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Old 30-12-2011, 11:30   #31
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

Before obtaining GPS, plotter, radar, and depthfinder this year, my piloting consisted of just compass, charts, and binoculars. Still make use of those tools.

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Old 30-12-2011, 11:37   #32
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

"A couple of years ago on a clear night a guy couldn't find his way into San Diego harbor (which has channel markers going out ~3 miles, and A morse on the racon at the safe water marker, and a lighthouse on the point). He had to get towed in because the chart plotter wouldn't read the data card.

This kind of stuff happens because people who have no business taking others to sea feel safe doing so because of their gadgets:"


Some people are so dumb you wonder how they manage to start their engines. There's a channel called "The Ditch" that runs up the side of the Skyway Bridge. There's no Morse marker, but it is near a rather big bridge ...

We heard some guy radioing for Coast Guard help because his GPS was out and he couldn't find the entrance to that channel.

But with or without badly used electronics, I think these bozos would still go out. What bothers me is that they also drive.
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Old 30-12-2011, 11:45   #33
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

Some people always needs someone (thing) to tell them what to do next, and if they get left alone, they have trouble with life itself. They never know how much trouble they can get into until they're already in it. Blind faith.
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Old 30-12-2011, 12:29   #34
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

I sailed 10s of thousands of miles in the good old days of RDF, Sextant and Sounder. When I look back on those days, I was always lost, it was just a matter of how lost. An advanced DR position without a fix in the last 12 hours was only good for tellling you you needed to heave to and wait for conditions to improve. If you couldn't do that, set a course to an area without obstruction where you could heave to. The RDF could get you close to an LOP from a known source but locating a known source amidst all the radio clutter was not often successful, in my experience, and in itself couldn't tell me where I was on that LOP. About all the RDF was good for was telling me I wasn't already aground. Going into even known harbors after dark could be very exciting. Once lined up on what I thought were range lights for Keehi Lagoon that I'd entered 50 or more times, day and night, that turned out to be just coincidentally aligned lights on shore that matched the chart. It was a bit of a surprize when a wave broke behind us. Fortunately the seas were running that night and the wave broke far enough out that I was able to do an instantaneous 180 and find the correct range lights to get in.
l
After a couple decade break from boat ownership, took my current boat up the California Coast from Santa Cruz to Alameda in the Bay. Took bearings off marks on shore that I compared with the fix on the GPS and was amazed at how easy and comforting it was to actually to know exactly where I was the whole way. The GPS put us right on the entrance buoy to the Alameda Estuary which was hiding in front of all the light clutter on shore. That passage left me amazed at how easy and accurate GPS was.

I am not happy with all the Yahoos that are going to out of the way places that I used to have to myself because of GPS. I would never think of giving up the accuracy of the GPS, however. Out of habit, still use paper charts and keep informal running track of my position. Hate to admit it but on my Sail to Hilo in '10, the sextant never left its box.
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Old 31-12-2011, 01:55   #35
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

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That kind of situation is unlikely where I am, but what is Plan B in the fog?

Where I am, in the channels I typically navigate, my chart plotter is reliable enough that I can be sure I'll stay beween the red and the green and in the channel. Short of anchoring and then being an obstacle for any other boat stuck in the fog without radar, what's the plan B?
I usually seek out the 10 metre depth contour (or some other arbitrary feature discernable by depthfinder...or even a leadline) and because I keep a DR and an hourly log on passage (yes, even in the sunshine), I can usually suss out where I am even in fog. And if I can't, I look for five metres and drop anchor until it clears up.

If you've kept compass bearings and have maintained "situational awareness" (like noticing the time when you pulled abeam of some properly charted nav aid), you can usually puzzle out your location by working backwards to "last good fix". Lastly, if you are in trouble, you can get the CG to try to get an RDF fix on your transmissions, which will yield bearing to safety. Using your ears helps, too. If you are sailing slowly over 10 metres of depth, and you hear surf or obviously nearby shoreside sounds (taking into account the ability of sound to project out over the water), you look for the part of the chart with the steep drop-off. If logically, and proceeding from your last good fix, you could be at that spot, you probably are. That's a new "not so good" fix in that it's going to be a bit wobbly, but it's a smaller circle than "this miles-deep fogbank".

