Author Archives: Dominic Coleman

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Why Choose Dorset Marine Training?

We strongly believe that you have to choose the right centre for your individual needs.  Here at DMT we are currently only running courses for one household/bubble and we treat each booking individually. Whether we adapt our teaching to suit a specific learning style,  times to allow for childcare or to include the whole family within learning.  Contact us to discuss your aims and allow us to suggest a bespoke approach for you.

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VHF Courses for 2 people

Why not book a bespoke VHF radio course for you and your family/bubble?  Min two person booking and flexibility over dates.

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Corona Virus (COVID-19) – News – Practical Courses Resumed

We are now taking bookings for face to face courses.   Please note there will be some limitations and changes subject to Government Guidelines.  Contact us for a chat about how we can support your boating. We are also running online courses or bespoke training by video call. 

Please follow our social media for tips, advice and our ‘live’ videos whilst the nation finds the way through this current situation.

Stay Safe and don’t forget to stay in contact!

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Electronic Navigation – what it means and should we trust it?

Electronic Navigation

Last night our Training Talk was based on Electronic Navigation, both Chartplotters and navigation apps.  It is clear that many of us rely on such technology but how much confidence should we place on it?   Is it reliable and what is the information on the screen telling us? Do we still need paper navigation?


GNSS or GPS???

We talk about ‘The GPS’ but we are actually referring to a ‘GNSS’ (Global Navigation Satellite System). This is the name given to a system of global satellite positioning. ‘GPS’ is one of these, it used to be called ‘Navstar’ and is run by the USA.

You may have heard reference to ‘Galileo’, this is the European system.  What about ‘GLONASS’ the Russian system or ‘Beidou’ the Chinese system?

Each is a system of satellites that provide data signals to enable position to be established.  As long as your unit is able to ‘see’ three of these satellites its is able to provide a location.  Similar to a three point fix in paper- based navigation.

 Is it just a Sat Nav like in our cars?

Many people do refer to their chart plotter as a ‘sat nav’ and it is certainly similar.  It helps us to navigate using maps or charts.  The Sat Nav has rules in effect which will try to place you on a road. Chart plotters work slightly differently and you could be anywhere, land or water.  Both allow us to navigate from a to B and both will have differing levels of complexity.

Our chart plotter on a boat may have access to additional data such as depth, speed and a ‘GPS’ heading.  It is important to note that the GPS heading will be the direction we are going, or ‘Course Over the Ground’ and not necessarily the way we are pointing.

Different types of Chart plotters

There are many different manufacturers and types and sizes of chart plotters.  These range from small units with basic ‘numbers only’ functions through to larger displays with greater functionality.  You can purchase a unit from as little as a hundred pounds through to several thousand!   Some will have additional functionality such as fish finders and 3D seabed scans. Fundamentally they will each help us to navigate.   Big brands include Raymarine, Garmin, Lowrance & Simrad.  Most of the manufacturers will provide a nage of chartplotters to suit all budgets.

Touch Screen or buttons?

Many chart plotter now use a touch screen, some have buttons to control a cursor, some have both!  If the instruments are inside a boat or you are sat in the marina planning a route then the touch screens are great.  However, who has tried to use a smartphone with wet hands?  You’ll soon find that on boats exposed to the elements or crashing over waves, buttons can be more useful although possibly more time consuming.

What are we seeing on screen?

The more graphical and the bigger the screen, the more information we can see.  It is important to understand that information.  We need to recognise the symbols, understand relationships between colour coding and the different layers of data.  The best way to achieve this is to have studied the paper charts and understand what the ‘top down view’ represents

Many plotters now use ‘Vector Charts’, this means that the image you see is compiled from data, rather than one big picture of a paper chart.  It is possible to reduce the detail and even zoom out to a point where the detail starts to disappear.  This can be dangerous if part of that detail is a hazard.

A useful feature comes in the form of ‘tracks’, this is present on almost all plotters and allows us to see a line on the screen showing exactly where we’ve been, which could be used to trace a route back. This is like an electronic ‘trail of breadcrumbs’ on the chart.


Probably the most important aspect of any electronic navigation system is the ability to guide you to a ‘point’ of reference.  These ‘waypoints’ can be placed anywhere on the chart and then the system will either take you directly there or via extra ‘waypoints’ that you enter.   Newer systems will ‘autoroute’ and suggest a route that takes you there via deep water and avoiding hazards.  For the autorouting to work, you must have up to date software.   It is important we remember that the water we are guided through is a result of the depth ‘settings’ that we have entered.  Checking your settings and learning the menus is important.

