Books, maps, flights
Four days later, the Moluccas finally appeared on the horizon. The decision to go here was taken at the last moment, no sailing directions, only a small scale map, and in addition, the echo sounder stopped working. We chose the island for good luck, among the cluster of dark dots that represent the archipelago on our map. Very slowly we approached the unfamiliar shore, peering in search of a port, not knowing where it was, running endlessly from bow to mast, from mast to bow. At the bow, they tried to measure the depth with a hand lot, but they couldn’t measure and at the same time move.It turns out that the lot, no matter how you throw it forward, deviates back and never touched the bottom. From the mast, we tried to see possible shallows, which was impossible, because the water near these islands, although they are in the tropics, is surprisingly muddy.
Finally, a village appeared with something like a port: a dilapidated pier and a huge number of local boats. We stopped in indecision. The temptation to approach and moor at the pier was great, also because a hundred meters from it, the hand lot still showed thirty meters. Too deep for an anchor. In the end, caution won out. Thinking about mice, thieves, rusty boats, to which we would have to moor, we decided to anchor, building up the chain with a long rope.
We crossed ashore in a tender. The locals greeted us joyfully and accompanied us around the island. From their attitude and a few words in broken English, we realized that no sailboat had ever passed through here. At least in recent years. A few hours later, returning to the port, we saw an unexpected picture: there was no water! The port was dry and the surrounding sea was a plain of brown mud. The boats moored at the pier lay with their bottoms on a layer of black silt. Ours, far from the land, calmly swayed at anchor, but only by chanceyou did well.
In the navigation, if we had one, it was written that the low tides in these places exceed six meters, and on a detailed map of the island, if we had one, it was indicated that the bottom near the coast is drained at low tide.
In short, maps and directions are simply necessary. Sailing without them is like walking with your eyes closed, you can walk, but you can also hit your forehead.
Most of the charts used by navigators around the world, whether on warships, merchant ships or small sailboats, come from the British Admiralty, the most authoritative hydrographic institute in the world of cartography. The first geographical map was printed by the British in 1800, and in 1825 there was already a small catalog of 736 maps covering the routes most used at that time. Then the English admirals of the Hydrographic Institute decided to get involved in an incredible enterprise: to map all the seas of the planets.s. It was a huge job, difficult and dangerous, because you had to sail in unfamiliar seas, measuring depths by hand and taking coordinates with rudimentary instruments. However, by 1855 the catalog already included 1981 maps and the first sailing directions were written. In 1900 the work was completed and the whole world mapped. Every land, every ocean, every island, from the poles to the equator, from the great port cities to the microscopic shoals in the middle of the sea, everything has been charted for the benefit of navigators. From this day on, sail the seasit has become incomparably safer and these maps, with subsequent updates and refinements made as a result of the use of sonar, echo sounder and satellite images, we use today.
For open water or for ocean crossings, a map with a small scale of 1: 3.500.000 or even 1: 5.000.000 is enough, because it's just water and some dangerous obstacles, even very small ones, are indicated.
However, approaching land with a small scale map is dangerous. Too many details would have to be shown on it, and the cartographer almost always confines himself to drawing a simple coastline. To approach the shore, you need to have detailed maps on a scale of 1:250.000 or 1:150.000 or even larger, if we are talking about an area with shoals, reefs, sunken ships, and so on. On the other hand, it is impossible to keep large-scale maps of the whole world on board. Some archipelagos are made up of hundreds and hundreds of islands. Just think, because Indonesia alone hasmore than 13,000 islands, and some of them, such as Borneo, Papua and Sumatra, are larger than Italy. How can one have maps of all these places? You also need to keep in mind the economic aspect, because the cards of the British Admiralty cost from thirty to forty euros each.
Let's try to figure out how many would be needed.
About twenty maps are required for the section from Genoa to Gibraltar, ten from Gibraltar to the Canaries, two for the transatlantic passage, three for Cape Verde, four for the African coast, ten for Venezuela, about fifty for the Caribbean and Central America. In total, about a hundred cards are required from Italy to Panama, continuing in the same vein, for a round-the-world trip passing through Gibraltar, Panama, Torres and Suez, it would take about five hundred cards worth over fifteen thousand euros and a volume of paper that is difficult to place on lodke.
What then to do? If it is impossible to keep everything on board, you should try to determine the route in advance and acquire the most important maps along it: plans for customs ports where you will have to go to settle the formalities, maps of the most famous islands and places. Many do this, dividing the journey into four or five stages and each of them come out with the necessary set of maps. Finishing the stage, they look for cards for the next one. However, you need to remember that after leaving Europe, there are not so many places where you can get cards: Canary Islands, Panama, Papeete, NovaI am Zeeland, Australia, South Africa.
It is also possible, although not very easy, to exchange cards along the way with other boats. In Eritrea, for example, when we were going from the north, we met a catamaran coming from the south. We gave them a set of maps of the Red and Mediterranean Seas in exchange for the entire African coast from Djibouti to Cape Town. However, such an exchange is not possible if everyone is going in the same direction, which is usually what happens on classic routes. Another way out, used by many, is to spot a boat of wealthy people who have everything, ask them for maps for a while and make photocopies.Theoretically, this is forbidden by laws, but no one really cares about their observance and the practice is very common. Photocopies are lighter and thinner and incomparably cheaper, but have many defects. They are primarily black and white, and while in the original the ground is yellow and the reefs are green, in the copy they are all gray and at risk of being confused with potentially catastrophic consequences. In addition, on a duplicate, details are lost among copy defects, wrinkles and bends form, and when used, the copy quickly fades, degrading readability.there are maps and security.
