerly wind of 10-12 kts, warm fine weather and good visibility. The passage plan involved passing the Casquettes again.

We’d had a good, but hard week of racing and this seemed like a good time to catch up on some sleep, so shortly after sunset, with the boat making excellent progress, I briefed the watch, checked we were on course for the Casquettes waypoint and turned in.

The next thing I knew I was being shaken awake by a very alarmed crewmember.  I was quickly up in the cockpit and was greeted by the sound of water breaking on rocks and, looking up, I could see the Casquettes light.  We managed to turn away to port and narrowly missed disaster.

When we’d all calmed down, the reason we found ourselves in that situation became clear; I was still using the Casquettes waypoint programmed for the southbound passage.  To make this waypoint northbound actually took us over the rocks!

Safety waypoints are often programmed into a GPS, but have to be checked to ensure they are still appropriate for each passage.

CHIRP Comment

The Maritime Advisory Board wishes to commend this reporter for his honesty in sharing this experience and hopes it will stimulate more individuals to do the same in the interest of improving marine safety.

The passage planning, execution and monitoring lessons to be learned from this incident apply to all mariners.