Once we’re going to a waypoint, we get various information on the screen, given to us as abbreviations:

  • SOG – Speed Over Ground – our True speed over the planet’s surface
  • COG – Course Over Ground – the direction that we are actually going
  • BTW – Bearing To Waypoint – the direction to the next point in our journey
  • DTW – Distance To Waypoint – how far to the next point
  • XTE – Cross Track Error – how far we’ve strayed off course, left or right.
Position fixing

The position displayed on our device, for example: 50°43’.34N  001°12’.14W gives us a unique location somewhere on the planet, we really should be able to read this from the display and plot it on a paper chart.   ‘Fixing’ our position in this way, at regular intervals, means that we would know where we were (or close by) if the electronics failed (which they sometimes do).

If we are taking positions between electronic and paper charts, we must ensure that we are using the same ‘datum’.  This is the grid reference that it is all measured from and some countries use different systems. Generally, we see ‘WGS84’ as being the standard system on British / European charts.  Check your plotter settings!

What if it does stop working

As we mentioned, having a backup is important.  Being able to find your ‘satellite’ settings is useful, this can help you see how many satellites your system is ‘seeing’ and the relative accuracy of the ‘fix’.  If your signal is interrupted, it may display ‘position lost’ and you then have to think where the receiver is located, if it is on the outside of the boat or built into the unit.  It may be that someone has sat on the receiver with keys in their pocket…

Extra features

As time progresses, manufacturers are including more and more features and facilities into the units. This is a fantastic opportunity to do more with our chartplotters, it does increase the stakes as we put ‘all our eggs in one basket’.

One unit that displays all our data and allows us to fly a drone, control the stereo and watch different webcams has a vast array of software that is (possibly) more prone to problems.

One feature that is undoubtedly of use to us is the ability to use ‘AIS’. ‘Automatic Identification System’ allows us to see other ‘AIS enabled vessels’ on screen and then be able to identify risk of collision.  This is an ‘add-on’ or stand alone module that can be added to VHF radio or chartplotter.

Other ‘apps’

We are seeing GNSS enabled phones now offering similar facilities to the chartplotters.  Apps such as the Navionics ‘Boating HD’ allows us to buy segments of chart coverage as we go, as long as we have data coverage, they are ‘pay as you go’.

New software such as ‘Savvy Navvy’ incorporate the wind and tide forecasts, they plot an even more thorough route for our passage.

The most important ‘App’ that has been introduced is the RYA and coastguard’s collaboration on ‘Safetrx’, this is an app that allows us to use our phone as a remote monitoring and reporting device for safety whilst we are en route.  Safetrx allows you to choose contacts who can receive updates, GNSS locations and even ‘late arrival warnings’.  They can be an effective shore-side contact whilst you are out on the boat and the coastguard can access your data in case of emergency.

So, should we embrace it all?

Absolutely, the technology allows us such flexibility and ease of use, the big displays allow us to view things more easily and the chart data is all stored on one small card.

We must beware and have a plan B, electronics do (and will) fail.  Bigger screens are more expensive and the complexity means you must learn the system to prevent user error.  If you’re using mobile apps, remember that dropping your phone over the side is pretty final.

No matter how much tech we have on board, we always carry a chart.

The ‘Essential Navigation and Seamanship’, ‘DaySkipper’ and ‘Yachtmaster’ theory courses all deal with this and other elements of navigation. The courses gradually increase levels of complexity.

For more information, or just to chat about the content today, please get in touch by email or any of our social media channels.

Dom and Sarah

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Online Training & Courses

Why not make the most of your time and undertake online training so that you are ready for days afloat?

Click here for Courses available: VHF radio, Basic Navigation, Day Skipper, Yachtmaster, CEVNI, PPR & Safe & Fun.

Please do not hesitate to contact us to chat further.


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VHF Refresher

VHF Radio Refresher – Marine Radios

VHF Radio Refresher - Blog Post

Introduction & Safety to our VHF Radio Refresher!

This week with our Training Talks we have been looking at VHF radios. We can never cover all the materials in a short one hour session (or a short blog!) so these were very much aimed at being refreshers and reminders for those with licenses and an introduction to why a course is a good idea for those without. Aimed at those boating in the UK. It is important to remember that on these sessions and courses, we use Training Radios, they are specifically designed and licensed for us to use them online and not transmit outside the room. You cannot practice distress calls on real sets!


Why bother with a VHF Radio – why not just carry a mobile phone?

The reasons will differ in different locations and for different boaters but there are many advantages to using a VHF on board. The VHF is designed to work on the water, they are usually waterproof and ergonomically designed for wet hands!   They may provide us with a position, allow us to speak to multiple people at once and have potentially have direction finding capability for rescue services to find us. Depending on the type we may have better battery facilities than a smartphone. Our unique identifier on most of our radios also enables emergency services to match up contact information to ascertain who it is and where we are if we need help.

The mobile phone is of course useful at sea. It is great for calling friends or nearby restaurants and coverage may be fine but it is not designed to be used at sea. Many mobiles are not waterproof and who has tried to operate a touchscreen with wet hands! In the case of emergency it is harder for the rescue services to locate us if we are not quite sure where we are ourselves. It also means that we only speak to one person when requesting help and boats nearby that might be able to offer immediate assistance don’t know that we require help.