We tried to always use only real maps, but most of the circumnavigators carry only photocopies on board. In Venezuela, we found a store with an archive of the first copies of all the cards that people have brought to copy for many years. The owner compiled a universal catalog and could provide copies of maps of the whole world for a modest amount.
However, be careful! The farther one goes from civilization, the maps, including the original ones, become less accurate, and the blind faith we have become accustomed to in relation to these documents, as we move into less visited waters, must be revised. Arriving in the Maldives, we passed the strait between the islands of Male and Vilingili. The strait is very delicate and a large scale map was needed. We had it and we walked confidently, until at some point we noticed that something was wrong. Judging by the map, we should have been in the center of the strait, but looking aheadd, went straight to the reef! Think what it must have been like for us when we found out that our map was wrong! The longitude grid was not printed accurately and everything, islands, channels and reefs, was transferred half a mile to the east.
And more than once we have noticed similar problems: almost throughout the entire Red Sea, the position of the coasts in longitude and latitude does not match those shown by GPS. And it is useless to calibrate GPS, because the error is in the map and varies from place to place and from map to map.
Arriving at Chagos, in the Indian Ocean, we noticed that the actual position of the passe of the Peros Banhos atoll was shifted by almost a mile from that indicated on the map. Another time on the Tuamotu, the lighthouse was on the wrong cape and many times we had to swim in areas where the map had an inscription, unsurveyed, which means: look both ways, be careful, because no one knows what is really there.
And what to do? You just need to be more careful as you move away from frequently visited places. In Panama, New York, Sydney, Torres Strait, places with heavy commercial shipping, you can blindly trust documentation, you can go in and out of ports at night, confident that the lighthouses are working and that everything is in order. On the lost islands of Madagascar, on the atolls of Laccadive or the rivers of Tanzania, trust nothing and look for proof. If an obstacle is indicated on the map, start looking for it a few miles before approaching the place where it is indicated.Acheno, do not swim near the coast at night, do not believe that the beacons are always functioning and that their characteristics correspond to those indicated, and do not be one hundred percent sure that the coordinates given by the GPS correspond to the coordinates of the map.
If you look at the maps of little-visited places properly, you understand that these are often the same maps that were compiled more than a century ago. Printed, perhaps yesterday, but the drawing of the shore, the coordinates, the depths, the contours of the reefs, are still the same, applied by the pioneers who plied the seas on sailboats in the late eighties. In short, museum specimens, but that's all we have for navigation today. There is nothing else left but to double your caution, and then, after sailing, insert the card into a frame and hang it on the wall.
You can't do without loci either. When approaching an unknown land, she will tell you what awaits you there. She will warn of dangers, tell whether to expect strong currents, high tides, busy ship traffic, or uninhabited land ... She, one by one, will describe all the bays, capes and beaches, tell you where it is good to anchor and where, on the contrary, it is risky.
As for sailing directions, 99 percent of the boats also use British Admiralry editions. These editions have two defects: first, they are written in English, but you get used to it, because they are written in a simple style. Once in the Caribbean, we met a German who did not speak English at all, but before setting sail he studied the sailing every time. Apparently he still learned about a hundred words needed to extract the necessary information from it. The second defect is the price: from seventy to one hundred euros. Luckily, you don't need a lot of them, as each volume covers part of theaneta. A round-the-world trip requires fifteen to twenty volumes.
If you want to save some money, you can try to buy non-new sailing directions on other boats or ships. They are sometimes sold by a shipchandler in major ports and we even happened to find them for free in the toilets of a marina in Australia, in a stack of books discarded from one of the boats. Of course, these were not the latest editions, and naturally not updated, but in our very personal opinion, the lack of updates is a very tiny problem compared to the choice: to have a pilot or not.
Finally, there are tourist directions written specifically for boats. And when they are available, and if well compiled, they can partially or completely replace the publications of hydrographic institutes. But they cost about the same.
By purchasing maps and directions, most of the work is done. Little things remain. Volumes of descriptions of lighthouses and lights are needed, but much less than it seems. There are very few lighthouses outside the Mediterranean Sea. The British Admiralty List of Lights, Volume K, which includes all the lighthouses in the Pacific, together in Australia, is a thin book that, moreover, is never updated. If he is on board, it's good, if not, map instructions are enough to determine the characteristics of rare beacons.
Quite useful is a special edition called Symbols and abbreviations used on Admiralty charts, or simply 1111, which explains the meaning of the hundreds of symbols used in nautical publications.
There are still, and every year there are more of them, electronic cards that are purchased in convenient cartridges and can be visualized on a plotter or computer. This is a very good help and over time they will spread more and more widely. They are convenient because they allow you to zoom in, zoom in on details, see a large area of the sea at once and, not the least quality, do not take up space. But when using them, you should always remember the following. Being electronic, they depend on the operation of electronic equipment, the availability of electricitygies and all sorts of unexpected accidents. Their reliability, again for remote and rarely visited places, does not yet allow replacing classic maps. We know of one American boat that hit a reef in the middle of the ocean, between Fiji and New Zealand, because the reef was barely marked on the ocean map and not at all on the electronic charts used. We checked that our C-Maprif was on, but this still does not say anything.
Finally, there are Pilot Charts, special maps that are very useful for planning a route and determining the seasons. In Pilot, the ocean is divided into many squares, and each square, for each month of the year, indicates the direction and strength of the wind, the direction of the current, the likely height of the waves, the water temperature, the percentage of stormy days, and so on. Of course, these are just statistics and should be used as a guide only. It happened to us, and more than once, to encounter conditions diametrically opposed to those that were assumed, but in most cases Pilot work, and there is nothing more interesting than having gathered in the evening, together with other sailboatsmen, to consider these red and green arrows, these small squares and even smaller numbers telling about winds, waves, about the sea and about distances so huge that it is almost impossible to imagine imagine.