When a sailing vessel is en route from one port to the next it is said to be making passage. The primary goal of making passage is to get to the next port of call safely and in one piece. If you can make it on time, that’s even better.
Making passage involves quite a bit of preparation. In fact, passage making generally succeeds or fails based on the crew’s preparations. That’s why online sailing courses from providers like NauticEd spend so much time teaching sailors how to prepare for life on the water.
Any experienced sailor will tell you that there are some preparations for making passage that are just non-negotiable. A few of them are explained below.
Inspecting and Testing the Motor
Even sailing vessels come equipped with motors for safety reasons. It is generally unwise to set sail without first inspecting and testing the motor. This includes checking transmission fluid and oil levels, belt tension, and coolant. Anything out of order should be addressed prior to making way. The few minutes it takes to complete a test and check could mean the difference in the event a vessel runs into trouble. Fortunately, many introductory sailing courses cover the basics of checking and testing a motor.
Checking the Weather
Sailing vessels are susceptible to adverse weather conditions in ways that non-sailing vessels are not. Even mild storms or uncooperative winds can make passage a real challenge. Therefore you could argue that the most important preparation for making passage is checking the weather forecast.
Weather prediction these days is quite accurate. Experienced sailors know that, which is why they establish what is known as a ‘weather window’. This window offers the greatest chance of relatively calm seas and favorable winds. That’s not to say that a vessel can’t make passage during inclement weather. Rather, it is simply to say that you take advantage of good weather whenever you can. Likewise, you avoid dangerous weather when necessary.
Charge Lamps and Spotlights
Unless a crew plans to anchor for the night, they are going to need proper lighting and spotlights to continue sailing through the night. Even something as basic as checking the sail trim is impossible at night if you do not have adequate lighting. So prior to making passage, smart sailors will fully charge all their lights and lamps.
Prep the Interior of the Vessel
Sailors never know when they are going to encounter rough seas while making passage. To prevent damage down below, smart sailors will ‘batten down the hatches’ so to speak. Anything that could come loose during heavy seas is put away in a safe place. All gear stowed away so that nothing becomes an airborne missile that could damage the boat down below.
If the weather report suggests the chance of significant weather during passage, some sailors even prepare their meals ahead of time. It is a lot easier to pull something out of storage and chow down than trying to cook when a vessel being tossed to and fro. Even emergency meal packs are a lot more friendly than cooking in rough seas.
With all the right preparations in place, making passage doesn’t have to be a big deal. It is when sailors pull anchor without preparing that they run into trouble. If you know how to sail a yacht, you should have enough experience under your belt to know just how important preparations are. Do not let them slide by assuming your passage will be easy. It might not be.