It's not hard to imagine the possibilities of sailing, even before the first payment for your boat is put down. All the countries, ports and harbours you've ever dreamed of visiting are now a little closer to your fingertips, and now just the journey alone can be its own adventure. It's easy to enter a frenzy of anxious anticipation when you first glance at land after days staring into an empty horizon, but reaching your destination unprepared (or even departing, for that matter) is not likely to inspire a return journey. Below is just a skeleton list of tips for sailing foreign waters that, at the very least, will make your voyage more enjoyable, and at best may save your skin.
There are some documents that, whilst not always required, we feel are essential to successful navigation. These include up-to-date large-scale charts applicable to the area you're sailing, cruising guides, pilot books, sailing directions, light lists, and tide tables.
If this is your first time doing a 'round the world' voyage, it should be hardly a disservice to do the tried and tested true routes of all first time globe-skippers. There is a great deal of chance for flexibility, ranging from how long you stay in a certain region or port, but otherwise factors like prevailing winders, ocean currents and tropical storm seasons will limit your inaugural trip.
If leaving from Europe, the most logical first destination is the Canary Islands, located off the coast of North West Africa, leading on to the Caribbean. The prime time to set sail is in the fall, to avoid the harsh winter weather that'll hit you when you're in the north. Once in the Canarys, most sailors wait until November, or even February, before continuing due to the North Atlantic hurricane season.
The best knowledge can come from experienced sailors. The areas that aren't visited often are so because they're not very accessible by normal cruising routes. A good starting bible for picking your most idle sailing route is Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes, which is geared specifically to cruising sailors, listing essential passage planning info like main ports of entry and landfall information.
Unless you're travelling to a member state of the EU, it is an offence not to notify the customs authorities when you intend to take your vessel to another country. This is done through the C1331 form which can be obtained from Revenue and Customs website, or some yacht associations, clubs and marinas. Likewise, you don't need to notify an immigration officer of any voyage where the first port of call is likely to be in the Channel Islands, the Irish republic or anywhere else in the EU. When it is outside that allowance area, you need to notify an UKBA officer in advance if you're carrying on board someone who has no right of abode in the EU.
Arrival into any country located outside the EU will have it's own regulations and procedures. Some country may have very few foreign officials who speak English, thus the entry formalities and procedures for various countries can be a time-consuming and frustrating affair. It's paramount that you have a good grasp on the individual protocols of each country before you embark, and that you take into account how their naval history and contemporary military struggles may affect any foreign vessels entering their shores.
Along with the list of essential documents we listed previously, some country officials will want to see:
Pirates fill the role of muggers and carjackers on the high seas, or what is more accurately termed 'International waters' - areas of the ocean that transcend international boundaries. There are a couple of odd myths surrounding international waters, notably the notion that it is lawless; it's not, in fact when sailing international waters you're under the jurisdiction of whatever country your vessel is registered to. Certain criminal acts, notably piracy, can be dealt with by any country under the law of Universal Jurisdiction. That said, another myth is the idea that pirates only attack in International Waters; it's just the UN doesn't define any inland attacks as piracy.
Piracy incidents on pleasure boats in recent times are still thankfully few and exceptional, but it is still an ever-present threat. Some of the safest places to sail to include the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand, whilst the more dangerous seas to roam generally lie off of the African and Indian coasts. Avoid high risk areas at all cost, but if you choose to sail through them do so quickly. Some advise you carry a licensed firearm and bullets, though this may not be possible depending on your destination. We personally recommend you always keep a list of emergency contacts.
If you have any experience in sailing abroad and want to share a selection of life-saving, or even just experience-improving tips, you can leave them in the comment box below, or share them with us at Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Here's a selection of handy resources to help you prepare for your next voyage:
Noonsite: A one-stop website of vital information, with detailed facts, weather and main ports for every country.
Ocean Cruising Club: A great crusiing group for anyone looking to sail abroad.
How To Sail Around The World: A good Wikihow guide with basic instructions.