Everyone in the world does some form of navigation every day just about, even just walking down to the store or crossing the street, can use your eyes to position yourself to get to the different places you need to go.

Boat navigation is not much different than ordinary navigation except you use instruments to plot a course to your destination. And, starting with your eyesight you use your boat navigator with a variety of different tools to determine your route.

A few short decades ago there were no electronic navigation instruments available at any price, however, now there are plentiful chart plotters and GPS units available to help you find your way easily.  There are a wide number of different electronics navigation instruments.

You never know when you’re going to need traditional navigation techniques, however, at any point in time your electronic navigation devices could fail and you would be left with old-fashioned chart plotting.  That’s perfectly okay as long as you know what you’re doing.

Here we will examine the different forms of navigation both traditional and modern electronics, and then review several different forms of modern electronic navigation boat navigation.


Traditional Versus Electronic Boat Navigation

dsi and traditional sonar comparison

Photo credit to Pinterest

Navigation on land may be relatively simple in certain respects but navigating on the water takes a certain level of skill and understanding of the hazards involved. Navigating on the water is different as you have to take into account underwater obstructions, commercial fishing equipment, shallow zones, pilings and piers, and many other hazards.

In order to navigate safely across seas, oceans, and rivers mariners of all kinds need to be able to understand how to use their navigation equipment. Understanding what that equipment is becoming the first step. There are two main types of boat navigation equipment; traditional and electronic.

Let’s take a look at the two different types here:

Traditional boat navigation equipment

This equipment is used primarily by those who prefer them over modern electronic equipment or use it as a backup to that equipment in case of failure.

  • Charts
  • Compass
  • Dividers
  • Parallel Rules
  • Stop Watch Wrist Watch
  • Erasable Pencil

Modern electronic boat navigation equipment

How to make navigation safer

Photo credit to Yachting Monthly

  • These are electronic eyes that bounce radar pulses off of objects that are represented on a screen for viewing
  • Multi-function display. This is kind of a master display that all of your electronic devices can hook into as a center or hub of information for captain
  • Automatic identification system. These are transmitters that accurately identify most ships and boats of a commercial nature
  • Chart Plotter. This is probably the most important piece of equipment for navigation on the water. It serves as a plotter and digital chart, enabling you to create a course for your crafts to navigate.
  • Depth Sounder Fish Finder. Not all of the charts provided in the different databases are always accurate, so you may want to invest in a depth sounder to be absolutely certain if you are in waters that have questionable characteristics, such as shallow zones.


How You Perform Boat Navigation with Navionics

Navionics Boating - Get Hooked on SonarChart Live

Photo credit to Sea Tow Blog

Navionics is the manufacturer of GPS plotters that are used in conjunction with their chart database, as well as a sonar database.  Instructions for the use of Navionics products are available on their website and in the packaging provided by Navionics.

Navionics also produces an app that you can use in conjunction with their charting database and other plotting equipment.  The use of this equipment can be easily mastered by most people with average abilities such as basic math and reading skills.

Learning to read the equipment and enter information into the computer to help plot courses and understand the area in which you are navigating is relatively simple and can be performed without complex additional equipment.


Boat Lights and Boat Navigation

Boat navigation lights. Port and starboard lights

Photo credit to Ace Boater

Boats that are being navigated for recreational purposes need to have navigational lights in place. The rules governing these lights are almost identical to the international rules, and you should know the entire set of rules before you set out on the water.

Navigational lights come in 3 different colors, for all the different parts of the ship; port, starboard, and stern. Portlights are red, starboard lights are green, and stern lights are white, traditionally.

The use of these lights is not only of benefit to those people aboard their vessel but other watercraft and others. The ability to see your ship in the dark and know that it is there is essential for all boater’s safety for everybody on the water. Use of navigational lights is largely a safety measure although they can be used sometimes to guide vessels.

Learning More About Boating Navigation

Boat Navigation Tactics

Photo credit to Yachting Monthly

You may decide you want to learn more about boating navigation, and if so there are different boating safety courses as well as boating license certification courses that will give you more information. You may also check with boating navigational equipment dealers to get more information on equipment and techniques.

Feature image via Radio Zeeland DMP