Licensing & The Law:

Dom and I have always tried to make it clear that we would rather encourage you to get the paperwork right by explaining the benefits and advantages rather than beating you with a legal stick! Feel free to approach us with individual questions.   Whether it’s a new radio or you’ve had the radio for years please just ask. So what do you need?

Authority to Operate

VHF Radio Refresher - SRC Short Range Certificate

You will require an Authority to Operate a VHF Marine Radio. This is about you as a person using any VHF.   The qualification is obtained by taking the SRC (Short Range Certificate) Course, often referred to as the VHF course. This is a course we run. You can take the course online or in the classroom (when we are all allowed back).   The classroom course takes a day usually.

The online course can be accessed as and when you like. Either all in one sitting or over a series of weeks/months. You expect to spend about 8-10 hours on it. You will receive a course book to keep. Course (prices correct June 2020) is £65 online or £85 in classroom. There is a final assessment to sit which needs to take place at an RYA Training Centre like ourselves. This costs £60 payable to the RYA.  Course details here: VHF Courses

Ship Radio License:

VHF Radio refresher - Ship Radio LicenseIt sounds very grand particularly for those of us with small boats but, in essence, any radio needs to be licensed. This is FREE of charge online via OFCOM. There are two difference types of licenses. If you have a fixed VHF set wired in on your boat you require a Ship Radio License. If you have a handheld or portable you require a Ship Portable Radio License. Any other equipment that you have onboard which can transmit a signal also needs to be included on the license. There are a few exceptions so give us a call if unsure.


Why bother with these bits of paper?

The Authority To Operate is simple to obtain once you have done the course. It is an assessment but no need to be afraid of that.   We are both instructors and assessors and all we want to know is that you have understood the information on the course. Any issues we will carrying on teaching until you are ready but the reality is that if you have completed the course you will be fine. You don’t need any prior knowledge to take the course and it is suitable for skippers or crew. It is also a legal requirement to have the qualification (otherwise than in an emergency)

Why take the course? We honestly feel that you will become a safer and more confident boater with the knowledge gained. Some comments from previous clients

“Absolutely superb course. Really thorough. Felt that we were taught everything that we needed. Managed to combine really good training with a great atmosphere.”

“Very impressed would recommend the course”

“Very good course, informative with new items highlighted throughout discussions”

Coordinated Information:

The radio license from OFCOM again is not only a requirement but it brings together all the contact information in case of an emergency.  If you have a DSC radio (one with a ‘red button’) you will be allocated a MMSI number. This is a unique number to that radio and is transmitted during digital calls.  Should you be reported missing or overdue the coastguard may send a routine call to you, to check you are ok.

A boat was reported overdue locally, last week. The coastguard sent a routine call to the boat radio but received no reply.   As a result the lifeboat was launched. Fortunately, all ended well as the boat was found at anchor staying overnight in an inlet. Had the radio have been on it could have prevented a search operation.


We sometimes have people tell us they only plan to use the radio in an emergency so aren’t bothering to get the paperwork in place.   The reality is that the course will give you confidence to trouble shoot your radio to ensure you have the maximum chance of rescue. The license ensures the coastguard has contact details and information to hand.

A few years ago a lady approached me to book a course for her husband. She then asked if I thought she should do the course – she was reluctant due to the assessment. I suggested she came along, did the course and then made a decision as to whether to sit the assessment. She took it and of course got full marks, having enjoyed the course. But the real point is that 10 days later the same lady came back to see us and they had a fire on their boat that weekend. She said she was amazed at how calm she was as she felt able to deal with the radio communications whilst her partner investigated the fire. All ended well and the fire was fortunately confined to the engine bay. She was incredibly glad to have taken the course and felt it had added to their safety.


Different types of Radio:

VHF Radio Refresher

So many choices but first of all do you need a fixed radio, a handheld portable or a combination?  Next do you need a DSC radio?   Which leads us to ask what is DSC? DSC is Digital Selective Calling and rather than just voice calls the radio can send digital transmissions too. For most people now a DSC radio (one with a ‘red button’) is a good option. You can very quickly send a distress message simply by pressing and holding the red button in. It will in most cases then send your location and identity to not only the coastguard but other boats nearby.

Two limitations of DSC: They are slightly higher cost and the battery life is less for portables.

There are several manufacturers around. Personally, we tend to use Icom due to their amazing customer service, the menu structures and our own                experience of how durable the radios are. However, there are other good manufacturers as well and it is a personal choice on cost and features required.VHF Radio Refresher

If your radio is a digital set, does it have an information source for it’s location? Many have inbuilt GPS receivers now but if your radio says no position found it is important to check this out as a significant safety feature is not working.





