Have you done your passage planning and pilotage? 


What should you be taking into consideration and why


Have you done your passage planning and pilotage?   How much time do you spend planning your trips? Passage planning and pilotage are a fundamental part of going to sea, yet the level of detail people go into varies dramatically. So, what should you be taking into consideration and why?

Pilotage is navigating the safe entrance and departure from a harbour and is a critical part of passage planning. Passage planning is effectively just good common sense. But, as we know, common sense isn’t always that common.

There is no mandatory format for a passage plan. It can be a hand-written page, a pre-printed form that is filled in by hand, a page typed in WORD, or an EXCEL spread sheet. Or anything else that is suitable.


When planning your passage break it down into all the elements that could potentially pose you a problem. Consider each of these factors as a starting point:

  • weather forecast and sea conditions (before you go boating, check the weather forecast and get regular updates if you are planning to be out for any length of time).

  • tides & tidal streams

  • fuel consumption

  • boat limitations

  • onboard safety equipment

  • navigational dangers including shipping lanes (make sure you are familiar with any navigational dangers you may encounter during your boating trip).

  • crew experience and physical condition (prepare for seasickness).

  • basic boat maintenance equipment

  • required paperwork

  • provisions


You should also always have a ‘in case of emergency’ contingency plan with boltholes and places to take refuge should conditions deteriorate, you suffer mechanical problems and/or someone on board is injured or falls ill.  

When it comes to your navigational plan, plot waypoints and ensure they are appropriate for the time of day you will be travelling and the forecast conditions.


Relying entirely on GPS isn’t a good idea. We have all experienced it with car sat nav systems when, despite having entered the right postcode, we haven’t ended up at our intended destination. It is the same at sea.  

You should always be able to navigate yourself to safety should the GPS fail. Knowing exactly where you are at all times is really important and if you are in any doubt stop and re-establish your position.    


Of course, it always makes sense to let someone ashore know your plans, and to tell them what they should do if they are concerned for your welfare. ( make sure that someone ashore knows your plans and knows what to do should they become concerned for your wellbeing. The Coastguard Voluntary Safety Identification Scheme (commonly known as CG66) is also free and easy to join).


The above is only a very brief outline of what passage planning is all about. You should read up on it and fully understand what and how you should prepare your passage plan. You will find good examples of passage plans in Excel, Word or other formats.