This is a page of resources that can be found on-line and most are absolutely free! My thanks to Michael Moradzedeh of the Passport Owners of America for an earlier incarnation. If you have other references, please e-mail links and a short description to the webmaster.
1. CHARTING RESOURCES
World weather at your fingertips: Your webmaster thinks that this is such an important resource for sailing anywhere in the world that it's appropriate to place the link here. Winds and currents for the entire world are represented graphically for your perusal, and at no charge. The data is computer-generated but seems accurate, at least for the large-scale movements of air masses. Track weather in the Gulf of Alaska or watch the latest typhoons spawn in the tropics. I've included a link to a mediocre YouTube video on how to operate the globe. Understanding the large-scale patterns that influence your proposed sailing area helps you understand the weather reports that you research before a weekend of sailing, wherever you are.
Print at home, FREE Alaska NOAA charts! The NOAA BookletChart™ is an experimental product that you can print at home for free. They are made to help recreational boaters locate themselves on the water. The Booklet Chart is reduced in scale and divided into pages for convenience, but otherwise contains all the information of the full-scale nautical chart. Bar scales are also reduced in scale, but are accurate when used to measure distances in a BookletChart. Excerpts from the United States Coast Pilot are included. Most chart notes are consolidated on a single page for easy reference. Emergency information for the charted area is printed on the back cover. For charts of other areas: Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, Pacific Coast, Great Lakes.
OpenCAPN – A Chartplotter and GPS Navigation Software for Windows 98, 2000, XP, Vista 7, Linux, BSD, Solaris, and Macintosh OSX. OpenCPN is a free software (GPLv2) project to create a concise chartplotter and navigation software for use as an underway or planning tool. OpenCPN is developed by a team of active sailors using real world conditions for program testing and refinement. OpenCPN is a good place to start if you're undecided on electronic chart plotters.
SeaClear II – A free, full-featured Windows-based charting program that displays Electronic Navigational Charts from the U.S. Government. It works with GPS input, too, converting your laptop into a chartplotter.
Free Electronic Charts – Your tax dollars at work! Remember that the NOAA no longer prints charts! You may download RNC (raster nautical charts: scanned images of the original charts) or ENC (electronic nautical charts: vector-based charts created from the originals and with much more information). The charts are even available as PDFs! Click here to select the format that you wish.
Chart Number 1 – Explains ALL the symbols one finds on a US chart. Why pay?
Light Lists – The descriptions and lat/long of ALL the markers the Coast Guard knows about. When leaving your home port, it's a good idea to know what lights you can expect to see, and not to see.
US Coast Pilot. – All nine books of the Coast Pilot are now available FREE, on-line. The United States Coast Pilot® consists of a series of nautical books that cover a variety of information important to navigators of coastal and intracoastal waters and the Great Lakes. Issued in nine volumes, they contain supplemental information that is difficult to portray on a nautical chart. Topics in the Coast Pilot include channel descriptions, anchorages, bridge and cable clearances, currents, tide and water levels, prominent features, pilotage, towage, weather, ice conditions, wharf descriptions, dangers, routes, traffic separation schemes, small-craft facilities, and Federal regulations applicable to navigation. Coast Pilot volumes 8 and 9 covers Alaskan waters.
Distances among common anchorages grid. Our own John Baker (thanks, John) created this amazing grid that provides lat/long and distances among many common anchorages. Download a copy here.
2. NAVIGATION AND PILOTING RESOURCES
COLREGS. The official navigation rules of the road. These make for interesting reading, and are the ultimate authority on such rules as whether the seaplane has right of way over the submarine. One MB PDF file.
American Practical Navigator The classic and comprehensive reference on navigation. Updated yearly. Serious boaters should have a copy of this onboard.
Sight Reduction Tables. If you're using (or learning to use) celestial navigation, these tables are essential. Most beginning navigators tend to use Sight Reduction Tables for Air Navigation, Pub 249, but the Sight Reduction Tables for Marine Navigation, Pub 229, are also available.
Nautical Almanac: Regardless of what method of celestial navigation one uses, essential corrections and tables can only be found in the Nautical Almanac published for the specific year. An on-line version is also available here.
