This course is, arguably, the most informative and perhaps the most difficult of all when it comes to mastering the material and passing the examination. I find that it is replete with information that anyone getting out on the water should have in their minds as knowledge that is developed to be well founded and used on an almost subconscious level.
During this course you will gain an in-depth understanding of tides, currents, and nomenclature of such. You will learn how to use tide tables and a number of important calculations that allow you to make decisions regarding sailing depending on water level, at present and in the future, and how prevailing and expected currents may affect your journey, anchorage, etc.
The course work also includes a great deal of information and instruction regarding compasses, charts, symbols, etc and how to use this information on the water. You will learn how to plot a course to a destination, how to adjust for current and leeway (wind), how to estimate your position while on the water and how to confirm that position using information both outside and within the boat. Lastly, you will learn how to modify your sailing plans based on known geographic features, weather, etc.
The course textbook is excellent. Spend a lot of time with it. I’ve been through it four times. Repetition is an important part of learning. I also recommend reading the relevant sections on navigation in the Annapolis book of Seamanship. It provides a bit of a different take on a few issues but also some additional information and in-depth discussion regarding certain aspects of navigation. The more you know….. the more you will be able to employ when out on the water and truly need to know precisely where you’re located and how to get to where you wish to go.
Since I had studied navigation when I was training to become a pilot, I was allowed to opt out of the course and start a program of self study. I probably learn better on my own then I do in the classroom situation so I felt this might be the most appropriate way to become educated in the myriad facets of coastal navigation. At times, I felt it might have been useful to sit through the course but there was nothing too complex that I couldn’t figure out on my own. I did enjoy the opportunity to proceed at my own pace.
As mentioned, I thoroughly reviewed and re-reviewed the textbook. I made sure that I understood everything in a chapter before proceeding to the next. As mentioned above, I supplemented my learning with the Annapolis book of Seamanship and looking up certain things on the Internet if I felt that I needed a different sort of description. I obtained and reviewed all of the slides that were used by the instructor during the course. In fact, I reviewed all of the slides twice. I was provided the homework assignments and practice charts by Club Nautique. I did every homework assignment. Doing so will enable you to learn to use the tools of navigation. It’s a lot of work. I firmly believe, however, that the repetition and work at home on your table, or in the classroom at a table, is a necessity, and a bit of a luxury, in preparation for doing it on a moving sailboat boat in the ocean, at night, in the cabin, where there is no horizon as you’re enclosed…..and you might be tempted to vomit. Ha ha. It’s true, though. I would recommend doing at least a couple of homework problems at night, in the dark, with a red light headlamp so that you can at least emulate the process of doing navigation in a low light setting as you will be required during the night sail of your coastal passage making course. Remember, all of this learning is to develop the basic core fundamental knowledge of navigation so that you can apply it in a real time setting on the water. Imagine that situation as you begin to learn and master this material. Knowing that it has practical value should be a motivation to learn. Believe me. Everything you learn in this class is useful to you whether you are sailing the coast of California, the Seychelles, Croatia and even if you are staying put and keeping to the San Francisco Bay.
The exam was rather straightforward to me because I had focused on completing all of the homework problems. They are the best preparation for the practical part of the examination where one is given several navigation problems to solve with tools and a chart. One has to be meticulous, exacting, and careful to check his or her work with regards to each test question. The written examination will assess your understanding of the information presented in both the textbook and the slides. They are complementary to one another so focus on both as you learn the material.
Once you have completed the class take a break. A few weeks later go back and review everything that you have learned. Redo some of the homework problems. Do those things that fit your style of learning to solidify the material so that it will be useful moving forward.