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Collision Regulations, and The Canadian Modifications

The Collision Regulations are an important document for anybody who uses the water- they are the international rules of the road. They are critical knowledge for anybody who works on a ship’s bridge, and required knowledge for most Transport Canada Tickets. In this blog, we’ll talk about what books we recommend for studying the Collision Regulations- and for dealing with the Canadian Modifications.

The Canadian Modifications were created by the federal government when the international regulations were incorporated into law. They are changes to the code- in some places, they are simplifications, and in others, they add complexity. As an example of the latter, the international code has three simple signals for ships to communicate their steering intentions to each other when passing, or overtaking.
1 Blast: That ships will alter course to starboard, to pass each other on the port side- or that an overtaking ship will overtake to starboard.
2 Blasts: That ships will alter course to port (and with a similar change for overtaking
3 Blasts: This means that a ship has put its engines astern.

This is a *very* simple system- and can be used by  mariners of any nation.

However, in the Canadian modifications, ships can also call each other on the Bridge-to-Bridge channel to discuss their plans. This is not in the international regulations, and was inserted by the Canadian government. This applies especially in the Great Lakes region. This can create confusion- especially with the growth of non-native English speaker as ships’ crew on the Great Lakes.

It is important to know the Canadian modifications- because they modify the light and sound signals required for various sized vessels in different weather conditions. Further, there are many modifications that apply specifically to the Great Lakes. The Collision Regulations can be downloaded from here, and softcover copies can be ordered from us.

Necessary as the official Canadian Modifications are for studying, the printed legislation is not the most conducive way to learn or to study collision regulations. Here are some of our recommendations

The Colregs Guide

Colregs Guide

This is part of the excellent DOKMAR series (Which also includes books on Ship Stability, Ships’ Electrical Systems and Ship Knowledge). This book doesn’t so much have written explanation of all the rules, but uses illustrations images. So this book is very good for actually picturing situations described in the official document.






Macneil’s Seamanship  Examiner- Colregs


This is part of the excellent Macneil’s pocketbook series. This book is not so much for *teaching* collision regulation as it is for quizzing/testing afterwards. It includes both written questions and questions based on visual aids and situations. This book is broken down into ‘tests’ (not based on practice tests, but sets of questions’.






The Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of The Road


The Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of the Road is a similar kind of document (in terms of a mix of written and visual things), but is definitely a book for *teaching* the rules of the road as well as testing. In addition to the textbook aspect, the last section of the book also includes the text of the interational regulations. This is also up to date, including the amendments that came into force in 2016.


For testing, we recommend the Rules of the Road flipcards (although the Lights & Shapes, Sound Signals and other flip card sets and education tools  are also extremely useful). as well as Gregs Szczurek’s United Rules (which includes US rules for Inland Waters, Western Rivers and the Great Lakes (however, they do not include the Canadian Modifications), and Colregs Study Guide (Which have just the international rules).










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Now that you’ve bought a boat..


first of all- Congratulations!

Now that you’ve bought a boat however, there are some things that you’ll need, and some books that we very highly recommend.


When you own a boat and are cruising/sailing in Canada, there are some things that are required. This blog will focus on the requirements and suggestions for those cruising in Canadian waters (especially the Great Lakes) but these recommendations can also be extrapolated for other countries.

1. Pleasure Craft Operator’s Card- This is your driving license for Ontario (And equivalents for other provinces).
The exam is provided by a corporation but is required, and information can be found here. We do sell the BOATsmart! Pleasure Craft Operator Card Study Guide, which is the official study guide for that license. The PCOC is required for driving/skippering any kind of craft. If you have purchased a boat with an engine and plan to cruise around Toronto, you may also require a Toronto Harbour license.

2. Charts and Documents – in Canada, if you’re in a boat bigger than a dinghy (so not a Hobie, or CL14 or something like that- but it does include most yachts and cruising boats), you are required to have the following:
A) Charts- including the Largest scale (most detailed) charts for where you are sailing/cruising. Here are some links to blogs about charts.
B) Chart 1- which is the legend for Canadian (and most) charts.
C) List of Lights and Navigation Aids- these are a series of PDFs which can be downloaded
D) Tide Tables (not needed for the Great Lakes)- They can be downloaded or we do sell printed version (Arctic and Hudson’s Bay, for example)
E) Sailing Directions- These are effectively the Government’s version of cruising guides- they provide all the information needed to safely sail/transit in Canadian waters. There are many volumes for different areas. This is the link to the Lake Ontario one as an example.


In addition to what boaters are required to have on board, there are a number of things that we highly recommend.

