Choice of Landfall

Once departures and landfalls, although still in sight of land, were some distance offshore. In making a departure, after a final solid fix using charted features the information to plot position diminishes in quality and quantity. A good astro-fix means a small circle of error. A few overcast days or some heavy weather creates one miles in diameter which is likely to be the position nearing land.

Similarly when approaching land, get a firm fix as early as possible (see Figure 5.2). Landfalls are dangerous. Your last reliable position may be several days and hundreds of miles astern. You could be entering tidal waters uncertain of the set and drift. Visibility may be less than good and the weather less than kind.




Put the kettle on. Make and drink a cup of tea.


Review all the resources available to you. Are there charts, a magnetic compass, reliable watch, sextant, tables and almanac aboard? Have you the materials to make

1 A compass

2 A traverse board

3 A nocturnal

4 A sundial

5 A ship log

6 A homemade sextant

7 A plotting sheet.

8 Are there traverse tables on board or a calculator that will let you traverse sail?

You may not need all of these items but the longer you expect to be at sea the more of them you will require.


Discuss the situation with the crew. Hear what they have to say. Draw upon their expertise and experience and listen to their suggestions.


Prepare a list of possible destinations. See Table 5.2 for the criteria to take into account when choosing a destination.


Choose what you consider the best destination. You may well decide to continue towards your original destination but this should be an informed decision and not the outcome of not knowing what else to do.


Prepare a detailed passage plan, just as you would for any other passage, drawing upon the information in any pilots on board and personal knowledge.


Outline the position to the crew. Put them fully in the picture.


Tell the crew your plan. Explain your decisions and the reasoning.


Brief the crew on how you intend to execute your plan, making sure each crew member understands the role they will play.

5.1 Beginning Crash Bag Sailing - initial actions

In these circumstances forget pinpoint landfalls and select the biggest, most obvious landfall you can find. Aim for a general area rather than a specific point and make a landfall covering as wide an area across your course as possible.





Distance to landfall

1. If you know only the latitude and longitude of alternative destinations then without a chart you will need traverse tables to calculate the course and distance.

2. The distance to your landfall is not the straight line distance. You may need to put in a dog leg to avoid hazards or make a favourable approach to your landfall.

3. If you are latitude sailing then you will have to sail north or south until you are on the latitude of your destination and then sail east or west along that latitude until you arrive.

4. If you are aiming for an island group lay courses to maximise the size of the island group. Sailing from the Marquesas towards Hawaii you are aiming along the Hawaiian chain and have a fairly narrow target. It is best to sail north until the Hawaiian islands, bear west and then alter course to hit the chain broadside on.


Hazards en route

1. Are there any hazards such as reefs or banks en route? If so, how easy is it to be sure of missing them?


Expected time on passage

1. Downwind sailing is faster than upwind beating. If your closest landfall is upwind it may not be the nearest in time.

2. If the choice is equally balanced between a port one day's sail away and another a week's sail away, then pick the port a day's sail away even if the other port was your original destination.


Expected weather

1. This will be based on the forecasts you had before losing the instruments. You did keep a record of what the Navtex said?


Type of landfall

1. Is your landfall a. A low solitary island? If so your navigation must be of the highest quality and accurate to within a handful of miles.

b. A high solitary island? Better than a low island. Accuracy is now measured in tens of miles.

c. An island chain? Accuracy can now be in hundreds of miles.

5.2 Choosing a Landfall

d. A featureless coastline? Difficult to miss but aim off so that you know which way to turn when you arrive.

e. A headland?

f. A river estuary? Often can only be entered on the flood. Often have bars. Can be dangerous in some conditions.

2. What hazards are there around your landfall?

3. How far away will you be when you pick up your landfall? Obviously the further off, the better.

4. Once you have picked up your landfall how easy will it be to get a fix?

5. How far offshore will you be when you get your fix?


Can you safely arrive upwind and up current of your landfall?

1. This has many advantages and is especially important if your landfall is an island. After a long arduous passage it will be hard, physically and mentally, on everyone on board to beat up to your destination knowing that any error may see you swept past it and out to sea.

2. If your landfall is on a long coastline it is unlikely that you will make a pinpoint landfall. Far better to aim off so that when land is reached you know which way to turn to reach your destination.


The strengths and weaknesses of the crew (and yourself)

1. Only you know the answer this question and the effect your answer will have on your decision. This includes not only physical and technical skills but morale and attitude of mind. If people believe failure is inevitable the odds on failing are very high. Before Louis Bombard sailed his inflatable L'Hérétique across the Atlantic without food or water he had discovered that during WW2 many torpedoed crews in lifeboats believed they would die and did, even though conditions were such they should have survived. Bombard wanted to prove his point and he did: a great, bold voyage. You and your crew must truly believe that you can reach your landfall.

Horta on the island of Fayal in the Azores is a favourite watering hole for yachts returning to Europe from the Caribbean. Fayal is a small island but it is one of four in a 50-mile area of sea, the lowest of which is visible from 30 miles away. Immediately beyond Fayal is Isla Pico with Portugal's highest point, Mt Pico - 2351 metres, (7713 feet). On a clear day this is visible from 100 miles away, more if it is covered in a cap of cloud. Your landfall is now 200 miles wide and has a bullseye leading you straight into Horta and Cafe Sport. However, any island in the group will give you a fix and point you towards Horta (as shown in Figure 5.3).

The arc of Caribbean islands from St Martin in the north to Grenada in the south is almost 400 miles long. Each island is visible from 25 to 30 miles offshore, perhaps more. The distance between each pair of islands is 40 miles or less. For a vessel

World One Piece
5.3 Island Group Landfall 28

approaching from the east it adds up to a landfall covering nearly 400 miles. You may not land on your chosen island but you would arrive in the Caribbean.

Always arrange your course so that your landfall is at right angles to a line of islands. This is especially important approaching a chain of low lying islands. When closing at right angles to their long axis the odds are that you are likely to see one of them. From any other direction, being off track by a few miles could mean missing them all, as demonstrated in Figure 5.4.

Always select a landfall easily identifiable from a long way off. Waypoints that bring cliffy headlands broadside on are good, as in Figure 5.5. Normally the headland is seen long before you reach your landfall and you can immediately begin redefining your position. Once at your landfall waypoint you will have enough information to make a good fix and sail to your (pinpoint) destination.

You will know you have reached the latitude of the islands but you will not know if they lie to the west or the east.

Approaching from the south you have a very narrow target. A few miles either way and you could miss seeing the islands.

It is always important to make your landfall look as big as possible and never more so than when aiming for a group of low-lying islands especially if missing them means another 1000 miles of empty water.

Well before you expect to reach the islands, aim off to one side. When you are on the latitude of the middle of the chain change course and sail along that latitude. It is longer but the chances of making a good landfall are much higher.

If you have the choice then aim off up wind and up current.

5.4 Low Island Landfall

It is easy to see why headlands_make good landfalls. They stand out by virtue of being" higher than_the coast on either- side and are (usually)

readily identifiable from miles away. It_is normally possible to take a ^.vertical sextant angle_and calculate - your distance- offTTsgether with a bearing you have a fix, perhaps your first for days.

__—This is Flamborough Head-on the east coast — of England_seen_ from the south.

5.5 Headland Landfall

5.5 Headland Landfall

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