Marine Navigation Calculators. Created by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, this is a complete set of on-line calculators for almost any navigational need. Learning celestial and need to check your answer? You can do it here.
The World Port Index (Pub 150) contains the location and physical characteristics of, and the facilities and services offered by, major ports and terminals world-wide (approximately 4300 entries), in a tabular format. Entries are organized geographically, in accordance with the diagrams located in the front of the publication. Planning a long cruise? You need this!
Distances Between Ports (Pub 151) publication contains, in a single volume, tabulated distance between an alphabetical listing of departure ports, junction points, and arrival ports worldwide. Most of the distances represent the shortest navigable routes, but in some cases, longer routes which take advantage of currents, avoidance of ice or other dangers to navigation, or to follow required traffic separation schemes are used. New editions are prepared and published by NGA on a bi-annual basis.
NGA List of lights: The List of Lights, Radio Aids and Fog Signals is published in seven volumes, as Publication numbers 110 through 116. Each volume contains lights and other aids to navigation that are maintained by or under the authority of foreign governments.
Sailing Directions (Enroute) include detailed coastal and port approach information, supplementing the largest scale chart of the area. Each publication is subdivided into geographic regions, called sectors, which contain information about the coastal weather, currents, ice, dangers, features and ports, as well as a graphic key to the charts available for the area.
Sailing Directions (Planning Guides) include relevant physical, political, industrial, navigational and regulatory information about the countries adjacent to a particular ocean basin in a single volume.
The Radar Navigation and Maneuvering Board Manual (Pub 1310) contains, in a single volume, information on the fundamentals of shipboard radar, radar operation, collision avoidance, navigation by radar, and a description of vessel traffic systems in US waters. Additionally, the publication provides a quick reference to specific relative motion problem solutions including both textual and graphic explanations. New editions are prepared and published by NGA on an as-needed basis. This publication is available in its entirety on the website.
The Atlas of Pilot Charts set is comprised of five volumes, each covering a specific geographic region. Each volume is an atlas of twelve pilot charts, each depicting the observed conditions for a particular month of any given year. The charts are intended to aid the navigator in selecting the fastest and safest routes with regards to the expected weather and ocean conditions. Pilot Charts depict averages in prevailing winds and currents, air and sea temperatures, wave heights, ice limits, visibility, barometric pressure, and weather conditions at different times of the year. The information used to compile these averages was obtained from oceanographic and meteorologic observations over many decades during the late 18th and 19th centuries.
The Handbook of Magnetic Compass Adjustment (formerly DMA Pub. 226) includes information about terrestrial magnetism, the theory behind magnetic compass adjustment, and detailed procedures for manual correction of magnetic compass error.
Digital Coast: Imagine adding up to 1000 layers of your choice of verified information on top of your chart. Imagine the power of overlays of photos, marine facilities, marine mammals, weather, the choices are almost endless. That's exactly what you can do at this site! It's the most exciting new product from NOAA in a history of amazing sevices. Be sure to watch the short video available on the site on how to create the "mashup" or customized chart with data layers.
CHIRP (CHIRP for Maritime = Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme). CHIRP is a British program established to contribute to the enhancement of aviation and maritime safety in the UK, by providing a totally independent confidential (not anonymous) reporting system for all individuals employed in or associated with these (maritime) industries. The program has been in existence since 1982. These are well-written "oops!" incidents, submitted by professional mariners, that might provide a rationale for your own watch programs.
Official Panama Canal site with current transit fees, regulations, and requirements. Watch other vessels transit the canal live via webcams.
Local notices to mariners advises mariners of important matters affecting navigational safety, including new hydrographic information, changes in channels and aids to navigation, and other important data. Published weekly in downloadable PDF format.
View nautical, aeronautical,and topographical maps and charts online: free. It's similar to Google Earth.
3. ONLINE TIDE INFORMATION
Tide Tables for the entire United States can be found at NOAA. One of the more useful items is a graphing feature.
XTide: A tidal prediction program with both graphic and tabular displays that can be downloaded. XTide, originally written for Linux operating system, is still available for many flavors of Linux, as well as Windows, Mac OS X, Pocket PC, Palm, and other versions that have been ported or derived from XTide source code by others.
