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Sailing the World: Part I: Planning Basics

Many people dream of sailing the world, even of circumnavigation. This is entirely plausible, but does require quite a bit of planning and effort. This series of blogs will look at the some of the resources that are available to plan long-distance trips. These blogs assume a certain level of technical and maritime proficiency, but are designed to help those who are new to long-distance cruising. This first blog will discuss the basic planning of Routes, and the recommended books for that task.

The first, and most important step, is developing an understanding of the realities of cruising- either at a local level, or sailing the world.

Cruising-Life-2ndWe strongly recommend reading a book like Jim Trefethen’s The Cruising Life: A Commonsense Guide for the Would-be Voyager. This is a no-nonsense discussion of the realities of cruising, and includes chapters entitled “Should you go cruising?” and “Cruising without a boat: meet the Cruising Kitty”.

Trefethen addresses the important financial, social and practical questions of finding out whether cruising the world is a realistic possibility,  a dream for the future, or the product of restlessness. After the feasibility of cruising is determined, he guides the reader through financial planning, the acquisition of the boat, and actually setting off on the cruise.

Once you’ve decided that you do want to go cruising, then it’s time to start planning where, and when. While cruising and sailing does seem to present an incredible opportunity for freedom of movement, the truth is that this is practically somewhat more limited. Just as driving from destination to destination is limited by road networks, ocean passages are likewise influenced by prevailing winds, and tidal cycles.

World Cruising RoutesIt is strongly encouraged to do some reading on the traditional cruising routes. This will teach about traditional departure points and landfalls, the benefits and drawbacks of each route. Books like Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes are really important because they provide this kind of information in a really easy to process, and understand way. They also do so in a way that makes multiple-leg journeys easier to plan. Some books, like the Cornell, or Admiralty Ocean Passages, or Rod Heikell’s Ocean Passages and Landfalls cover the entire globe. Other books are more focused, such as the Pacific Crossing Guide, from the RCC Pilotage Foundation.

When planning on a global scale the ability to move from any beginning point, to any end point, is rationalized into a system of routes defined by the beginning and ending ports. While strict adherence to the routes is not necessary, they do represent the distilled experience of decades- and in some cases, centuries of sailors. These routes have been shaped the dangers of the oceans in that larger voyages are often subdivided into shorter routes between landfalls. While these can add miles, they also provide advantages for cruisers.

Once you have figured out where you want to leave from, and go to, the next step is to learn about the ocean that you’ll be crossing. Pilot Atlases provide tons of information about tides, currents and winds. Examples that we often have in-store include Jimmy Cornell’s Ocean Atlas and James Clarke’s Atlantic Pilot Atlas. These are Pilot Atlases, which have an important feature not included in basic charts.

CornellOceanAtlasDetail This is what a detail from a Pilot Atlas looks like, specifically Cornell’s Ocean Atlas.

What makes Pilot Atlases important is the wind and tide information that is included. The symbols seen in the photo to the left are known as ‘wind roses’. Each such wind rose represents the behaviour for a certain area. They show the distribution of the winds that prevail in that area from the eight cardinal points. The arrows fly with the wind, and their lengths show the percentage of the total number of observations in which the wind has blown from that cardinal point. The number of feathers shows the force of the wind, which has been recorded most frequently from that sector. The wind force is measured on the Beaufort scale, with each feather being equivalent to one unit of wind force. The green lines represent the currents for the observed period. This kind of information is critical for planning routes, expected durations, and logistical concerns.
CornellWorldVoyagePlannerThere are other books specifically on the subject of world or long-range cruising. For example, Jimmy Cornell’s World Voyage Planner is a great source for information on how to plan for a world voyage, and also provides information and concerns for different parts of the world. Luckily, there also a significant number of experienced cruisers who have written about preparing for world cruising. For example, Larry and Lynn Pardey‘s books cover a number of topics from financial concerns to how to feed and cook for a crew. Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Essentials: The Boats, Gear, and Practices that Work Best at Sea examines another important aspect- that of the boat itself.

Next time in this series of blogs, we’ll examine the resources needed for more detailed local planning: Cruising Guides, Pilot Guides and Charts.

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The Scuttlebutt about Charts [UPDATED!]

UPDATE: While not universally or rigidly enforced, regulations about what ships in Canadian waters carry are quite explicit and not at all ambiguous.  The Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations of 1995 clearly require all vessels to carry up to date, corrected paper charts for all the waters they travel as well as Notices to Mariners, Lists of Lights, Radio Aids to Marine Navigation these three are available as free PDF downloads on our site. Sailing Directions and, where applicable, tide tables are also required.