Radio Discipline:

We often talk about brevity clarity and discipline on the radio.   It is important to understand how to use the radio properly and follow the structures. This enables more people to use the radio and may prevent you from blocking an emergency call. We talked about prohibited actions, prowords, range, low power and high power, channel use and the phonetic alphabet.   Who can you call? What are you allowed to discuss?

If you heard the words ‘Seelonce Mayday’ broadcast over the radio would you understand what that meant? It is important for safety that you do and we cover all of these topics on the course.


Use of the Radio and Settings:

We talked about how listening to your radio can contribute to your safety. The benefits of harbour control channels and knowing shipping movements will greatly improve not only your safety but prevent you being a hindrance! After your course where do you find information about which channels to use? Almanacs, charts, harbour guides and websites are all important sources of information.

The ‘National Coastwatch Institution’ make to our boating lives.   ‘NCI’ have a dedicated channel (65) and can provide radio checks plus information on weather.

This led nicely onto to the various features, buttons and setting on VHF radios. From backlighting to volume to squelch and a discussion about how useful dual watch can be. This is particularly in busy waterways or for those carrying out safety boat patrols.


Calls – Routine, Distress, Urgency and Safety

Next up were calls, routine voice calls, routine digital calls and onto distress, urgency and securite calls. Some who have not undertaken training will dismiss the need to know about routine digital calls. However, digital calls can actually increase your confidence and use of the radio.   If you use DSC there is no need to talk on channel 16 which makes the process quicker and less intimidating.

Dom demonstrated the benefits of understanding what to do if you receive a routine call. Often when a radio beeps people turn it off without reading the screen – what if it is the coastguard calling you to check an overdue report? The great thing about digital calls is that whatever channel you are on your radio will beep if you receive a digital call and when you accept the call it will automatically default to the channel the caller has chosen.

VHF Radio Refresher - Mayday Card

We ran through the Mayday call, when to make it and how.  The level of detail in the call is important too.  It is a great idea to have a proforma of the call written out and kept next to the helm position to ensure all crew know what to say.  None of us know how we would react in an emergency so why not make it easier?

Free template available here: MCA Mayday Card



 Icom ManualOne query raised was about accepting Mayday messages – I have included a page from the manual for the Icom M323 to explain the process. If you don’t accept the call the radio will not default to channel 16 for you to hear the message. Don’t forget we are talking about Class D receivers, those aimed at the leisure market. If you work in the emergency services you may well have a different type of set.

Scenarios and ‘Securite’

We then looked at the situations we would use for the different types of call.   Ultimately, do not be so afraid of making the wrong call that you don’t ask for help. The coastguard are professionals ready to receive and help with our calls. They will guide you through the process. The earlier you call and ask for advice the easier any situation will be to manage for all concerned.

Finally, we looked at the importance of accepting and listening to safety alerts.   These give us valuable information on anything from a buoy being out of place, divers in the water, new gale warning or navigational hazards such as submerged containers.  How much safer would your boating be if you listed to these?



Don’t underestimate the value you will get from reading your manual. If you have already taken a course to gain the fundamentals, you will find that reading the manual for your own boat will complement your training and allow you to get the maximum use form your radio.   We go afloat to get away from people but taking the time to learn how to use your radio effectively could make the difference to looking after you or your crew or indeed helping someone else in need. An example manual for the Icom M323 is available here: Icom Manual


Safetrx ImageSafetrx:

Don’t forget that the free RYA Safetrx app feeds in to the overall safety system.  Part of the registration includes the ability to include your MMSI number, call sign and Boat name.  The Coastguard can link all the information together and attempt to call if you are reported overdue.

Further information here:  RYA SafeTrx

Safety Briefings:

It is important to ensure that crew know how to use the radio.   The basics of how to raise a distress alert, to hold in the push to talk button to talk but release it to hear a reply and how to work out where they are to give a position.



Understanding your radio and being licensed makes your boating safer and more enjoyable.   The course should not be seen as a trial, it’s something to engage with and to apply to your boating.

It is important we follow the protocols to protect everyone but don’t be afraid to use the radio if need for both routine or emergency calls.


Find out more about our radio courses – VHF Marine Radio Courses

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Night Navigation

DMT Night Navigation


Night Navigation

Dom gave another great talk on Tues leading us through night navigation. Great feedback and clearly an appetite for us to continue the series of talks into June.


Why should you come to tonight’s talk (Thurs 28th May)?

