Strangford Lough, the largest inlet in the British Isles. It is a stark, beautiful, open stretch of water, surrounded by the rolling hills of County Down, in Northern Ireland. It was the first time I have been sailing since I was a teenager and learnt all about maritime navigation at school. Coming from a coastal town, I would often listen to the daily BBC shipping forecast the weather conditions around the British coastline. Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger Bank, Humber, Thames, Dover, White, St Catherine’s Head. Now sitting in the stern of the yacht, waiting for my turn to steer, I was surprised at how sophisticated sailing has become. There was a digital compass and an impressive TV monitor displaying a real-time digital maritime map of Strangford Laugh. There was a depth gauge monitoring the river bed, and there was a speed gauge. There is a lot more to sailing these days than sticking a wet finger in the air, hoisting the sail and letting the wind take you where ever it wills.
If you have a specific destination in mind, or want to come back, you have to take account of the numerous forces intent on driving you in other directions. There are the wind, the currents and the tide. But there are also the weather conditions to consider, forecasts, the time, high tide, the current, the length of day light, the time of year, known underwater hazards, reefs, wrecks and cables. There are safety instructions, emergency procedures, maritime regulations and directions from the coastguards. You must also consider the location, speed, heading and experience of other boat users. You must employ 360 degree vision at all times. Now you may consider that all these dials, charts, regulations, hazards and threats, take the fun out of sailing, but considering them ensure you will more likely make it to your destination alive. These days you have to be a 360 degree sailor.
You need to be mindful of what is above you, what is below you and beside you, to the north, to the south, the east and the west.
Read more here cc-vw.org/sermons/360.htm
View photos of Strangford Lough here