Books, maps, flights

Four days later, Moluccas finally appeared on the horizon. The decision to go here was made at the last moment, no flight, a map of only a small scale and, in addition, the echo sounder stopped working. We chose an island for good luck, amid a gathering of dark spots that are on our map represent the archipelago. Very slowly, we were approaching the unfamiliar shore, peering in search of the port, not knowing where it is, running endlessly from nose to mast, from mast to nose. On the nose, they tried to measure the depth with a manual lot, but it was impossible to measure and at the same time move, the lot didn’t throw it forward, it was tilted back and never touched the bottom. From the mast we tried to consider possible shoals, which was impossible, because the water of these islands, although in the tropics, is surprisingly muddy.

Finally, a village appeared with something like a port: a dilapidated mole and a huge number of local boats. We stopped in indecision. The temptation to come up and leave at the pier was great, also because a hand-held lot still showed thirty meters a hundred meters away. Too deep for anchor. In the end, caution won. Thinking about mice, thieves, rusty boats, to which we would have to dock, we decided to drop anchor, having extended the chain with a long rope.

Forwarded to the shore at the tender. The locals greeted us joyfully and accompanied us all over the island. From their relationship and a few words in broken English, we realized that not a single yacht ever passed here. At least in recent years. A few hours later, returning to the port, we saw an unexpected picture: there was no water! The port was dry and the surrounding sea represented a plain of brown mud. Moored boats at the pier lay the bottoms on a layer of black mud. Our, far from the ground, quietly swaying at anchor, but only by chance everything worked out well.

In the lot, if we had one, it was written that the ebb in these places exceeded six meters, and on the detailed map of the island, if we had one, it was indicated that the bottom of the coast at low tide is drained.

In short, maps and cards are indispensable. Swimming without them is like walking with eyes closed, and you can walk, but you can even bang your forehead.

Nautical charts

Most of the maps used by navigators around the world, whether on warships, merchant ships or small yachts, come from British Hydrographic Institute British Admiralty, the most authoritative in the field of world cartography. The first geographical map was printed by the British in 1800, and in 1825 there was already a small catalog, including 736 maps covering the most frequently used route in those times. Then the English admirals of the Hydrographic Institute decided to get involved in an incredible enterprise: to map all the seas of the planet. It was a great job, difficult and dangerous, because you had to sail under unfamiliar seas, measuring the depth manually and removing the coordinates with rudimentary tools. However, by 1855 the catalog already consisted of a 1981 map and the first batches were written. In 1900, the work was completed and the whole world mapped. Every land, every ocean, every island, from the poles to the equator, from the big port cities to the microscopic shoals in the middle of the sea, everything was mapped for the benefit of the navigators. Since that day, it has become incomparably safer to sail the seas and these maps, with subsequent updates and refinements made as a result of the use of sonar, echo-sounder and satellite imagery, we use today.

For open water or for ocean transitions, a map with a small scale of 1: 3.500.00 is sufficient.0 or even 1: 5.000.000, because it is just water and some dangerous obstacles, even very small ones, they are indicated.

However, approaching land with a map of small scale is dangerous. Too many details would have to be indicated on it, and the cartographer is almost always limited to drawing just the coastline. To get closer to the shore, you need to have detailed maps of the scale 1: 250.000 or 1: 150.000 or even larger, if we are talking about a zone with shoals, reefs, sunken ships and other things. On the other hand, to keep on board large-scale maps of the whole world is impossible. Some archipelagoes consist of hundreds and hundreds of islands. Just think, because Indonesia alone has more than 13,000 islands, and some of them, such as Borneo, Papua and Sumatra, are larger than Italy. How can you have maps of all these places? We must also keep in mind the economic aspect, because the cards of the British Admiralty cost from thirty to forty euros each.

Let's try to estimate how much they would need.

On the plot from Genoa to Gibraltar, about twenty maps are required, from Gibraltar to Canar - ten, two for the transatlantic transition, three for Cape Verde, four for the African coast, ten for Venezuela, fifty pieces for the Caribbean and Central America. In total, from Italy to Panama it takes about a hundred cards, continuing in the same spirit, for a world tour passing through Gibraltar, Panama, Torres and Suez, would need about five hundred cards worth over fifteen thousand euros and a paper volume that is difficult to place on the boat.

What then to do? If it is impossible to keep everything on board, you should try to determine the route ahead of time and acquire the most important maps through it: plans for customs ports, where you have to go to settle formalities, maps of the most famous islands and places. Many do this, divide the journey into four or five stages, and each of them comes out with the necessary set of cards. Finishing stage, looking for cards to the next. However, we must remember that after leaving Europe, there are not too many places where you can get maps: Canaries, Panama, Papeete, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa.

It is also possible, although not very easy, to exchange cards along the way with other boats. In Eritrea, for example, when we were walking from the north, we met a catamaran going from the south. We gave them a set of maps of the Red and Mediterranean seas in exchange for the entire African coast from Djibouti to Cape Town. However, such an exchange is not possible if everyone goes in the same direction, which usually happens on the classic routes. Another way out, used by many, is to notice the boat of wealthy people, from those who have everything, ask them for a while map and make photocopies. Theoretically, this is prohibited by law, but no one is particularly concerned about their observance and practice is very common. Photocopies are lighter and thinner and incomparably cheaper, but have many defects. First of all, they are black and white, and while on the original the land is yellow and the reefs are green, on the copy they are all gray and there is a risk of being confused with potentially catastrophic consequences. In addition, on a duplicate, parts are lost among copying defects, folds and bends are formed and, when used, a copy quickly fades, impairing card readability and security.