The Ocean Prediction Center, a NOAA-run mainstay, provides the Coast Guard with weather fax charts to broadcast and the High Seas voice broadcasts. They generate NAVTEX (NAVTEX (Navigational Telex) is an international automated medium frequency direct-printing service for delivery of navigational and meteorological warnings and forecasts, as well as urgent marine safety information to ships.) for the U.S. and dovetails with the National Hurricane Center on tropical status storms.
Wind, wave, and local weather info updated hourly; stations located around coastal U.S. and off-shore.
The U.S. Naval Oceanography portal has a vast array of worldwide meteorological and oceanographic products, including an analysis of the sky and its constellations for the current week and access to time hacks from the USNO clock. Many of the resources in the Navigation section are accessed through this portal.
GRIB (GRIdded Binary) is a binary data format. Forecast data generated from computerized weather models is stored in GRIB files that include atmospheric pressure, wind direction/speed, precipitation, and temperature predictions for a period of several days. GRIB files are produced by several agencies, including NOAA, with the caveat that they are unchecked by human forecasters. GRIB files are freely available to the public, but require special software to display in a map format. At this site, you'll find free, downloadable software that retrieves data for a selected area from the Internet and displays it graphically on a chart corresponding to the selected region. Coverage is worldwide, and there is no charge. New users are required to register with a valid e-mail address, but registration does not appear to generate any unsolicited e-mail or other forms of advertising. Cruisers, be aware that no human interprets this data!
Sailflow is a great place to get forecasts and current condition info for winds and surf as well as general weather information. We've found it to be very accurate. There is a free level but more sophisticated and useful levels require a moderate fee be paid. There is an app, too.
Worldwide schedule of marine weather fax broadcasts including times, frequencies, and station call signs. Maintained by NOAA and updated regularly. This is a PDF download. You must have a sat phone, SSB, or weather fax to utilize the service.
Seasickness.com: Dedicated to causes, remedies, and medical discussion of seasickness; very informative.
Medical planning and recommendations for assembling an onboard medical kit.
Paint-maker Interlux's website offers tips and videos on a range of coatings projects, including wood finishing and hull painting. The site included several excellent videos on various painting topics.
Boat-US: Some of maintenance guru Don Casey's articles in a free how-to library online. You've got to see this site to appreciate the enormous amount of information that's available. Your webmaster tackled replacing a through-hull and sea cock based on the excellent information available here....for free!
Better Marine Services has several useful articles on service and general information. Drive trains seem to be their forté.
Practical Sailor: PS offers free-access articles on boat maintenance in our "Tools 8: Techniques" section.
Lewmar Winch Maintenance: Oddly, Lewmar has less information on its site than does this site. Need a manual for your Lewmar winch? It's probably available here as a PDF.
www.cruisersforum.com: Dedicated to the cruising lifestyle with over 18,000 members, the Cruiser's Forum connects sailors who share interests and seek information. It does a good job of enforcing its own rules that call for polite participation, no spammers, and limited advertising. It also has a nice photo gallery of member-uploaded pictures.
www.7knots.com: The 7 Knots database offers a forum, classified section, logs from members around the world, and more. It has a large membership, and its database is easy to update with your own photos and logs.
www.sailnet.com/forums/: Sailnet bills itself as the world's largest online sailing community, and it may well be, with news, articles, discussion groups, free e-mail, and an online chandlery.
www.noonsite.com: World cruiser Jimmy Cornell's global website for cruising sailors, a first-rate resource for a wide variety of cruising information for just about any place in the world. Your webmaster visits often. Check Cornell's book, "World Cruising Routes". The website is accessible in a low-bandwidth-using format for use with an SSB radio or sat phone.
www.setsail.com: In part, a commercial site featuring Steve and Linda Dashew's publications, Setsail.com's tech section contains very informative articles written by cruisers, and the Cruising Central section is well worth a look. In addition, there is a link for a free download of two cruising classic references, "Mariners' Weather Handbook" and "Surviving the Storm". Click here.
www.pangolin.co.nz/yotreps/index.php: Cruisers can report their position here, and family and friends can follow your progress online. Members report weather conditions and can receive regional weather reported near their position. Pangolin also offers some useful free software utilities downloads.
