Tips for cruising

Learn from the bluewater cruising experiences of a long-time Riviera owner.

Dale StottMy name's Dale Stott. We are aboard my Riviera 6000, The Fox, and we're on our way through to the Gold Coast. Cruising Australia's coastline has so much to offer. We've got fishing, boating. With the boating, it becomes the social atmosphere, the swimming, the beaches. It's a really enjoyable, pleasurable thing to be doing, and a boat's a no better way to do it.

This particular boat is a planing hull. Obviously, there's other types of vessels you can do the same thing with. You've just got to adjust your speed and your distances you want to travel in. Obviously, you can go from semi displacement to full displacement or sail. Any of these boats are suitable to enjoy the coastal cruising, it's just a personal preference. Obviously, the faster you go, effectively the more fuel you're going to burn. We're just about to get a weather report, so I will listen in for that. We've just changed from Channel 16 to Channel 82, and we'll listen in to get the latest forecast.

Radio: All stations, all stations, all stations.

Dale Stott: The weather is available by on demand by contacting the local Coast Guard or the monitoring station, but generally they will put a weather report out morning, noon, and afternoon. Other ways of staying in contact, VHF, HF or your 27-megahertz radio. Very important if you're traveling more than five nautical miles offshore, that you have a marine band radio. When you're at sea, make sure you've got your radio turned on and tuned into the distressed frequency. All sea rescue groups monitor Channel 16 VHF, and 27-megahertz, Channel 88. If you're reporting in and logging your journey with the marine rescue groups and it crosses over into different zones, they will pass the information on to the next group so that they can monitor for your safe arrival.

Radio: This is Marine Rescue Port Stephens. What can we do for you this morning? Over.

Dale Stott: Internet is a great way to get up to date information on the weather conditions. Get up the coast. You're looking at sometimes you've traveling at speed. We're traveling 150 nautical miles in a day, so the weather can be vastly different from Eastern Victoria to Southern New South Wales.

With all coastal cruising, you may have a plan what you want to achieve, where you want to be, but that's not always possible. Sometimes you've just got to play it safe. You may not get as far as you want, but at the end of the day, it's about enjoying the journey, having a good plan, and don't be too ambitious. The important part of that is letting everybody know what your plan is and keeping them advised to contact people at home so people know where you may be. So, if you're out of phone reception, because some ports you may go into or refuges you may go into may not have phone reception, so just let them know a rough idea that if you don't make a port, your intention was to drop back to another safe haven.

Navigation is a critical part of coastal cruising. When we're coastal cruising, it's nice to have some great electronics that's fitted to your boat. Whichever brand that is, make sure you've got the up-to-date charts on it. It's also good to have a backup system. We run an iPad with an app on there. It just gives us that double protection and backup what's on both systems, so we know exactly where we are. Other great accessories you can have, obviously a mobile phone, books, charts, there's some great books out there available.

You've got to keep a constant watch out. We just had this guy coming up beside us. That's why we got to observe it all times. We picked him up on the radar, but they always just sometimes pop up out of nowhere.

How I like to do it is I have a couple of charts. I have one zoomed out with the overall plan for the next league of our journey along the coast, as well as one zoomed in to pick up the minor detail. Rocks, headlands, obviously the radar overlay picking up the other vessels or any obstructions in the water as well.

So, the night before the next day of traveling up the coast, we would plan of where we think we would like to get to. We are looking at the weather, how long it's going to take us, have we got everything in place for the next day's journey, where our fallback points will be where we can get fuel next. If something goes wrong, what are the channels that we need to contact? Always have your plan B and C where you can fall back to drop in, find a safe haven or get fuel if the weather turns on you. Or if you and or if you have problems, then you can't get as far as you'd like to have. If the weather's not right, don't go. It's safer to sit in port for another day. The first priority is being safe and getting there. That is the ultimate priority.

Before embarking on your coastal journey, make sure your vessel is well maintained. Make sure if you're traveling overnight, you understand what all the lights are for so that if you're entering any ports, you've got a clear idea of where you're heading so you don't run aground. Make sure you can identify the key lights. Channel marking obstructions, your entrance lines. During the day, we are looking for marks, numbers, references, different coloured buoys. Having a good set of binoculars is really, really great to help pick those things up because sometimes with reflection off the water, as you can see here now, we're heading into the sun, it can be hard to see at times.

It's always safer to head into a port, especially a port that you haven't been into before, during daylight hours and you really are not sure. Sometimes it would be just safer to stay out and wait for the daylight to come in or contact the Marine rescue services to help guide you in. When in doubt, stay out.

It's not always easy to remember everything, so a logbook helps you with remembering all these little things. Previous ports, where are safe ports, safe anchorages. Writing GPS coordinates down maintenance, keeping good maintenance records so you understand where your boat's at, when it's due for its annuals and bi-annuals and monthly checks, and daily checks. All this information is all recorded in your logbook, which helps to switch your brain off and enjoy your holiday.

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