Another use of sound is if you are running parallel to cliffs, use an air horn and count the time until you hear the echo. That will give a rough offing and can be done at 3 AM. You'll know a) there's that cliffy bit and b) you are X nm away from it.
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Old 31-12-2011, 02:07   #36
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

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I guess you forgot the part where I said IF I WERE NEAR A CHANNEL I might just choose to go in. THAT is where the GPS would help IF the channel markers are accurate. Around here they ussually are as they're usually on pilings. Sometimes you see a floating can or nun but not often.

I think it's really easy to sneer at the newer technology and brag about not using it, but I don't have a problem with the old AND the new together. A chartplottter can give you remarkable detail but unless you've got a really big one (even then) it's not so good at the big picture.

A paper chart can give you the big picture but you can't zoom in on it to get more details.

I'm making a big distinction here between a chartplotter and a handheld GPS.
I keep current charts, a coastal pilot/sailing directions and have a plotter on one boat. I have two elderly handheld GPSes and just got a newer third one, a Garmin 172H I like so far because it acquires very rapidly and gives me lat/lon...which is all I want most of the time. I sail currently in Lake Ontario...I know where the land is. Offshore, or in strange harbours, I basically use the plotter as a "suggestion" and constantly see if what it is saying is making sense with the naked eye, the radar ranging, the depth sounding and so on. Basically, it's useful for the overview. If safe to do so, I don't mind stopping and literally getting my bearings. In my experience, this isn't so common in male skippers, but then I have far, far more time helming boats than cars, so I never fell out of the habit of "asking for directions", even if it's from my various instruments.

I prefer a simple lat/lon, really, because I can relate heading and bearing dynamically when approaching land. If Flashing Light Z moves out of a visual segment of angle, and my heading is constant, I've discovered a strong current or waves or SOMETHING that needs my correction...maybe a busted compass! Peering at a little cursor instead of the nav aid light I should keep forward of the shrouds gives me that information sooner, frankly.

Plotters are great. GPS is great. Sextants are great. None of 'em care if you drown. Only the skipper can. His or her experience, seamanship and instincts are all that make those instruments useful.
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Old 31-12-2011, 03:07   #37
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

Using all modern advantages backed up by paper charts, dead reckoning and noon sights is probably the most acceptable.
There's nothing more comforting and safe than plotting as you go, no different to keeping a log on all machinery etc.
It's a part of dealing with the environment your in where things can and do go wrong, lightening, fire, electrical/electronic and just plain old Murphy......
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Old 31-12-2011, 07:11   #38
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Agreed, the prudent mariner uses ALL resources available, personal and otherwise.
Then there is the boat owner....... we read about them in the news......
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Old 31-12-2011, 11:15   #39
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

An interesting distinction!

Reports of boats come to grief do tend to mention the "owner" and not "the skipper".

All I know is that there are accidents these days that wouldn't be possible without GPS-aided inattention. Boats plowing into new nav aids or recently installed, half-mile moles...I'm not kidding...that weren't on the "card" in the plotter...you simply couldn't do this when there was a watch kept and very few people failed to keep it.

Personally, I blame "The Jetsons" and "Popular Mechanics", both of which promised to those now in their 50s, the prime "boat owning years", that we'd all have fully automated flying cars. GPS/AP steered boats, apparently, will have to do.
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Old 31-12-2011, 11:47   #40
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Reading this thread made me think how a new sailor reading this would find daunting all the strategies for navigation that exist. Sextants, loran, rdf, radar, echo sounding etc. etc. etc.

No wonder newbies often say, "screw it. My $600 gps tells me all I need. It puts me on the freeway and gives turn by turn navigation." these old farts in their armchairs are just luddites."

It would be impossible to organize on this forum becuase of everyone "piping in" but it would be coll to cover the basics of coastal navigation. I recently was crewing on a boat that went aground in a channel. I was not responsible or looking at the plotter. There was a negative 1.5 tide. The skipper was baffled that he soft grounded. This is basic stuff...

