Voyage Around Catalina

Rich Molloy and Pat Griffith



| Instructional Objectives | Learners & Context | Object of Game | Game Materials | | Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References


Instructional Objectives


The instructional objectives of Voyage Around Catalina (VAC) are threefold. First, we want to teach nautical terms.  Second, we want to teach navigational rules. Third, we want to expose learners (players) to real nautical equipment.


After playing a few games of VAC, players will not only be able to use the appropriate terms when referring to the “front” and “back” (i.e., bow and stern) of a boat, they will be able to identify a nautical chart.  Players will not only learn under which situations sailboats have “the right of way” (i.e., are the stand on vessel), they will learn how to measure and plot nautical miles using a chart and a pair of dividers. 



Learners & Context of Use


Voyage Around Catalina provides a unique and fun way to learn an ancient topic.  Playing VAC will compliment most nautical learning experiences, whether these are an organized courses or independent study. 


Learners are those interested in the objectives.  While, anyone with some interest in learning nautical terms and navigational rules can play VAC, the game will be most fun for those who have some reason or context in which to learn the material (e.g., learning to sail, thinking of buying a boat, own a boat but know little about subject matter, joining the Coast Guard or Navy, etc…).



Object of the Game


The object of the game is to be the first to sail around Catalina and return to homeport.



Game Materials


  • One standard National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chart #18746.  Modified only by adding game track lines from San Pedro, Newport Beach, and Dana Point.
  • Deck of cards.  Each containing one of three subjects:
    • A nautical term question
    • A navigational rule question
    • A “Stand-By!” card
  • One pair of dividers with pencil lead
  • One standard eraser
  • Four game pieces
  • Two dice (numbers 1-6)



Time Required


It takes about 20, 30, or 40 depending on number of players (i.e., 2-4 players) minutes to play a complete game of Voyage Around Catalina.



The Rules


  1. Shuffle cards and place face down on the chart anywhere on land.


  1. Determine homeport (the starting and ending point of the voyage/game).  There are three choices San Pedro, Newport Beach or Dana Point.  All players should start from the same homeport.


  1. Roll die to see who goes first.  The highest number goes first and the order is clockwise thereafter.


  1. To start play, the person to the right of first player picks a card from the top of the deck and reads the card to player. 


  1. Upon correctly answering a nautical terms or navigational rules question, players roll both dice.  The Stand-By! cards are each self-explanatory.


  1. To move, players use the dividers to measure nautical miles equal to the number on dice. There are two nautical mile scales on the chart.  Latitude minutes (each 1/60th of a degree) may also be used to measure nautical miles (one minute = one nautical mile).  However, do not use Longitude. Longitude is not an accurate measure of nautical miles.


  1. Mark the distance traveled on the track line with the pencil side of the dividers and move game piece to mark.  Note: it does not matter which direction a player decides to take.  For example, one player may decide to go around the west end of Catalina anther may decide to go around the east. 


  1. Play game until the second to last person make his/her way back to the starting point or homeport.


  1. The first player back is the winner, next player is second place….



Design Process

The original name for this game was Race to the Sea of Cortez.  Our educational idea for this game was to teach the important subject of boating safety equipment, and we wanted to do this in conjunction with elements of sea history and adventure.  We also wanted to make the game as “real” as possible by using a real chart as the game board.

As design progressed the availability of real nautical charts encompassing the entire Baja peninsula proved to be hard to locate. Since there were government charts of Satan Catalina Island and the mainland, the game was changed to Voyage Around Catalina.

Another change made during the initial design stage was the content of the subject matter.  The topic of boating safety equipment, because of it’s product association, delays involved in getting Coast Guard approval numbers for equipment, and need differences depending on vessel size and type, was abandoned.  Instead the game focus shifted to teaching basic nautical terms and navigational rules.

The last significant difference between the original concept and the existing game has to do with the inability to infuse adventure into this game.  Visions of modern day pirates, heroic actions, and short-tempered mother nature never materialized.  It’s likely with more time, a future version of this game might tackle this hurdle and reap the huge benefits of a design that capture imaginations and produces “flow.”




  • Dr. Art Silver, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, San Diego Flotilla Member
  • National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),