Check out just some of the feedback from Tues:

  • “This has been a very informative and interesting set of sessions. Thank you very much, well done, stay safe”
  • “The talks have been brilliant, thank you, would love them to continue”
  • “thanks guys very well presented as usual”
  • “Thank you both very much Very informative sessions and an introduction to the boating world!!”
  • “Thank you so much – been most informative, really appreciate all the time and effort that has gone into the presentations x”
  • “cheers guys as all ways brilliant”



We started by talking about being prepared. How and why it is challenging at night and the level of experience suggested. We looked at suggestions for extra kit to carry at night. These included lights, head torches, flares, luminescent compasses and using radar if appropriate. Dom demonstrated how the lights on lifejackets activate upon contact with water. Also the important of having lights fitted.   He also reminded us to adjust the backlight on equipment such as VHF radios (and remember to adjust it again before daylight).  Adjusting backlight is something we look at on our VHF courses.


Lights on Boats:

As this was an introduction to light it was impossible within the time frame to cover all possibilities, but Dom explained the difference on lights on the most commonly encountered vessels. Not only do we need to know which boats we need on our boats but we need to be able to recognise the vessels we may encounter at sea.

We looked at:

  • whether lights suggested a boat was power or sail,
  • how large it was,
  • which aspect or side of the boat we were seeing and
  • what the boat was doing – at anchor, under way, making way, towing etc.

He then threw an unexpected quiz at us!! Putting light sequences up on screen and getting us to comment in the chat box if we could recognise the lights.  Sadly there were no prizes but a great exercise. He went on to explain the level of details expected at different levels of qualifications and experience.


Lights on Navigation Marks:

Next up were navigation marks. We considered what information we would have in advance to help aid out pilotage and what we would expect to see out on the water by using a chart.   How do we tell if they are lit or not on a chart, how the chart manufacturers differ in the symbols used and what the abbreviations mean.

In Poole we looked at the light sequences on the lateral or channel marks. The differences in the light sequences helping us identify exactly where we are in relation to the Channel. In Poole we have a variety of different sequences used – some are quick flashing others flashing 3 times in every 5 sec etc.

And then we moved onto look at what these sequences actually mean. A useful guide is given in this link from the RYA Buoys and Buoyage

Cardinal marks were next. These are very important identifying where the safest water is and we chatted about the similarity to a clock face for light sequences.

E is 3 flashes, S is 6+1lg W is 9 and N is continuous flashing approximately once every sec.

We moved on to look at Isolated Danger, Special Marks, Fairway Marks and Temporary Wreck Markers.

Fixed lights and transits were also discussed and then onto sector lights.  Dom showed us illustrations of how marina entrances might look night and day with fixed lights.  He also discussed how the sector lights worked at the entrance to Beaulieu River

We looked at how we could use the information gained from the chart for pilotage to navigate a safe route the harbour.



Safety Considerations:

We concluded by discussing when it is appropriate to go out in the dark and how to gain experience safely. Dom recommends all his Day Skipper & Yachtmaster Students sit on land in the harbour one evening and look out to see what they can spot be that buoyage or ships moving around.  We talked about the limitations of colour blindness and how to provide solutions and chatted about lights that may be damaged. The issue of car lights on land, lights on the docks, traffic lights etc can all add to the general confusion at night and also how distance and speed perception is altered at night. We finished up by chatting about firework nights locally and the extra hazards that occur during those evenings


Next steps:

Another great talk by Dom – we do not recommend you rush out without appropriate training or experience but hopefully the talk acted as an insight into the factors we consider. If you want to learn more we cover lights on our Day Skipper & Yachtmaster Courses  (currently live via Zoom) and for practical experience we run bespoke training in an evening.  Night Nav is included in our Day Skipper Practical and Advanced Powerboat Courses as well.  These are curtailed by the current situation but we will be looking to get these started again as soon as the Covid situation permits. We are also happy to rerun this presentation live with questions for individuals, groups or families at modest cost – contact us for details.


A fabulous resource is the electronic version of the IRPCS Book For this particular book we highly recommend the ebook version as it allows you to view vessels in different light scenarios. Just check before purchase that you are buying it in your preferred choice. Some prefer to use the RYA Books app others download directly through app store.

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Weather May 2020

Beautiful Weather for Dom on this Delivery Trip

Weather Training Talk

Dom led fab weather sessions last week as part of our series of Training Talks. When first asked to run the session we weren’t certain what level to pitch it at but it worked really well. Thank you to all those who shared ideas and resources.   As the talks program has developed we have people sending in ideas which is brilliant. I have tried to include links to the resources discussed in the paragraphs below. The talks are designed as a springboard into learning for those new to boating or refreshers for others.  Weather is discussed on our Day Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory Courses or on the online RYA Essential Navigation & Seamanship course which provides a great foundation for boating theory.

If you would like a link to attend our Free Training Talks please contact us.


Links are provided to external sites. These are provided in the best of faith and although we make every effort to ensure these links are accurate, up to date and relevant, we cannot take responsibility for pages maintained by external providers.  Before clicking please undertake your own checks. If you come across any external links that don’t work please let us know.



