What is Pilotage?
Inshore navigation using visual references to find your way; in / out of a harbour, river or somewhere else inshore..
Why make a Pilotage Plan?
There are potentially alot more hazards when close to shore or in harbours and rivers than when you are out at sea, so making a plan is essential not only to get you safely from A to B but also to ensure you're taking the correct route and don't get lost ! Using a range of reference points i.e. bearing, landmark etc gives you a far greater chance of success.
What you need to prepare a Pilotage Plan?
Local Information Guides or access to the internet:
Items like a Poole Harbour Guide can be viewed online for free..
Pencil & Paper
Ready to draw / write your pilotage plan
Considerations when creating a Pilotage Plan:
If you don't need to be in a main shipping channel then try to avoid these.
Small Craft Channels
If there is a small craft channel available, use it!
Where are you 'allowed' to go, Speed Limits etc - Check out an Almanac, local Harbour Guide, Pilot Book or do some research online
Landmarks & Features
Familiarise yourself with local land marks and features so you know what to look out for on your route.
Shallow areas are often covered by water so can't be seen from your vessel. Check a chart & local tide table so you know its deep enough & keep an eye on the depth sounder (if you have one).
There can be many local hazards such as wrecks, rocks, chain ferries etc. Check an Almanac, local Harbour Guide or the internet when making your plan.
How to make a Pilotage Plan?
Trace a chart or hand draw a sketch of the area you're going. (if you have the ability to print off the relevant section of a chart or a large (close up) scale chart you could draw directly onto it.
Bearings (if there is no buoyage to follow)
Bearings to a buoy or easily identifiable landmark - See How to take a bearing off a chart by clicking here
Back Bearings - when theres nothing ahead to work of
Clearing Bearing - to keep you clear of hazards / obstructions
Distance & Time to Travel (if there is no buoyage to follow)
Distance - taking note of your distance allows you to recalculate if your speed needs to be adjusted. See 'Measuring Distance' Tutorial
Time to travel - check the local speed limits & calculate accordingly or if this doesn't apply then fix a speed that makes navigation realistic. See calculating time tutorial
Tide Times & Heights for the day you've planned to go.
How to locating yourself?
Contours - If there isn't much in the way of buoyage then consider using contours to find your location & ensure you don't get too close to shore.
Land Marks - Pick land marks that will be clear & obvious on your route.
Buoys - Note the type, name / number of relevant buoys on your route.
Transits - Use two charted objects (in line) to help locate yourself or simply so you know you're on the right track.
GPS / Chart Plotter
If you have a GPS/ Chart Plotter onboard theres nothing to stop you using it as an aid to navigation but we weary of it being your sole means of navigation
VHF Channels, Shipping etc
Example of a basic Pilotage plan in Poole Harbour:
Before you set off / use your Pilotage Plan:
Check out our Powerboat Safety Equipment Post for more info
Make sure you know where you are going
It sounds so obvious but...
Check the weather forecast before you set off to ensure it is appropriate and doesn't give you any unexpected surprises.. See 'Weather to go' for more info
GPS / Chart Plotter
Input your Waypoints and Set up your route before you depart
Brief your crew
Explain your plan (along with a safety briefing) to everyone onboard and ensure they know their duties.
Consider making a 'check-list' so you don't forget anything important.
If you're heading to a new marina, make sure you have contacted them first to check availability. Take a note of their VHF channel & phone number so you can contact them when you're near arrival to get your Berth allocation