Boating 101: How to Learn Marine Navigation

By Shawn Buckles.

Fundamentals: How Marine Navigation Works

You first have to understand the fundamentals of marine navigation. Marine navigation consists of three very simple steps:

  1. Locate your position
  2. Determine a course
  3. Monitor the course

If you say it like that, it doesn’t seem so difficult after all, right? There are all kinds of ways to locate your position, to determine your course, and to monitor the course. That’s what makes it seem difficult. But in the end, it’s always these three steps. For example:

  1. You locate your position by using GPS
  2. You determine a course based on a nautical depth chart and the wind direction
  3. You monitor the course using a compass or your GPS

Locating your position can be done with any kind of directional line, for example using landmarks, buoys, stars, or satellites (which is GPS).

Your navigation technique is simply the way you choose to get your lines. It is always recommended to have multiple ways of determining your location, just to be safe in case you have some sort of system failure.

How To Use a Boat Compass

Using a boat compass may seem straightforward, but many people make mistakes that are easily avoided. Especially if you’re just starting out, it’s easy to make mistakes that may have large consequences.