A. Cruising Guides – Cruising Guides such as the Waterway Guides, Skipper Bob or Ports provide details that are no in either the Sailing Directions or in Charts, and so are highly recommended, especially for planning what to do around marinas and anchorages. (NB: Ports has ceased production, so there is a somewhat limited stock of Lake Ontario, Lake Huron/Georgian Bay/North Channel and Trent-Severn)

B. Electronics Books – We very much recommend Nigel Calder’s Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual, however there are a number of other excellent books as well.

C. Engine Books – we particularly recommend Dennison Berwick’s Marine Diesel Basics– but likewise, there are a number of other excellent books including Nigel Calder’s Diesel Engines.

D. Captain’s Quick Guides – this series of reference guides cover a wide series of topics that are necessary information. They are clearly written, and the series as a whole is well organized.

E. Logbooks- Logbooks are important because they provide documentation for your boat’s activities (and indeed may be required by insurance companies or for legal reasons if something goes wrong). You should have more than one logbook- for example, you should have a maintenance logbook (to track maintenance and upkeep and known issues), an engineering logbook (to track engine hours, fuel and oil use and other details) as well as a logbook for navigation and a narrative logbook.

Buying a boat is an investment- and the books and documents outlined we’ve discussed here are an excellent start to maintaining your investment, and getting the most out of it.


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Come Visit Our Booth at the Boat Show

The Nautical Mind Will be at the Toronto International Boat Show, January 12-21st. Booth G545

Nautical Mind Boat Show Booth G545

Meet the Boat Show Reading Series Authors:


What Was I Thinking? Adventures of a Woman Sailing Solo











Pamela Bendall, author
What Was I Thinking? Adventures of a Woman Sailing Solo
Saturday 10th, Tuesday 13th, Wednesday 14th,

Janet Peters, author
The Reluctant Sailor

Bruce Kemp, author
Weather Bomb 1913 – Life and Death on the Great Lakes


Frsyth Front Cover JPEG for Media Release


David J. Forsyth, author
Too Cold for Mermaids

Yves Gélinas, author & film-maker
Jean-du-Sud and the Magick Byrd
With Jean-du-Sud Around the World DVD

Plus charts, cruising guides and our usual fabulous selection of books.


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Guest Post: Yves Gélinas and “Jean-du-Sud and the Magick-Byrd”

Thank you to Yves Gélinas for this guest post. His new book, Jean-du-Sud and the Magick Byrd, is a translation of the memoir relating his circumnavigation.

Jean-du-SudbookAfter a few cruises between Québec and the West Indies, then a sail to Europe, I felt the need for a long voyage around the Great Capes, alone aboard my Alberg 30 Jean-du-Sud. I knew its hull was strong and seaworthy, but it would need a stronger mast and rigging, new sails, self-steering…

I had returned almost penniless from a summer cruise with my daughters in the Stockholm Archipelago and found work in a yard in Brittany. Confident this axiom would verify: If you are deeply convinced that you must do something, it becomes possible, I started to prepare Jean-du-Sud for a long voyage in the Southern Ocean. Having previously worked in cinema, I would shoot film as I sailed.

I attempted to do my share most efficiently. The other share, I entrusted to a little Byrd woven from a Magick coconut palm, which was hanging from the handrail in my boat. Since we had been sailing together, the performance of my Magick-Byrd had been more than adequate, I had never run out of the essential…

Three years later, I sailed from Saint-Malo in France, headed for the Gulf of St. Lawrence the other way around the world, via the Southern Ocean. I rounded Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin, but was capsized and dismasted in the Pacific and I landed at Chatham Islands under jury rig. I spliced and re-stepped the mast, sailed around Cape Horn, and landed in Gaspé after 28 200 miles in 282 sailing days.

I recount this leap of faith in Jean-du-Sud et l’Oizo-Magick, a book published in Québec in 1988, then in France in 1996, now out of print. Latest contribution from the Magick-Byrd, it is translated in English by Karen Caruna 35 years later and published by Annapolis-based 59 North Sailing.Map of Voyage_preview


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New Book: Weather Bomb 1913

Bruce will be signing copies and answering questions at the Nautical Mind Bookstore (108-249 Queen’s Quay W. 416-203-1163) on Saturday Nov. 25 from one to three pm. They make great Christmas presents so please come down and join us for an interesting afternoon.

Thank you to author Bruce Kemp for this blog about his new book Weather Bomb 1913: Life and Death on the Great Lakes, which is about the 7-10 November 1913 hurricane and blizzard that destroyed 19 ships and damaged 19 others on four of the Great Lakes. This is a fantastic book that combines the feel of a nautical thriller with local history, colourful anecdotes and insights into Great Lakes weather.