[More Great Lakes Chart Info Here]

We’ve heard scuttlebutt about some Lake Ontario boaters who have been charged for not carrying the proper charts. While the Canadian Shipping Act is very clear about what is required on large ships, it is less prescriptive for small boat operators. Although the law requires all marine vessels to carry charts, small boat operators are exempt as long as they have “local knowledge” of the area. It is the definition of “local knowledge” that is variable and can get the average mariner into trouble.

Whether it illegal or not to operate your boat without charts, mariners should always have at least a small-scale chart of the area they regularly boat in. And if in unfamiliar waters, charts are a helpful aid for keeping your boat out of trouble.  In addition to maritime law and basic self-preservation, some boat insurance policies may also require current charts of the area you’re operating in.

We know that buying a ton of individual charts can be expensive. There is often a more economical solution. For example if you are boating on the Great Lakes, there is a Richardsons Chartbook for each lake that includes both the small-scale, large area charts and the more detailed charts. New editions are issued every few years. However, they may not be considered “proper charts” by the very strictest/most litigious authorities.

We list thousands of charts on our site, and have free PDF copies of the Canadian Hydrographic Service chart catalogues down the right-hand side of our chart pages.  We keep our inventory fresh so are charts are always up-to-date, and we’ve had years of experience in chart selection and can help you choose the right compliment of charts for your needs, anywhere in the world. Have a look at the Chart section of our website, or call or email us for a tailored list.

Great Lakes Chart Catalogue

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IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting resolutions: Polar Code, PSSA, & More

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO met for from May 11th to 15th.

The MEPC adopted the environmental requirements of the Polar Code and associated MARPOL & SOLAS amendments to make the Code mandatory; adopted amendments to MARPOL related to tanks for oil residues; designated an extension to the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA); and furthered its work on implementation of air pollution and energy efficiency measures and the Ballast Water Management Convention.

The amendments will go into force January 1st, 2017. We’ll have them available as soon as they’re published.  The IMO has published this Polar Code infographic for the mean-time.

Polar Code Ship Safety Infographic

[Download as PDF]

The MEPC’s other conclusions include:

  • MARPOL Annex I amendments relating to oil residues adopted
  • Extension of Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait PSSA adopted
  • Ballast water management status and technologies reviewed
  • EEDI review work to continue
  • GHG reduction target for international shipping considered
  • Revised air pollution guidance and requirements agreed
  • Fuel oil availability review to be initiated this year
  • Fuel oil quality correspondence group re-established
  • Black carbon definition agreed
  • Ship recycling convention – revision of IHM Guidelines
  • Oil spill response guidance approved

Details on the IMO site

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Victoria Day Hours, Queen Victoria, and yachts

victoria_2112685iSince about 1845, Canada has been celebrating May 24th, Queen Victoria’s Birthday. Following her death in 1901, it was officially named ‘Victoria Day’.

Queen Victoria was fond of the sea, and of yachting.  During her reign, HM Yachts Victoria and Albert, Victoria and Albert II, and Victoria and Albert III were built, the last of which was commissioned in 1901, several months after the monarch’s death. Other Royal Yachts included the Fairy, Elfin, and Osborne. Queen Victoria also had a front-row seat for watching some of the most beautiful and fastest yachts of the late 19th century, as Osborne House in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight was a major royal residence during the Queen’s reign. It was a Royal retreat, and is telling that Victoria chose a holiday home by the sea.

Of course, the Victoria Day holiday is still closely associated with yachting, and the beginning of the summer sailing season (at least, when the lakes aren’t cold as ice).

This holiday weekend, the Store is open normal hours:
Saturday 10-6
Sunday 12-5
Monday 10-5


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Rotten Perfect Poems of the Sea

Rotten Perfect Pie Hole Author
The author, on watch with pie.

Poets laureate of Toronto have described Eva H.D. as “the real deal” and “a punk“. She has sailed aboard the Europa, Mist of Avalon and STV Pathfinder TS Playfair. Here are two poems not included in her recent, excellent, Rotten Perfect Mouth published by Mansfield Press.


Bitter Reverie

Filling up books with saltbound notions,
the continent due south, while pointless thoughts
shimmy on, past grasping; deckhands tie knots,
yeast and beef waft from the galley, ocean
water froths the prow, bunkmates put lotion
on their hands, and the ship judders on, stots
like a deer at the engine’s revving shocks.
All around, the solid world’s in motion:
a cup of tea, the deck, a pair of whales
to port. All of it moves. I’m lost, of course
in vindictive reveries, luffing sails,
the seesaw of my imaginings. Force
plays upon the rig, snaps air from my throat,
drives us dawnward. My thoughts fly with the boat.

