Navigating Coral Reefs in the Caribbean

Four Good Tips For Navigating Around Coral Reefs This is the time of the year when the lucky ones among us head south to the Caribbean. It’s a wonderful time to enjoy some sailing and chartering in the sun. The tropics are great. But have you notice that often the charts are not completely accurate. […]

Four Good Tips For Navigating Around Coral Reefs

This is the time of the year when the lucky ones among us head south to the Caribbean. It’s a wonderful time to enjoy some sailing and chartering in the sun. The tropics are great. But have you notice that often the charts are not completely accurate. You’re finding your spending lots of time eyeballing your way into lovely reef-protected anchorages. Navigating in coral strewn waters is not hard if you follow a few simple rules.

  1. Protect the reef as well as the boat. Coral is a delicate life form and coral gardens worldwide are under stress. So, make sure you do not drop your anchor in a live coral patch. You don’t want to crush coral with your keel. It’s bad for the coral and really bad for the boat.
  2. When eyeballing through coral, the color of the water or of the bottom below will tell you what lies ahead. Deep blue is deep water. As it gets shallower, the water will change from blue to turquoise, to light turquoise, to yellow, and finally to white. Coral heads will appear as dark smudges. If you’re looking at white brain coral, the reef will reflect sunlight and be light tan or yellow. Grassy patches and small trade wind cloud shadows can fool you into thinking they are coral heads.
  3. For the best view, you want to be as high above the water as possible, so you may want to stand on the boom or climb to the spreaders. Even just standing tall on the cabin top forward will help.
  4. Sunlight will make the water surface opaque if the sun is ahead of you and will shine down through the water clearly when it is behind you. Keep the sun at your back as you start navigating through coral patches. And do not try to make a difficult entrance when the sun is low in the late afternoon; you will not be able to see anything beneath you clearly. We like to have our anchor down around 3pm when gunkholing amidst the coral.

From the Boat Rat’s Tip of the Week  section of Blue Water Sailing Magazine’s Cruising Compass Weekly Newsletter.

For more information, contact Dennis at Charter the Caribbean at 317-745-1990 or email: charter@charterthecaribbean.com

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