Disasters don’t just occur on the far side of the world and they are more than what we read about online or see on television. They happen every day to people like you and me and become tangible events hanging over us with stories spanning generations. For millions of Canadians and Americans growing up around the Great Lakes the Weather Bomb, that 1913 hurricane which killed so many people and sank so many ships, still resonates.

SS Hawgood, beached at Sarnia

Coming from Sarnia, the Storm was always a part of our background noise, but it wasn’t until I became a scuba diver and visited the wreck of the submerged Charles S. Price that it came home to me. Right away I knew it was a story in need of a good telling and I began what eventually became 40 years of research and writing – becoming a Ulysses on what turned into as much a personal odyssey into our history as it did a great story to write about.

SS Regina

I didn’t realize when I set out that there were a number of people who survived the blow and wanted to tell their stories. Some of the tales were by people who were directly involved with the devastation and others came from folks who vividly remembered the horrendous weather system and it they meant to their families.

As proof the hurricane is still a factor, in interviews with modern ship captains, I learned they keep the Storm in mind when planning fall voyages and professional weather men study the causes and impacts to better prepare us for the next time the Witch of November comes storming in from the west.

SS John A. McGean
SS Charles S. Price, before the storm
SS Charles S Price, after the storm.


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New Book: Marine Diesel Basics by Dennison Berwick

Here at the Nautical Mind, we have books written by all kinds of perspectives. Many of our books are by experts like Nigel Calder and are filled with technical details. Others, like the book I’m going to talk about today, are the the product of hard experience, but are written for those without advanced technical training. Marine Diesel Basics by Dennison Berwick is a brilliant book that should be part of the boat’s library for everybody Canadian sailor who has a diesel engine aboard their boat.

Dennison Berwick is an experienced Canadian sailor, and this book is borne of his hard-won experience aboard Oceandrifter. This book specifically targets many aspects of diesel engines, from ongoing maintenance, to winterization, re-commissioning in the spring, and preparation for long-term storage. It is very specifically targeted to diesel engines- and doesn’t cover other topics. But this is absolutely fine because this should be the only book on diesel engines most people should need. Frankly, it seems that if there issues you can’t address with this book, they are probably ones that you should seek professional mechanical help for anyways.

For day-to-day maintenance, and for the seasonal maintenance requirements, this book is really well laid out. It considers the diesel engine as a system. The book is divided into three main sections: Maintenance, Lay-Up, and Recommissioning, and each section contains many individual processes.

Although this book doesn’t have many photographs, each process has a number of illustrations. These, for example, show the reader what the process they’re doing will generally look like. And further, visual clues of good things and bad things to look for. When it comes to maintenance for example, it provides examples of both what is to be expected, and then lists of alternatives and necessary actions.

Although it may seem like a minor thing, each process details all the equipment needed- including for cleaning up before and after. This kind of attention to detail will make this book ideal for those who are not especially experienced and yet are entirely capable of maintaining their engines themselves

Overall, this book is highly recommended for anybody who has a diesel engine aboard their boat.

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Tall Ship Race from Bermuda to Boston


Thank you to Nautical Mind staff member Robin Leaver-Fraser for this guest blog about her recent experience above the tall ship Atyla, which is visiting North America as part of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration.


Tall ships from around the world have come to Canada to participate in the Rendezvous 2017 festival hosted by Sail Training International which celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday. I was able to join a Spanish ship, Atyla, on a leg of their journey. Atyla is a two-masted wooden schooner which was hand built and launched in 1984 with the goal of sailing around the world. This goal was never fully accomplished and the ship was repurposed as a sail training vessel in 2013 by the current captain and nephew of the original builder.

I joined the ship on June 4th in Hamilton, Bermuda and stayed until the next event in Boston. Although the intention was to leave the next day, dangerous winds postponed the race keeping all the ships at anchor in St. Georges for another few nights.

Finally on the 9th the race began and the ships sailed onto the open ocean. Bermuda faded quickly from sight and within a day there was no land left on the horizon. It was another eight days of sailing before we could see Boston in the distance.

While sailing the crew was split into 3 watches who took turns being awake and on watch for 4 hours, then off watch for 8. Aside from being on watch, our time was filled with lessons given by the permanent crew on board. The subjects of these lessons included knots, seamanship, engineering, sail handling and navigation as well as daily character development workshops led by the ship’s professional ‘Coach’.

You could also spend your time playing a never-ending game of fetch with the tireless ship dog Olivia!

