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Seaman’s Eye – Sailing – Sail Away Girl


Hello Sailors,

A term I keep hearing or reading about a lot lately is Seaman’s Eye. What is Seaman’s Eye? Well basically it is one’s ability to gauge things based on your experience at sea.

Sail Away Girl Seaman's Eye

It’s a skill that many sailors have acquired and put to use regularly. An example would include something that I learned in sailing school; how to estimate wind speed. Generally, if you start to see white caps, the wind speed will be around 12 to 15 knots.

Getting your seaman’s eye can be of great assistance to you sailing. Practice developing your Seaman’s Eye by doing some of the following:

1. If you GPS says an object is 1 NM away, then make a mental picture of that distance so you can gauge what a mile looks like by eye.

2. If you know a current flow in a channel is 2 knots, then look at how the water streams past a buoy and make a mental note of how the water looks at a current of that speed.

Sail Away Girl Seaman's Eye Buoy

3. Study shorelines to estimate water depth. Typically high bluffs will be adjacent to deep water, flat low-lying beach will be adjacent to shallow water that gradually increases in depth, and steep beaches are generally adjacent to waters that increase in depth fairly rapidly.

4. Determining if there is a current in a harbor can be achieved by observing how the bows of boats are pointing. For example, if all the boats, power and sail, are pointing in the same direction, then the current and wind are likely coming from the same direction or the current is negligible. Power boats with a lot of freeboard and little depth are affected more by wind than current, full keel boats are affected more by current, and fin keel boats with shallow hulls are somewhere in between.  You can use the difference between the direction of true wind and the way boats are pointing to get an idea of the strength of the current.

These are just a couple of exercises you can do to gain a seaman’s eye so get in the habit of doing these as well as other exercises to develop your eye.

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Sail Away Girl Fabio's Italian Kitchen

See you on the water,

Sail Away Girl