We first addressed the question of why we wanted to know about the weather. In our everyday lives we are interested in is it going to rain, be a heatwave or a hurricane. As boaters we need to consider many more factors. Not just the wind speed but the direction, sea state, visibility etc. We discussed where we source information and what impact weather has on our boating. We then looked at the terms used in forecasts and live weather vs predictions.


Sources of weather information:

This presentation was mainly focussed with online sources of information but don’t forget forecasts can be obtained from NCI (VHF Ch 65 or their websites), marina or harbour offices, Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts every three hrs on VHF and Navtex.

Met Office:

Dom introduced the Met Office Inshore Waters Forecast . This is valid for up to 12 miles offshore. We had a chat about the areas and started to look at the terminology used. For many new leisure boaters this may be the first time they have come across the Beaufort Wind Scale.

This led to a chat about the Beaufort Scale. What it was, how it compared to other wind units and what it actually means for us as boaters. What is reasonable boating weather and how will it effect our day out. Dom had a great graphic to illustrate the points made.

It was interesting to see the live forecast on both Tues and Thurs evenings. Tues we had fog patches in the forecast and Thurs a strong wind warning which illustrated nicely the need to use forecasts.

We then moved back to the forecast to look at the terminology used. A guide can be found here – Met Office Glossary Terms such as imminent – what does that actually mean?

Other Forecasts:

Next up was Windguru – a favourite of Dom’s this gave us the chance to look at different forecasting models.   Great questions about gusts vs wind speed and the colours indicating wind strength. The ability to swap between units of wind speed was highlighted. The topic of accuracy in terms of timescales was then discussed. How far can we start to have confidence in the forecast. How can we zoom out to watch weather patterns to interpret the information.

Windy was then introduced along with the ability to zoom out and look at developing weather systems. It gave us the opportunity to start to talk about synoptic charts. We talked about high and low pressure systems and how we could look for weather patterns to interpret information. How the colour coding works and the ability to look at rain, waves etc as well as wind. Another nice feature is the link to local webcams to see what is actually happening.   Once again we looked at weather modelling systems and looked a week ahead to

XC Weather proved to be popular. Although much less detailed for a day out in the harbour this was an easy view option. We talked about wind directions and how these can be used to start to look at sheltered places for boating.   How does wind direction affect the conditions you will encounter. We used Poole Bay and Poole Harbour to illustrate the points.

Lots of other favourite weather apps were mentioned and there is a lot of choice out there. Compare across forecasts and interpret the information you are given. The other forecasts people mentioned are listed at the end of this blog.


Sea State:

Wave height can be confusing. People seem to exaggerate the conditions they have been out in, probably because it seemed rough conditions but it can lull others into a misunderstanding of the conditions the forecast is referring to. Dom showed us some great slides of conditions for waves weights and how these compare to the terms in forecasts. Remember a sea state of rough is waves of 2.5 – 4m !


Live weather information:

So far we have been looking at forecasts – these are predictions. We also have sources on information we can use to access live information.

For windstrength the website Weatherfile  is a popular option. Very handy for us as there is a weather station right in the middle of our training area.  Note that you can change location or the units of measurement in the menu.

Other popular sources include the website Bramblemet in the Solent BrambleMet

And many sailing clubs or watersports facilities have their own weather stations some of which are accessible to the public. One local example is Poole Yacht Club Weather click on ‘View Gauges’ towards the bottom of the page.

Webcams can also be useful to get a guide before heading down to the water but remember the angle on these can be deceiving.

ODAS Buoys:

These give us information on wave heights. We find a user friendly view option is at Magic Seaweed Magic Seaweed – Wave Buoys. Click on the buoy nearest your location for information. For further formal information from CEFAS available here CEFAS Wavenet



By bringing all the information together we can demonstrate the impact on our boating. We looked at local conditions, sea breezes and land breezes, cloud formations and then onto advection fog and radiation fog. We used examples and a chart to demonstrate how different wind directions coupled with tide could impact our boating and how this may differ between powerboats and sail.


Further Info:

If you enjoyed the presentation and would like to know more about weather the Met Office have some great YouTube videos which we have links to on our channel YouTube and even a free course available here Weather Courses   The RYA Essential Navigation & Seamanship Course also has a great section on weather and how we can use it for our boating along with many other theory topics.  It is a great foundation for boating, usually undertaken online with about 8-10 hours study. (Cost May 2020 – £90)


Other links:

We really enjoyed the presentations this week and it is lovely that so many people sent in their own sources of information. We hope you found it useful. Listed below are resources that others sent in to us.   We have not yet verified all of these so use your own discretion but looks like some great extra tools. You do need to understand the modelling systems are being used.