Friday Sky

The Southern Cross was blazing like a shield.
We drew imaginary lines straight down
to the horizon, heading south. A field
of fire, that sky. A kingdom and a crown.
We fell asleep at sunrise, and awoke
to stand watch in the briefest autumn squall.
We peeled off rainsoaked coats. A rainbow broke
the mat of cloud to puzzle pieces. All
of us went Ah. Greater shearwaters flew
white-masked in our wake. It touched the water
at both ends, that rainbow. Banks of clouds blew
West, screened sunset leaking shades of slaughter.
The night sky belched out sheets of fluorescent
light, and the new moon, a milky crescent.


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The Canadian Nautical Research Society


At the Nautical Mind, we are pleased to be able to work with Canadian authors and publishers, and to promote books that explore and celebrate Canada’s maritime past and current existence. The Canadian Nautical Research Society is an organization that has the same goal. If you’re a fan of Canadian maritime history, then you’re sure to recognize the names of members like Barry Gough, Marc Milner, Richard Gimblett and Roger Sarty. If you’re an alumnus or former crew of STV St Lawrence II, STV Pathfinder or TS Playfair, then Maurice Smith is a living legend. There are many more members who are actively involved in maritime and nautical research at the global, national and local levels. We at the Nautical Mind would like to recognize the contribution of the Canadian Nautical Research Society, and its past and present members.

cnrs-scrn_logo_color_150x163 Originally established as the Canadian Society for the Promotion of Nautical Research, the Canadian Nautical Research Society was incorporated 25 October 1984 and achieved the status of a registered charity shortly thereafter. “Ties That Bind: the Roots of NASOH and the CNRS” gives some historical background to our early days as seen through the eyes of W.A.B Douglas, one of our founders and a past president of our Society.

The objectives of the Society are:

  • to promote nautical research in Canada
  • to disseminate the results of such research
  • and to encourage an awareness of Canada’s maritime heritage

To those ends, the Society publishes a quarterly journal The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord, quarterly newsletter Argonauta, and holds an annual conference. and makes several awards:

  • the Jacques Cartier MA Prize in Maritime Affairs, to encourage graduate students at the Master’s level
  • the Gerry Panting Award, which is a bursary to a young scholar to attend the annual conference to present a paper, and
  • annually awards The Keith Matthews Awards — named in honour of the Society’s first President — to recognize outstanding publications in the field of nautical research.

The Nautical Mind’s shelves have hosted a large number of books authored, edited and compiled by CNRS members, including all of those named above. To recognize their contributions, such books are identified on our website. The current line-up of CNRS members’ books available at the store at this link to our website.

If you’re interested in more information, it can be found at the CNRS Website, Facebook, and Twitter

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Remember the Lusitania!

Remember the Lusitania-LOCAC
The Nautical Mind would like to thank author Kent Layton for this guest blog on the sinking of Lusitania, which occurred on 7 May, 1915. Kent’s new book, Lustania: An Illustrated Biography, will be available in early May.


Lusitania-JKL On May 7, we will mark a full century’s passing since the loss of the Cunard liner Lusitania. On that Friday afternoon one hundred years ago, the east-bound liner happened across the path of a prowling German submarine, the U-20. Her commander fired a single torpedo at her without warning, and the results were nothing short of catastrophic.

Saloon-JKLIt took only eighteen minutes for the ghastly affair to play out. The ship took an immediate list to starboard after the torpedo impact; a second and even larger explosion followed the first. Although its origins are not known precisely, the best evidence indicates the blast was caused by a catastrophic failure in her high-pressure steam-generating plant. Whatever its cause, the ship was already doomed. Because of the list and the speed with which the ship sank, launching the lifeboats became a nightmare scenario, with boat after boat falling from the davits into the sea, and in some cases into other boats which had already been lowered away. When all was said and done, 1,198 innocent men, women and children had perished in the event.

Avenge the Lusitania-LOCACIt took a mere eighteen minutes for the Lusitania to plunge to the seafloor, but her legacy has endured for a full century now. Today she is often remembered in the context of a ‘political football’, a pawn in a deadly war; yet in all of the rehashings of political intrigue, something of the actual human drama of that event has been lost, for it is difficult to remember the bodies of actual men, women and children when one is thinking about conspiracy theories.

Also tragic is the fact that the loss of the Lusitania has forever since overshadowed her life. One would think, reading through many histories of the Lusitania, that nothing much of interest happened to her between the time she entered service and took the Blue Riband speed prize as the ‘world’s fastest ship’, and the time she was sent to the bottom in 1915. Yet her life was filled with all sorts of tales of adventure and stories of personal interest.

It is important that we never forget the tragedy suffered by the Lusitania, and the lives lost on that day. It is also important that we remember the great history of that liner’s career in proper context. To my mind, doing both honors the memory of all of those who ever sailed on the Lusitania, including those who were aboard for her ultimate, and most horrific, crossing.

