TAKING YOUR BOAT OUT TO SEA
We strongly recommend that every new member views the channel at low and high
water before venturing out alone.We can arrange for someone to take you in the tractor at low water and take you by boat when the tide is in.
The height of the tide is one of the key factors to consider before you decide to go to sea. It is measured in metres and refers to the height of water above chart datum (the lowest that the water is ever likely to be). Accurate predictions can be found online at sites like Willyweather or Easytide. Use “Great Eau Entrance” for Willyweather. The higher the tide, the earlier you can leave, and later you can come back. Running aground on a rising tide is preferable to running aground on a falling tide, as a rising tide will lift you up after a few minutes. This is why it is best to allow yourself more time for the return to the slipway or berth. The amount of boat under the waterline (draft) should also be considered. An inflatable will be able to float safely in less water than a large fishing boat.
Most of the members would agree that a tide of 6.2 metres or more is a good minimum starting point for boaters who are new to the club. On a 7 metre tide it should be possible to set off two hours before high water and return an hour after high water. On a 6.5 metre tide, you may be able to leave an hour and a half before high water, and you may think about coming in a bit sooner. There is always someone to talk to if you are in doubt. Red channel marker buoys should be kept to your right (starboard) side when going out to sea. Some of them are on poles. Stay 20 to 30 feet away from them, rather than trying to steer a course perfectly between the reds and whites. Remember to keep the reds on your left (port side) on your return.
VHF radio is wonderful way of communicating at sea, but only when it is turned on. Channel 71 is the local channel that the club uses. Channel 16 is used for emergencies. It is also used to call everyone who may be within receiving distance. If it is not an emergency, you should quickly arrange to move from 16 to another channel to chat. Whilst 16 is being used, no one else can use it and you will block all emergency calls. Phones also work quite well in our area, although they are not a substitute for VHF.
Wind has a large part to play in planning a trip. Anything with west in it has a good chance of being ok,West, South Westerly, North Westerly. As a rule of thumb, wind coming off the land is less likely to make the sea rough. If a brisk wind is coming off the sea, (Easterly, North Easterly etc) it could make it very bumpy. Get some binoculars and climb the bank near the slipway to look at what the sea is doing before you set off. Ask other members what they think. Is anyone else out or going out? There is no shame in turning round.
Life jackets, a few tools, an anchor that is ready to throw out quickly if needed. Spare rope, spare fuel, spare engine, oars, drink, warm clothes, depth sounder/chart plotter, binoculars. Don't let ropes trail in the water, your prop will find them immediately. Life jackets are more buoyant than buoyancy aids. A life jacket will turn you onto your back to keep your face out of the water. A buoyancy aid will allow you to swim more easily and are commonly used by strong swimmers and people engaged in water sports rather than fishermen.
Rules of the Road
Drive on the right. If you are overtaking a boat, make sure they know you are there, call them up, or wait until they have seen you. Try not to pass too fast and send them flying in your wake. keep a constant eye out for people who may be behind you when you are in the channel.
A GPS or chart-plotter with a depth sounder is a very useful investment. If you don't have GPS and you cannot find the channel entrance when you return. Find the yellow Saltfleet Haven mark and steer 250 degrees from there, it will bring you to the first red marker buoy of the channel end. The yellow mark position is Lat. 53°24.602’ N, Long. 000°14.339’ E and has “Saltfleet Haven” written on it. (It may appear on charts as N17979 Inner mark ) Do not confuse this with the DZ (Danger Zone) yellow markers which are a lot further out and mark the perimeter of the bombing range.