NCI – Our local Hengistbury Head NCI has a weather station as do many others NCI – huge list of resources Great Weather

UKWeatheronline – useful synoptic charts WeatherOnline

Passage Weather



Rain Radar

Rain alarm – a personal favourite of mine which has many a time kept us dry on a course Rain Alarm

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Women on the Water – Boating Kit

Boating Clothing

Boating Boots

Another great Women on the Water chat last week. The topic for the week was boating clothing & kit, what you would recommend and what you are still looking for. It was great to have such a mix of experience on the call. Women who work on the water through to those taking their first adventures. It is a privilege to host these chats and thank you to all who participated.


Salopettes & Jackets:

Design of boating clothing

First question of the hour related to Salopettes. Seemed to be agreement that it is worth getting female fit salopettes. You will be able to move round boats much more safely if you are not tripping over. It was not until I invested that I realised how much easier boating was. I could finally step over jockey seats, step up and down off the boat all so much easier. Those who had invested further in drop seat salopettes all seemed to agree they were a good idea.

We also chatted about jackets and the length of jackets sometimes being an issue in terms of being able to move about. The benefits of smocks were discussed too. One of the major discussions related to sizing of clothing. Several within the group expressed concerns that so often the ladies fit clothing stops at size 16 and we discussed alternative suppliers. Seems to me the main manufacturers are missing a trick here. I have had similar discussions in the past with guys too that technical clothing just isn’t easily visible in all sizes.   Great to see that our discussion group could firstly reassure each other that other have found this too and then suggest manufacturers to look at.


In terms of brands the following comments arose from the discussions, no brand sponsorship! It was interesting to see that the same names came up from several people for recommendations, another brand was viewed with hesitation currently and a couple of brands not usually associated with boating were recommended for a look. One of the outdoor brands was discussed in detail and viewed as a brand to watch.   We also chatted about colours on clothing – the commercial skippers in the group expressed their concern that operators often require us to be in black but it can be hard to source women’s fit waterproofs that don’t have a splash of colour- often pink!


Lots of discussion across all price points. What to look for whether you’re a day boater staying local or alternatively if you’re heading further offshore. Whilst the premium ranges got a good review it was clear that there is also some very affordable kit for those closer to shore. You don’t need to spend a fortune to stay warm and we discussed how some centres are moving to brands which were not traditionally seen as marine specialists. The discussion suggested that there is still some way to go with consistency for these brands but certainly something to look at. One point that seemed to be agreed on though was it was worth spending just a fraction more from the basic if possible to ensure you get breathable waterproofs. It was interesting to see that amongst participants we covered all price points across one particular brand so great for comparisons.


Borrowed Waterproofs

The discussion then turned to waterproofs use on courses or borrowed by friends. Many of the experienced boaters had experienced occasions of being given clothing that didn’t fit properly and we discussed how this made the introduction to boating harder.

If you are going on a course why not ask what brand of clothing they use and then look up in advance what size will fit you best? So many ladies had gone boating with ill-fitting waterproofs because they didn’t want to cause a fuss.

If you are taking friends out boating making sure you have suitable clothing for them or give them considered advice on what to bring. As  a regular boater you will probably have technical clothing that will keep you warmer for longer – don’t forget your crew! For those instructing, try and find something that fits your clients- don’t embarrass them by handing out something that is going to be unsuitable. If unsure why not present a selection from them to choose from. (Current situation may prevent that from happening for a while but you get the idea!)



Not sure we really came to an answer for this. Those who have been on the water a while all seemed to have had disappointments with gloves.  However,  one solid recommendation was made.   The biggest issue seemed to be the inability to put gloves back on once removed. This is usually  due to the liners in many gloves. This led to a recommendation to consider a look at all season ski gloves.

For me the issue with gloves is: not waterproof whatever it said on label, or the liners make it impossible to put them back on, or they are too bulky to operate controls on boat. For local boating where not out too long I have resorted to neoprene gloves. I accept now my hands will get wet whatever so they might as well be warm!   Others suggested gardening style gloves for certain tasks.   Clearly it depends what you need gloves for, whether to stay warm or protection as to the style you choose but an area for more research! I was hoping someone would have tried the merino wool style gloves as that is my next thought but no feedback from the group.




This was my topic.   I was happy to recommend a boot brand but I was in search of deckshoes suggestions.

Boots – for dinghy sailing or SIBs several agreed it was worth looking at diving brands. Often cheaper but so toasty warm. You will want different styles of boots depending on the type of dinghy sailing you do. If you are out on the trapeze on a Dart you may need something quite different to the boots I would use in my lightning. If you are new to sailing, ask around the fleet. Talk to people sailing in a similar role.

Waterproof Sailing Boots – for those sailing on longer passages there was one clear brand winner recommended by all. They are expensive but considered worth the investment by many in the group. For me, I’m usually out for shorter periods of time so I had my own mid price range recommendation. Thermal, good thick sole to take impact from powerboats were necessary for me. Do try on boots as it was clear that the calf size was an issue for many on certain brands.  Several ladies preferred the shorted style of boot for comfort. My own tip is with the cheaper brands consider waterproof socks as a mid-layer in winter.  These are one of the best investments I have made!  Some of the cheaper brands of boots have very thin soles, take little impact and wear out quickly.



