A simple out-and-back cruise might seem the obvious option but triangular cruising offers increased flexibility should the weather turn. Dag Pike explains how it works
You have allocated a week for a cruise and you have to be back at your home port by a certain day.
If you are going to achieve this, then you need to build in some sort of reserve of time so that in the event of adverse weather conditions you will not find yourself under pressure to get back.
One of the major reasons people get into trouble at sea is that they feel that they are under time pressure to complete a passage and so take risks when the wind and sea conditions suggest that staying put might be the wise thing to do.
You can get a pretty reliable idea of what the weather will be like about three days ahead with modern weather forecasts which takes you halfway through your cruise, but after that you are entering the realms of uncertainty.
Do you plan to go any further or do you turn back early just in case?
If you plan a cruise that is a simple out-and-back route you will find yourself at the furthest distance from your home port just at the point when your initial forecasts will be reaching the point of uncertainty.
At this stage you will have run out of many of your options because there is only one way to get home and you need the full three days to do that.
A simple out-and-back cruise of this type has its attractions but it does not allow you any flexibility or room to negotiate with the weather if things turn sour.
You tend to feel under more and more pressure the further you get from home so this will probably not be a relaxing approach to cruising.
It’s much better at the early planning stage to think about a triangular cruise that will allow you to cut off one of the corners of the triangle if you need to save a day or make up time from any delays.
You will never be more than a day’s sailing away from your home port.
Tri it out
The sort of triangular cruising I have in mind might mean leaving from the south coast of England and heading initially across the Channel, a distance of 60-70 miles.
Once there you can do a few days of coastal cruising and still have the option of heading home back across the Channel early if the forecast looks like turning sour and finish off with coastal cruising on the English side.
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This would also include the possibility of an overnight cruise to add variety.
You could do much the same in the Irish Sea, leaving, say, Holyhead for Ireland or even the Isle of Man and then back home and again never be more than a day’s sailing from home.
In the Bristol Channel and further afield in the Mediterranean there are other possibilities for triangular cruising. On a longer cruise there are many possibilities in Baltic waters.