Active Captain: Active Captain is a site that provides enormous amounts of information that is useful to a cruiser. The site boasts an interactive map of the world with reviews of facilities at marinas and harbors around the world.
9. CLUBS AND CRUISING ORGANIZATIONS
www.ssca.org/: The Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) is dedicated to supporting the liveaboard cruising lifestyle. Membership isn't free, but the information is worth the fee. Port guides and the on-going equipment survey help formulate your best decisions. Your webmaster has been a member of SSCA for many years.
www.oceancruisingclub.org: The Ocean Cruising Club (OCC), founded 55 years ago by a small group of ocean sailors, continues to be a gathering place for long-distance sailors.
www.cruisingclub.org: The Cruising Club of America (CCA), now in its 85th year with over 1,200 members, continues to promote good seamanship, the design of seaworthy yachts, and environmental awareness
www.womensailing.org: The National Women's Sailing Association (NWSA), founded by Doris Colgate, provides opportunities for women to leam and enhance sailing skills.
www.bluewatercruising.org: The Bluewater Cruising Association (BCA), based in Vancouver, B.C., is dedicated to offshore mariners and those with similar aspirations. Offshore fleet meetings and rendezvous are frequently organized to aid in preparing for extended passages.
www.cruising.org.uk: The Cruising Association (CA), based in the UK, is a worldwide cruising organization that provides its members with numerous services and facilities.
www.boatus.com: The Boat Owners Association of the U.S. (BoatUS), initially linked with marine stores of the same name, supports boating interests in government, provides a source of marine insurance, surveys, and other services.
10. FAMILY SAILING
www.kidsaboard.com: An excellent resource for kid-friendly and family-friendly articles, activities, and more.
www.landlpardey.com: Well-known authors and cruisers Lin and Larry Pardey offer some great free advice (articles and helpful videos) on everything from kedging to maintaining varnish. Talesian, their current boat, was hand-built by Larry and has no engine, refrigeration, and only recently has GPS been added.
www.womenandcruising.com: Information on everything from cruising with kids to keeping finances afloat. Site creator, Kathy Parsons, is well known for her many books, including "Spanish for Cruisers" and "French for Cruisers."
www.morganscloud.com: The Morgan's Cloud crew has plenty of high-latitude adventures under their belts, and has lessons to teach.
Beth and Evan Starzinger: Articles and how-to's from two-time circumnavigators, Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger. These two have contributed to virtually every major sailing magazine that exists: Practical Sailor, Ocean Navigator, Blue Water Sailing, Cruising World, to name a few. These two are your webmaster's favorite authors. Beth authored "The Voyager's Handbook", an essential guide for new and experienced cruisiers.
Single-handing Tips: Not finding what he wanted, he wrote his own! This free book is full of good hints. Link to third edition.
14. US WEST COAST CRUISING RALLYS
Pacific Puddle Jump: The Pacific Puddle Jump rally is an annual migration of private sailing yachts leaving various points on the west coast of the Americas, but all bound for French Polynesia. Via radio nets and electronic communications they share information on preparation, weather routing, and inter-island cruising. Because the fleet does not depart from the Americas on one single date, their arrivals in French Polynesia can be anytime in April, May or June. Due to the broad-based nature of the fleet, many of the boat crews will meet for the first time when they arrive in the islands.
Baja Ha-Ha (or "the Ha-Ha"): The goals of the Ha-Ha are simple: for everyone to get to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico safely while enjoying some great sailing and making countless new friends. The Ha-Ha lasts from late October to early November. The 2011 event was the 18th (the first was in ‘94), the "barely legal" Haha. More than 2,000 boats have done the event so far, with roughly 7,000 participants aboard. The Ha-Ha is a 750 mile event that allows sailors to spend the winter months cruising in Mexican waters such as the Sea of Cortez.
ARRL The American Radio Relay League is the organization that advocates for all American HAM enthusiasts. Need a HAM license to extend that new SSB? ARRL is the place to start!
16. Ripping Great Yarns of the Sea
The 1800s and early 1900s constituted a golden age of recreational exploration by sail. Jack London, for example, wrote many books based on his experiences. Guess what! Their copyrights have expired! Project Gutenberg (a non-governmental effort to digitize every book ever printed) makes them freely available. Every book published overseas or in the US prior to 1923 is probably on this site and can be downloaded at no cost. Shakespeare's copyright has also expired. Download any and read while at sea. Any text reader, iPod, iPad, iPhone, Kindle, or word processor will work. Some even have audio files!