I was interested in the recommendations here as so many have too think a sole to take any impact or provide support. The trainer styles were recommended by several although not waterproof. Definitely something for me to look at. Specific brands were mentioned so as soon as lockdown is over I’ll be out looking!



It was a great chat and thanks to all those who participated. Boating can sometimes seem elitist and expensive. It was lovely to be able to share tips and hints to benefit people at all stages of their boating. Also good to see all price points covered. Hopefully, it gave ideas to people on brands to check out and reassured others that we often face similar issues. It was really nice that several people exchanged contact details to continue discussions between themselves on specific points. It is a privilege to see a community forming.


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Buoyage in Poole Harbour – Buoy Names

Names on the Buoys in Poole Harbour

Hamish Buoy

During last week’s Training Talk on buoyage we were asked how the buoys in Poole Harbour get their names. Great question and one I said I would research. I didn’t realise quite what a task I had taken on so this blog will updated a buoy at a time. Check back every so often for updates. At the bottom of the post you will see information on the last update.
Many tales of the sea are hearsay and tradition so apologies in advance for any inaccuracies! If you have information that can be added or dispute the information (!), drop us a line. Some buoys are named after people.


Which buoys have names?

The buoys that spring to mind in no particular order are:
Hamish, Stakes, Diver, Tasman, Aunt Betty, Bell, Swash, Brownsea, Channel, Hook Sands, Hutchins, Jack Jones, Bullpit, Salterns, Bar Buoy and Warner. Can you think of any others?
In addition, there are numerous posts with names around the harbour too and we’ll move onto those next.


Why are there names on buoys?

Great question and I don’t have a full answer. All the buoys still have their reference number as well as a name. Some of the buoys are named in recognition of people who have contributed to Harbour life, others are descriptive as to location.#


Tasman WH7

Tasman Buoy has been in place since the 90s, believed to be 1995. It has a great history relating to a friendly and helpful face from a specific spot in the harbour. The Buoy is located not far off Russel Quay. For those unfamiliar with the Harbour this is close to Rockley on route to Wareham. It is Buoy number WH7 in the Wareham Channel.
The information below is my interpretation from sources in the Harbour.



Tas Brackstone, known as ‘Tasman’ was a friendly and welcoming figure to be found at Redclyffe Yacht Club. Redclyffe is located on the River Frome on route to Wareham. He was at the club most days welcoming visitors, giving a hand to members, looking after the club launches and generally being the friendly face of the club. He was a regular representative at Poole Harbour meetings.

Why a buoy?

So how did he come to have a buoy named after him and why this specific spot? Apparently, prior to the Tasman Buoy as boats came out of Wareham River they used local knowledge to sight a ship on a mooring that rarely (if ever?) moved. This was the MVF (Motor Fishing Vessel) Watchful. They knew to keep this ship to their Port side to find deeper water (or Starboard on route in). For years this had been used for navigation and as the ship slowly deteriorated and was in danger of sinking the discussions arose as to how to assist navigation on route from Wareham.

Tasman was on the Poole Harbour Committees discussing such issues, representing the interests of Wareham River users and Redclyffe members and it was suggested that a buoy be placed at the spot once the boat was removed. The Commodore of Redclyffe YC at the time along with the Committee suggested that in recognition of all the time and help Tasman had contributed to Wareham River users that he should be recognised through naming the buoy after him. PHC agreed to organise the buoy but it was down to Redclyffe YC to organise the wording.


How and when was the buoy put in place?

Once a buoy was in place the Commodore of RYC, assisted by his brother, took the club launch down to the buoy. It was time to figure out a way of painting the name on the buoy. As any boat users will know, buoys tend to move and swivel and this was not an easy undertaking! Finally, the task was completed and Tasman in the club launch for the reveal of the new buoy. At the time this was buoy number 79. It has since been replaced by a smaller more modern buoy but still bears his name.

Tasman must have been a character and much appreciated supporter of the club and river he loved as his photo is still up on the wall at the club. Those who have spoken to me about him spoke of him with real warmth, a character who had made their time on the river a happy experience. He was described to me as always being at the club, ready to help, to offer a friendly smile and a warm welcome to club member and visiting yachtsman alike.

Thank you to all those who contributed information. This is my take on the information given to me and sadly I never met ‘Tasman’ so I apologise in advance for any misrepresentations. The information is based on an informal chat from a small group of sources. If you would like to update or contribute any information please contact me.


If you would like to learn how to use buoyage to navigate by why not have a look at our RYA Essential Navigation & Seamanship Course? Essential Navigation

Edits: 9.5.20 Info on Tasman Buoy added