Lights, Shoals & Soundings2022-03-15T09:46:36-05:00

Introduction: Take a look at the Training Chart #1210 TR used in this lab. Always remember that this tool is a chart, not a map (sailors don’t use maps!). This particular chart is special for at least two reasons. One is that it describes one of the most interesting and scenic regions of the coastal United States. The 1210 TR is also unusual because it is a training chart, meaning that the reverse side is chock full of helpful explanations of the cryptic symbols used on charts.

Background: Students need to know how to find and plot latitude and longitude, and be familiar with degrees and minutes of latitude and longitude.


– Class set of Training Chart # 1210 TR (See Supplements for details)

– Straightedge

– Dividers or similar measuring tool

– Pencil


Have students work together in teams of two to answer the following questions:

1. Find Rose Island in Narragansett Bay. What kind of navigational aid is on the island?

2. What does “F R 48ft. 12M HORN” mean?

3. Find the lighthouse on Cuttyhunk Island. What does “Qk Fl 63ft. 12M” mean?

4. What is the depth of water over Brown’s Ledge in Rhode Island Sound?

5. If you were to anchor at Brown’s Ledge, what would you expect the quality of the bottom to be like?

6. What type of bottom is at 41° 09.7′ N x 71° 29.2′ W?

7. How many minutes are there in a degree?

8. How many seconds are in a minute?

9. How many seconds are in 10.1′ ?

10. Every minute of latitude (horizontal lines showing how far north and south) equals one nautical mile. How many nautical miles does one second represent?

11. How many nautical miles does .5′ represent?

12. What is the area in square miles of the “Prohibited Area” around Noman’s Land? Remember to measure miles using the latitude markings on the left or right edge of the chart or the mileage scale at the bottom of the chart. Do not use the longitude markings to measure mileage!!! Why not?

13. Is there any indication of why the area around Noman’s Land is prohibited?

14. What kind of navigational aid is at 41° 20.9′ N x 70° 50.1′ W? Describe its signal.

15. Why would you not want to anchor at 41° 14.5′ N x 71° 12.6′ W?

16. Describe the navigational aid at 41° 24.2′ N x 70° 51.1′ W.

17. How far is it between the “BUZZARDS” light tower and the RB “VS” whistle buoy?

18. What feature is at 41° 30′ N x 70° 53.9′ W?

19. What navigational feature is at 41° 36.2′ N x 70° 47.5′ W?

20. Give the latitude and longitude of the following:

  • Tower on Goosebury Neck
  • Brenton Reef light tower
  • Gong buoy off the west end of Noman’s Land
  • R “10” gong buoy in Buzzards Bay

21. How far is it to sail from Woods Hole to Tarpaulin Cove? In what approximate direction should you sail?

22. How far is it to sail from Woods Hole to the point where you can safely round Sow and Pigs Reef?

23. If you came across a buoy that was red colored, had a bell, was marked with a 23 and flashed green every two seconds, what symbol and label would you look for on the chart?

24. Suppose you took a bit of a nap as you were sailing into Vineyard Sound on your way to Woods Hole. The last thing you see as the fog bank rolls in and awakens you with its damp cold is a bright light that flashes once every 6 seconds. Describe two ways in which you could determine whether you are near Gay Head or near Nobska Point.

25. I’d say the symbol for Shinto Shrine is an odd choice, don’t you think?

Evaluation: Students hand in answers to questions; each pair of students should make up three problems for other students, with correct answers on a separate key; students exchange and work out problems.


1. Introduce students to the compass rose. Using this, students can learn how to cross bearings to obtain position, and how to plot a vessel’s course.

2. Use a local topographic map to find latitude and longitude of the school, students’ homes, and local landmarks, as well as distances between points of interest.

3. Use the nautical chart for the nearest coastal area and have students create questions based on it.


Training charts and a catalogue of nautical charts can be obtained from: Distribution Branch (N/CG33) National Ocean Service Riverdale, MD 20737-1199 Phone: (800) 638-8972, Extension 153 for VISA or MASTERCARD orders.

Topographic maps can be obtained from: USGS Information Service Box 25286 Denver, CO 80225 Phone: (800) 435-7627

Original questions by James Harris, SEA Experience 1994. Exercise based on SEA Staff curriculum materials. Copyright 1998-2008 by Sea Education Association, all rights reserved. Compiled and edited by Pat Harcourt & Bill Meyer.

This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation (Proposals # TEI-8652383, TPE-8955214, and ESI-925324), the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Foundation, the Donner Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of the Foundations.

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