Sailing Alone Around The World: (Joshua Slocum) It's about sailing. Alone. Around the world. For the very first time! And very well written. He's loaned his name to many fine saiboats since he built his beloved "Spray" by himself.
Sea Fairies: A children's underwater fantasy book by L. Frank Baum, author of the "Wizard of Oz".
Sky Island: being the further exciting adventures of Trot and Cap'n Bill after their visit to the sea fairies (L. Frank Baum) A follow-up book to the Sea Fairies.
Moby-Dick: (Herman Melville) Often cited as the THE Great American Novel, it is generally regarded as a classic of world literature. Through the main character's journey, the concepts of class and social status, good and evil, and the existence of gods are all examined as Ishmael speculates upon his personal beliefs and his place in the universe. The narrator's reflections, along with his descriptions of a sailor's life aboard a whaling ship, are woven into the narrative along with Shakespearean literary devices such as stage directions, extended soliloquies and asides. A "must read".
Typee, A Peep at Polynesian Life: At the tender age of 19, Herman Melville jumped ship on Nuku Hiva, promptly becoming the "honored guest" (read prisoner) of the local cannibals. Somehow he escaped and floated a river to freedom. This is the sequel to Moby Dick, since his wretched experience aboard the whaling ship, Pequod, motivated his desertion.
The Sailor's Word-Book: An Alphabetical Digest of Nautical Terms, including Some More Especially Military and Scientific, but Useful to Seamen; as well as Archaisms of Early Voyagers, etc. Written in the early 1800s, this is a dictionary of now-esoteric nautical terms. You don't want to "walk away with the anchor", do you?
Long List: This site has free e-books available for download, all with a nautical theme. The books range from chilren's literature to submarine logs. Various sources, authors, and subjects are available.
The following growing list of periodicals is dedicated to sailing issues.
Latitude 38: This is a classic sailing magazine full of information useful to sailors on the Pacific coast of the US. There's a free electronic version, too. Along with Blue Water Cruising, Lat 38 also supports most of the West Coast rallys (Baja Haha and Pacific Puddle Jump, to name two) and many other cruisers' events
Cruising World: One of America's premier sailing magazines, now with a great electronic version. Be sure to check out the extensive video section where you can watch videos taken from the world over.
Apparent Wind: a list of online sailing magazines from all over the world.
Sailing: Sailing is a large format magazine with big photos and boat-design reviews by Robert Perry. Aimed at owners (or dreamers of) larger boats.
Blue Water Sailing: As the name implies, this magazine and its online version are dedicated to blue water cruising. Issues are filled with valuable information contributed by sailors visiting these exotic locations. Blue Water also supports most of the West Coast rallys and many other cruisers' events.
Practical Sailor: Practical Sailor is like a Consumer Reports for sailboat gear. They take no advertisements and if they don't like it, they'll say so. "Practical Sailor's gear and boat reviews take the guesswork out of your buying decisions."
Ocean Navigator: Ocean Navigator is the premier publication offering in-depth technical navigation and seamanship information to the most serious and avid offshore voyagers. It gives you essential, need to know information that will put you in control of your boat and make bluewater sailing safer and more enjoyable. The website also features web-only resources, podcasts, and links to yet other resources.
48 North is another magazine printed in the Pacific Northwest that addresses the sailing community. 48 North is an inexpensive magazine that also has a free on-line edition.
Sailing Anarchy is...well...an electronic magazine for the anarchist in you.
The following links are to general hardware products that offer exceptionally clever and useful solutions.
Brookhouse offers multiplexing devices for NMEA 0183 to SeaTalk. Need to connect an AIS receiver to an older Raymarine C80? This is your place! Also offers the IMux multiplexer that will transmit all that SeaTalk data on your network to any iPhone or iPad or laptop around. Amazing!
Rogue Wifi Enhancer The Rogue Wifi system will allow you to connect to distant Wifi hotspots with ease. Compatible with any platform, it requires no special software. Set-up and use are easy.