Plane Sailing and Passage Planning Course to Steer

Without a course to steer all your effort in working out direction from the stars, sun and moon, and how to steer by the seat of your pants, is wasted. You need to know what direction to aim the bows rather than pointing towards the horizon and declaring, 'Thataway'!

If you know the latitude and longitude of both your start point and your destination then working out the course to steer is easy (see Figure 18.2).

Finish Latitude and

DIFFERENCE IN LONGITUDE LonaitUd<e which means

Sine A = BC /AC which means f If names instead of letters

BC = Dep = Sine A x AC^r are used these equations can be rewritten as:

rD'lat = Cosine Course x Distance and

Dep = Sine Course x Distance ' To turn a Departure (Difference in Longitude in nautical miles) into a Difference in Longitude in degrees called D'long the equation is

D'long = Departure/ cosine of new Latitude.

Parallel Sailing

Turn minutes and seconds of degrees into decimals by dividing by 60.


Course 040° T Distance Sailed 96nm

D'lat = Cos Course x Distance = Cos 40 x 96 = 73.5 = 1° 13.5' New Lat = 49° 23' + 1° 13.5' = 50° 36.5'N

D'long = Dep / Cos New Lat = 61.7 / Cos 50.61 * = 97.2 = 1° 37.2' New Long = 1° 37.2' - 1° 04' = 0° 33.2 E **

Turn minutes and seconds of degrees into decimals by dividing by 60.

^Start Latitude and Longitude

Always work out if you are sailing north or south and east or west - and add or subtract differenc es accordingly.

18.1 Daily Work

Finish Latitude

18.1a Plane Sailing

Difference in Longitude it is called the Departure and written as Dep.

When the difference in Longitude is in degrees it is called the Difference in Longitude

(confused? You should be) and it is written as D'Long

Finish Latitude and


18.1b Plane Sailing

Finish Latitude and


D'Long in Degrees or Departure in nautical miles f Q


The coordinates of your start and finish points will give you your D'lat and D'long but to work out the course you must turn the D'long into a Departure. The equation is k Dep = D'long x cos Lat

Start Lat 52° 27.9'N Start Long 04° 32.4E L End Lat 54° 04.8'N End Long 00° 11.2W D'Lat 1° 36.9' D'Long 04° 43.6'

= 04° 43.6 x Cos 56° 16.4' = 283.6 x Cos 56.27° = 157.6'

Parallel Sailing

The equation* to find your

Course = Tan Departure / D'lat = Tan 157.5 / 69.9 = Tan 1.6253 = 58°

You know from your coordinates that you are ' steering North and West and the course to steer is found by subtracting 58 from 360.

Start Latitude and Lgnuitude

18.2 Course to Steer

Finish Latitude

Finish Latitude

Parallel Sailing

18.3 Distance to Sail Distance to Sail

The second question is, how far? Once again, traverse tables provide the answer (see Figure 18.3). Be careful, plane sailing is good up to about 400 nautical miles, beyond which the answers become increasingly doubtful.

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  • jens mayer
    How to find course plane sailing?
    4 months ago
  • giada padovesi
    How to solve for the course to steer given the difference of latitude and difference of longitude?
    3 days ago

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