J. Kent Layton
April 2015.


Lusitania An Illustrated Biography

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April Arrivals


Recently Arrived at The Nautical Mind:

Coach Yourself to Win

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Minor Display Issues After Code Update to [FIXED!]

We’re still ironing out kinks and smoothing a few corners on our shiny new site. Following an update yesterday, some things broke in exciting ways.  The damage was entirely superficial though – there was no risk to security, data, or stability. If the site appears extra odd to you, please try reloading/refreshing by hitting Ctrl-R or Apple-R or clicking a circley arrow near your browser’s address bar.

Nautical Mind Website

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Ontario Sailor Book Reviews: March 2015

Once again, we’re pleased to present the most current set of book reviews from Ontario Sailor magazine.


The Sea Among Us
By Richard Beamish, Gordon McFarlane
Hardcover, 384 pages

The Straight of Georgia, lying between the B.C. coast and Vancouver Island, is home to Canada’s largest seaport and two-thirds of the province’s population, but also a wide diversity of sea life. In essence a large sea, these waters support the world’s densest population of harbour seals, largest concentration of bald eagles, biggest octopus (Pacific giant) and longest marine plant (bull kelp). This book is an exhaustive study of the area, and opens with details on geology, fish and marine life, and concludes with the impact people have had on the area through fishing, logging and other activities. The authors, both scientists who live on Vancouver island, warn that the ecosystem is one of the most threatened in Canada and have written this book for the enjoyment of the general public to connect people with the water and promote stewardship. Royalties from book sales go to the Pacific Salmon Foundation. The writers rely on many other scientists as chapter authors, although the text is fast-flowing and written in plain English without scientific jargon. There are lots of colourful photos, graphics and illustrations.

Bluewater Sailing on a Budget: How to Find and Buy a Cruising Sailboat for Under $50,000Bluewater Sailing on a Budget
By Captain Jim Elfers
Softcover, 168 pages

If you are shopping for a yacht to take bluewater cruising than this is the book for you. Northern California based sailor and marine surveyor Jim Elfers, who has sailed more than 50,000 miles and worked for seven years at a marina in Baja California in Mexico, offers up 20 seaworthy boats that are available for under $50,000 that are worthy of coastal or far-off ocean voyages. The overall boat price was chosen because most people can save up that amount in a few years and head off into the sunset. The book details how to source and buy the ideal cruising yacht and how to deal with yacht brokers and marine surveyors. The list of good boats includes the Niagara 35, Beneteau First 38, Ericson 38, C & C 40, O’Day 39/40, Catalina 36, Canadian Sailcraft 36T, Pearson 36-2, Hunter 37 cutter, Tartan 37, Tayana 37 and the Pearson 40 (honorable mention). Each yacht gets a chapter that details the “good, bad and ugly” about the boat. Okay buyers, warm up those engines and get prepared before you head out on that shopping trip.


Henry Hudson, Doomed Navigator & Explorer
By Anthony Dalton
Softcover, 139 pages

British Columbia based author Anthony Dalton, who has written 13 non-fiction books mainly about the sea, ships and boats (The Graveyard of the Pacific, Sir John Franklin, Baychimo: Arctic Ghost Ship), has delved into the life of British explorer Henry Hudson and his four Arctic voyages in search of the elusive Northwest Passage and a trade route to the Orient. Hudson had followed other explorers like John Cabot (1496-98), his son Sebastian Cabot (1509), and Martin Frobisher (1576-78) to find a shorter route to China. The author says Hudson was determined and ambitious and his discoveries of Hudson Bay and many rivers helped to open up North America, but the explorer was also reckless and obsessive, which led to “clouded judgment” and “disastrous choices” that ended in mutiny after his ship became iced in for a winter in the Canadian Arctic in 1610-11. This is the story of the other Henry Hudson that you won’t find in most history books.


NipissingNipissing, Historic Waterway, Wilderness Playground
By Francoise Noel
Softcover, 270 pages

Nipissing University history professor Francoise Noel took some time off to research the history of tourism in the area of Lake Nipissing, which is located northeast of Georgian Bay and drains into the Great Lakes basin through the French River. She says the project was sparked by the effect the birth in 1934 of the Dionne quintuplets had on tourism in the area. The author researched the birth extensively and unearthed provincial road maps and other tourism literature that lists details of the Dionne births like the location of the nursery where people could visit, the home town of the doctor who gave birth to the five babies and other details that were designed to bring tourists into northern Ontario. From 1935 to 1943, the trip to Quintland was the most popular motor trip, with over 3 million making the pilgrimage. The research includes the importance of fishing and hunting as a way to draw tourists to nearby towns like North Bay from the 1870s to the early 1950s and the importance of the railways during these early years of travel. Later, the car opened up the area to wilderness seekers and those who wanted to see some pretty remarkable babies.