Small Sailboat Navigation Books

In a puddle duck, navigation mostly consists of when you sail away from the dock, you remember to take a look back and try and find some big landmarks that can be associated with the launch ramp so it is easy to sail directly there when done for the day. Then typically you stay in sight of that landmark. The majority of puddle ducking stays inside this type of scenario, but you may want to explore beyond this. If so, I'd suggest learning some navigational skills and the right of way rules.

I strongly encourage you to learn to navigate with only a chart, compass, watch and paper (and writing implement). Relying on a GPS is not a good idea because they break all the time. Even though I only use a GPS for side things like Geocaching or recording my boat speed for performance testing, my GPS has failed 3 times while I was sailing, and it is a waterproof model intended for marine use.

Chapman Piloting Seamanship and Small Boat Handling

This is the number one book you want to get. It is HUGE, the current version has over 900 pages and covers everything but the kitchen sink. (well, that is probably in there too). First published in 1922, it has been updated and republished every few years. The copy I own is the 53rd edition, but the current one is the 66th edition.

The first chapters you will want to read are the right of way rules and signaling - often called the "rules of the road". While a puddle duck can't do much to get out of the way of power boaters, you will need to keep your eye out for commercial traffic like barges and understand what they are saying, when they start blowing their horn in certain patterns. One toot means one thing, two means something else etc.

The next chapter you will probably read is about aids to navigation. It explains what the buoys are and what the symbols are that match them on your chart. If you have a chart of the area, you can read the number off the buoy, and know exactly where you are.

Another great section is all about using a compass, boat speed and time passed to figure where you are. It is called "dead recokoning". There is all sorts of other navigation information, plus tips on boat handling, anchoring, docking, etc etc etc...

To sum it up, yes, this book is overkill for a puddle duck. But if you want to actually know what you are doing while on the water, this is the main book to read.
Chapman Piloting Seamanship at Amazon

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