Toms Tips About Avoiding Reef

By Tom Neale, 10/28/2010

1. There’s far too much reliance today on GPS chart plotters when it comes to navigating reefs in the Bahamas, Caribbean and other areas.

2. As good as chart plotters are, they can't be any better than cartography installed in the unit.

3. Unless the location of a reef outcropping, each twist and turn in a passage through a reef, and each brain coral, is derived from an accurate modern GPS fix ON SITE, the locations may be off "just a hair," and that's all it takes.

4. It's not good to approach a reef when the light is poor and you can't see it through the water. It's best to stand off and wait for better visibility.

5. Even if a path through a reef is supposedly marked with buoys, often, especially in third world areas, these may be off station. Typically the bottom to which a buoy's' anchor must cling will be hard and currents and wave action can be severe.

6. It is very difficult to, sometimes impossible, to navigate a narrow passage through a reef by simply following a chart plotter. Often the passages are very tight and turns are abrupt, with no room for error. And typically there are strong currents and seas pushing a boat from one side to another, often into the reef. You have to watch what you're doing for real, not just on a screen.

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