We arrived in Boston on the 17th and participated in a Parade of Sail with over 50 other ships watched by massive crowds along the waterfront. It was an incredible end to an incredible experience.

Want to learn more about Atyla and become a trainee? Check out their website here.

Want to learn about Sail Training International and how to Sail On Board? You can find that information here.

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New Books for the Fall

Greetings and Salutations! As we wind our way towards the fall, we have some great new books that we’d love to share with you.

Too Cold for Mermaids
David J Forsyth

This is a story of attaining and living the sailing dream, and also of disappointment, defeat and the surprising realities of cruising aboard a sailboat. Forsyth describes how he became a member of the local sailing community, acquired the skills, and found the funding to select and equip his own boat. As a crewmember aboard others’ boats, and then as skipper of his own “Alice Rose”, Forsyth recounts his experiences on the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and the North Atlantic from Labrador to Florida.

The Reluctant Sailor
Janet Peters

Being persuaded to give up her busy life in Toronto, sell her house and move into a sailboat, Janet Peters began a journey of adventure for six years. Circling the world with her husband on “Solara” she encountered many storms, sailed on immense bodies of water weeks at a time, and saw small isolated islands that only sailors on small boats could reach. She learned how well her boat could handle rough seas and high winds, overcoming her fears, and learning to be an important partner to her husband especially during their struggle through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. In the next few weeks we’ll have a blogpost from Janet about this book  and her experiences.


A Man for All Oceans
Stan Grayson

Canadian Captain Joshua Slocum was the first man to ever sail alone around the world. This is the most comprehensive biography of Slocum ever published, and the first written by a small-boat sailor. Author/historian Grayson uncovered previously unknown original source materials to shed new light on one of history’s greatest sailors. A fascinating appendix compares “Sailing Alone Around the World” with Thoreau’s “Walden”. Previously unpublished photographs bring Slocum’s world to life, and detailed maps trace the adventures of a sailor who knew the world like the back of his hand. This biography reads like an adventure narrative and will serve as the standard work on Joshua Slocum for years to come.

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Storing Your Charts

As we’ve discussed previously Canadian law requires people to carry charts aboard their boats. When you’re following the law (and I know that you all follow the law!) this means that you have to find some way to store your charts.

The most optimal way to store your charts in a chart table (like we have at the store) or even a smaller version. This allows them to be stored flat (or folded, depending on the size), in an organized way that will allow you to retrieve your charts easily and protect them. However, this is impractical for most people and most boats.

So, the other options are to roll your charts, or to fold them, and then to protect them.

There are several options. One option is to roll them, and put them in a tube. This could be a cardboard tube, however these are not waterproof. Other options include this one and this one. Chart Tube  Telescopic Chart Tube

These plastic tubes all have the same benefits- a tough material that is usually waterproof. However while rolling charts can be an efficient way to store them, if you have multiple tubes it can be awkward. More importantly, you’ll need to remove all the charts from the tube in order to get one, which means they’re difficult to use on the fly. Further, the charts may be difficult to keep flat on the table.

The other option is to fold your charts. Now a standard chart, when folded properly (so that the chart number is visible in the corner) fits in a No. 7 shipping envelope, with internal measurements of roughly 14″ by 19″. Charts do not use that entire internal volume, but that’s the size to shoot for.

There are a number of pre-made options.  Richardson’s does a pouch/clear envelope that fits their chartbooks perfectly, and there are vinyl covers for 18″x24″, and 24″x36″.

However, there are other options. For example, Ziploc makes bags which are water resistant (but not waterproof). The XL and XXL sizes are large enough for folded. charts. These also have the ability for you to use the chart and keep it protected.

These solutions should allow you to protect, and keep on using your charts.

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Cruising the New York State Canal System

The Great Lakes provide a great starting point for cruising, even if you want to go somewhere else. From here you can go to Newfoundland, across the Atlantic, or down the coast to the US East Coast and the Caribbean. One of the major routes for leaving the Great Lakes is through the New York Canal System, with the Erie Canal from Buffalo or the Owsego Canal from Oswego, both of which lead to the Hudson River, and from there either to New York City and the Atlantic or to the St Lawrence River near Montreal.

Just this week, we have received new stock of the Cruising Guide to the New York State Canal System. This is highly recommended for anybody who is planning to cruise the Erie or Oswego Canal. Further, for 2017, like with the Trent Severn Canal, The Erie Canal is waiving its fees- even for Canadian cruiser. So 2017 is a great opportunity to experience this waterway just on the other side of the Great Lakes.