We tried to always use only real maps, but most of the Around the World keeps on board only photocopies. In Venezuela, we found a store with an archive of the first copies of all maps that people brought to copy over the years. The owner has compiled a universal catalog and could, for a modest sum, provide copies of maps of the whole world.

However, be careful! The further you move away from civilization, the cards, including the original ones, become less accurate, and blind faith, toFrom the start we are used to these documents, as we move into the little-visited waters, should be revised. Arriving in the Maldives, we passed the strait between the islands of Male and Vilingili. The strait is very delicate and needed a large-scale map. We had it and we walked confidently, until at some point we did not notice that something was wrong. Judging by the map, we should have been in the center of the strait, but looking forward, we went exactly on the reef! Think of what it was like when we were convinced that our map was wrong! The longitude grid was printed not exactly and everything, islands, canals and reefs moved half a mile east.

And more than once we have noticed similar problems: in almost all of the Red Sea, the position of the shores in longitude and latitude does not coincide with those shown by GPS. And it is useless to tare the GPS, because the error is in the map and changes from place to place and from map to map.

Arriving at Chagos, in the Indian Ocean, we noticed that the real position of the passe of the atoll of Peros Banhos was almost a mile offset relative to the map. Another time at Tuamotu the lighthouse was on the wrong cape and many times we had to swim in zones where the inscription was on the map, unsurveyed, which means: look at both, be careful, because no one really knows what is there.

And what to do? You just need to be more careful as you move away from frequently visited places. In Panama, New York, Sydney, the Torres Strait, places with intensive commercial shipping, you can blindly trust the documentation, you can go in and out of the ports at night, in the belief that the lighthouses are working and that everything is in order. On the lost islands of Madagascar, on the atolls of Lakkadiv or the rivers of Tanzania, trust nothing and look for confirmation. If an obstacle is indicated on the map, start searching for it a few miles before approaching the place where it is indicated, do not swim near the coast at night, do not believe that the lighthouses always function and that their characteristics correspond to those indicated, and do not be one hundred percent sure that the coordinates gives you GPS with map coordinates.

If you look at the maps of obscure places, then you realize that often these are the same maps that were made more than a century ago. Probably, they were printed yesterday, but the drawing of the coast, the binding of coordinates, the depths, the contours of the reefs, are the same as those applied by the pioneers who plowed the seas on sailing ships in the late eighties. In short, museum specimens, but that's all we have today for navigation. There is nothing else to do, how to double the caution, and then, having finished swimming, insert the card into the frame and hang it on the wall.


Without flying, too, can not do. When approaching the unknown land, she will tell you what awaits you there. Warn about the dangers, say whether to expect strong currents, large ebbs, lively ship traffic, or uninhabited land ... She, one by one, describes all the bays, capes and beaches, tells you where it is good to be at anchor and where on the contrary is risky.

Regarding pilots, 99 percent of the boats also use British Admiralry publications. These editions have two defects: the first is that they are written in English, but you get used to it because they are written in a simple syllable. Once in the Caribbean, we met a German who did not speak English at all, but before sailing he studied the lot each time. Apparently, he still learned about a hundred words needed to extract the necessary information from it. The second defect is the price: from seventy to one hundred euros. Fortunately, they do not need much, as each volume covers a part of the planet. For a world tour, it takes from fifteen to twenty volumes.

If you want to save a little, you can try to get new ones on other boats or vessels. Inowhere they are on sale at Shipchandler in large ports and it even happened to us to find them for free in the toilet of the marina in Australia, in a stack of books rejected from one of the boats. Of course, these were not the latest editions, and naturally not updated, but in our very personal opinion, the lack of updates, this is quite a tiny problem in comparison with the choice: to have a lotion or not.

There are finally tourist camps, written specifically for boats. And when they are available, and if they are well drafted, they can partially or completely replace the publications of hydrographic institutes. But they are about the same.

Other books

By purchasing the cards and the lot, most of the work is done. There are trifles. Toma descriptions of lighthouses and lights are needed, but much less than it seems. Outside the Mediterranean Sea there are very few lighthouses. The British Admiralty List of Lights, Volume K, which includes all the lighthouses of the Pacific, together in Australia, is a thin little book that, moreover, is never updated. If he is on board, it is good, if not, to determine the characteristics of rare beacons, there is enough guidance from the map.

A special edition called the Symbols and abbreviations used on Admiralty charts, or simply 1111, which clarifies the meaning of hundreds of symbols used in maritime publications, is quite useful.

There are still, and every year there are more of them, electronic cards that are purchased in convenient cartridges and can be visualized on a plotter or computer. This is a very good help and over time they will spread more and more. They are convenient because they allow you to change the scale, increase the details, see a large part of the sea at once and, not the latest quality, do not occupy space. But when using them, you should always remember the following. Being electronic, they depend on the operation of electronic equipment, the availability of electricity and all sorts of unexpected accidents. Their reliability, again for remote and obscure places, still does not allow replacing classic cards. We know about one American boat that flew into the reef in the middle of the ocean, between Fiji and New Zealand, because this reef on the map of the ocean was barely marked and was completely absent on the electronic maps used. We checked on our C-Maprif was, but it still does not mean anything.

Finally there are Pilot Charts, special maps that are very useful for route planning and determining seasons. In Pilot, the ocean is divided into many squares, and for each square, for each month of the year, the direction and strength of the wind, the direction of the flow, the likely height of the waves, the water temperature, the percentage of storm days, and so on are indicated. Of course, these are only statistical data and should be used as approximate. We have happened, and more than once faced with the conditions diametrically opposed to what we were supposed to, but in most cases Pilot work, and there is nothing more interesting than having gathered in the evening, together with other yachtsmen, to examine these red and green arrows, these small squares and even smaller the figures are about winds, waves, the sea and distances so huge that it is almost impossible to imagine.

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