Skip Novak Storm Sailing Pt 9: Sounding an uncharted bay

Gaining shelter on a hostile coastline can be safer than toughing it out offshore. Skip Novak looks at how to con into an unfamiliar bay

Skip Novak Storm Sailing Part 9

Going off soundings and having the ability to boldly go where no boat has gone before (or at least feel that way) is not only a desirable feature of cruising in remote areas, it also underpins a safety issue.

In extremis, gaining shelter on a hostile coastline could mean saving the vessel and the crew. Even if not, it can often be safer than toughing it out on the outside with a risk of heavy weather, especially if caught on a lee shore.

Here is a breakdown of the key things to remember when sounding uncharted bay and watch the video below to see Skip put the theory into action.

- Take the time to figure things out before committing
- Observe the clarity of the water, the direction of the light, current and tidal situation on shore
- Approach an anchorage with light overhead or behind you if possible
- If entering via a channel, approach an anchorage against the current and on a slack or rising tide

- Take down and stow the mainsail early - you need to be ready to make sail if things go wrong
- Forget to have an old-fashioned leadline to hand in case the electronic handheld sounder fails
- Let down your guard after anchoring. Sound the anchorage around the boat and prepare an escape plan just in case

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