Taking two bearings, deciding what to take a bearing off, creating situational awareness are basic navigation concepts. Where does the sun rise, where does the sun set. Which way is north, south etc...

The first concept in navigation is orienting oneself to compass. Easily done if you know what time it is, even approximately, and know where the sun rises. Then one works from large to small. i.e. mountains to markers.

I was orienting a new person in california. It was morning. We got through, sun rises in east, turned to face north, west is that way, mexico is that way, canada is that way. Then I turned the person around facing south. Suddenly mexico was north of us? This wasnt an especially dumb person, it was a situationally unaware person who never even thought about this stuff.

I have taken many people out, tacked a few times and asked where is the club and they are clueless.

Everyone posting on thhis thread has tons of experience and their own pet rocks and their own pet peeves. I am an admitted non-cellestial guy. That is I would love to learn it someday for fun but I don't consider it an essential navigation skill for the 21st century. On my boat there are an average of 5 gps at any one time with ipads, phones, handhelds and plotters.

Carrying charts is not only smart it is essential. In fact the nav program on my ipad can print chartlets. With enough printed chartlets I can cross oceans.

Is someone going to turn off the gps system - I doubt it. There are commercial aviation approach plates being built on gps. It is an essential service. If total war breaks out and it is shut off, I guess I have bigger problems.

Can all the gps technology get wiped out in an electrical strike? Sure. But in passage making the 4 hourly plot will pretty much mean I have up to date position fix. I also have a handheld along with my handheld vhf in the oven. If that fails I am pretty sure I can DR even 1000 miles or so to a major landfall. Hitting a tiny south pacific Island? Not probable.

I guess my point is the essential navigation tool is situational awareness and learning how to do basic coastal navigation using MKII eyeballs and paper.

Not finding a lighted channel entrance in clear viz even at night is negligent.
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Old 31-12-2011, 12:48   #41
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

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I guess my point is the essential navigation tool is situational awareness and learning how to do basic coastal navigation using MKII eyeballs and paper.

Not finding a lighted channel entrance in clear viz even at night is negligent.


I might add that a good navigator has a complete belief in that what ever it is it could well be wrong.
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Old 31-12-2011, 13:03   #42
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

I think one of the biggest issues I hear about is that while GPS has made navigation easier and safer for us who know how to use it as a tool to be used in conjunction with charts and DR fixes, there are a lot of newer boaters out there who don't know enough about the basics of navigation to compensate for the fact that a GPS unit or chart-plotter does NOT get you from point A to point B automatically. Case in point are putting in a waypoint, but forgeting about set and drift and wondering why they went aground on a shoal they had skirted (supposedly) when they had first plotted it out on the GPS. Or setting a waypoint and not factoring in the sandbar, or island between them and their waypoint. ( "the marina was on the OTHER side of the island.)They think they can set it up, engage the autopilot and sit back and enjoy the ride. There is a lot more to basic navigation than just deciding to "go over there" that a lot of these folks on the water have no idea about, and I find that rather scary.
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Old 31-12-2011, 15:15   #43
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Roger your inputs. After 25 years of flying SAR for the US Coast Guard I have seen many a result of ill preparedness due to lack of knowledge. As I said "Mariners" or boat owners. Just "walking the docks" and observing, will give you some clues.
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Old 31-12-2011, 15:30   #44
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

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Or setting a waypoint and not factoring in the sandbar, or island between them and their waypoint. ( "the marina was on the OTHER side of the island.)They think they can set it up, engage the autopilot and sit back and enjoy the ride.
In 2001, the Ambrose Light tower in lower New York Bay was crushed by a 500' freighter that put the nav point right on the light tower! How's that for piloting, eh?

Anyway, another tool one can use in unfamiliar waters are recent satellite photos. Especially useful in shoal areas (NJ ICW) . In google earth, one can go back a few years and depending on the time of day, you can see the low tide shoaling, etc and mark your course accordingly.
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Old 31-12-2011, 15:32   #45
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Re: Thank Gd for GPS

You’re very welcome Lawrence Spillm; but (in all honesty) I cannot take all the credit for GPS, nor for your slow, but successful, voyage/delivery.

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