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Old 25-11-2012, 10:51   #1
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Before GPS...

Hello Folks. I am an author but not much of a sail boat guy (I was a pilot if that matters). I need to know what kind of ocean capable electronic navigation equipment was available circa 1994. In the 1950's I used a sextant, LORAN, radar and radio direction finding across the Atlantic. But things I do not know about must have happened since then and 2012. I would appreciate any 1994-ish advice, descriptions, or experiences you care to share. Thanks much. VeryOldBill p.s. my Garmin gets me around town fine.
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Old 25-11-2012, 10:57   #2
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Re: Before GPS...

magellan,trimble,garmin were making gps units in 94,the magellan was a hand held portable unit,as was the garmin.

before that you had navstar "satnavs" through the 80's that would give a fix every 4 hours or so from a sattelite.
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Old 25-11-2012, 11:20   #3
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Re: Before GPS...

GPS was around in 1994. LORAN C was still going strong too. I also carried around a handheld RDF unit and a sextant. Of course there were depthsounders and radars.
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Old 25-11-2012, 11:39   #4
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Re: Before GPS...

When I bought my boat in 1995 it had a Kings 8001 Loran C receiver that I used up until the Coast Guard shutdown the transmitters:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: GOODNIGHT LORAN C
Interesting fellow Ed King of Kings Electronics. He was an engineer and pilot who found the Loran electronics for his plane were too expensive so he designed his own and started a company to sell them. Got some photo's of what was inside the 8001 Loran unit as I had plans to reuse the case for another project:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: INSTRUMENTATION PROJECT PART ONE
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Old 25-11-2012, 11:41   #5
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Re: Before GPS...

We had Navstar and RDF back in the late 80s and early 90s.
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Old 25-11-2012, 11:47   #6
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Re: Before GPS...

GPS became fully operational in 1994. Magellan was making handheld receivers a few years before then. The TRANSIT system (also known as NAVSAT) was decommissioned in 1996.

Since you're a pilot, you may be familiar with the OMEGA system (decommissioned in the 1990s.)

Loran C worked only up to a few hundred miles off shore and was not considered a blue water navigation system.
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Old 25-11-2012, 12:31   #7
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Re: Before GPS...

Transistor radio and cast iron skillet. Swing the skillet around the radio, when you lost the AM signal, you knew where the shore antenna was.
Like Carl Malden said,"don't leave home without it"
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Old 25-11-2012, 12:35   #8
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Re: Before GPS...

Don't forget the Omega nav system. Worked on ground based transmitters like Loran but had global capability. Operated from 1971 to 1997 (no I didn't know that bit, had to look it up).

They were cheaper than the satnavs of the time and gave a continuous fix. Downside, you had to input an exact position to start navigation but it would follow your course from there. If you shut it off or lost power you would have to start over again and if you didn't initialize with a very accurate position it wouldn't track correctly.
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Old 25-11-2012, 12:38   #9
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Re: Before GPS...

With regard to LORAN-C it would make a difference where you were. It pretty much covered coastal waters in most developed parts of North America, including Puerto Rico and the USVIs. You could pick up signals quite a ways down the Bahamas, but the crossing angles on the lines were pretty bad meaning a lot of error in your position. I sometimes crossed a single LORAN line with a sun line or an RDF signal to get a fix in the Bahamas.
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Old 25-11-2012, 13:23   #10
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Re: Before GPS...

Few civilian GPS sets were available before 1991 because so much production had been snaffled up by the US for the war against Iraq. Those that were available came with a 4000 ($6400) price tag, although by 1992 second hand issue set were available from dubious military sources.

However, by early 1992 manufacturers like Trimble, Magellan, Lowrance and Interphase had the price down to 1000 ($1600). Still not publically guaranteed that the network would be rolled out some buyers took the gamble and bought into this new fangled technology. A race around Scotland in June 1992 had an even 50/50 split between GPS and Decca for onboard navigation.

Also whilst the original Rockwell receivers had only a single line display by 1992 displays had incorporated fish finder type LCD displays although electronic charts were still a couple of years away.

Whilst the repeatability was excellent compared to systems like Decca or Loran, GPS showed up errors in charts that ordinary users perhaps hadn't really appreciated or noticed.

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Old 25-11-2012, 13:55   #11
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Re: Before GPS...

Thank you all. I think I have enough story background to go forward now. I do remember my father with his new Magellan, standing under stars, waiting for enough satellites to click in so he could confirm the latitude and longitude of his house. A geek before his time.
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Old 26-11-2012, 08:11   #12
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Re: Before GPS...

I still have a working 1993 Trimble alpha-numeric GPS. Looks a bit like a Star Trek "phaser" and was apparently all the rage for Cessna pilots then.

It takes a pretty long time to acquire satellites, but it still works.
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Old 26-11-2012, 08:44   #13
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Re: Before GPS...

To have even Loran in 1994 was pretty posh. Most sailors (like me at the time) had to be content with hand bearing compass fixes on visible landmarks. Out of sight of those, dead reckoning, or if you were really keen, sextant.
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Old 26-11-2012, 09:01   #14
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Re: Before GPS...

1971-DR and Celestial/RDF- Mazatlan to Los Angeles

1975-Celestial and RDF with radio tuned for the null to Hawaii, Big Island. Got Hilo radio station about 25nm out, as I remember.

1983-SatNav- Miami to Cascais

1991-Magellan Auckalnd to Tahiti

Still do some DR and sadly, Celestial has gone bye bye for me..
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Old 26-11-2012, 09:12   #15
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Re: Before GPS...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
To have even Loran in 1994 was pretty posh. Most sailors (like me at the time) had to be content with hand bearing compass fixes on visible landmarks. Out of sight of those, dead reckoning, or if you were really keen, sextant.
In the UK Decca sets (radio waves) were popular and later sets could even be converted to use GPS. However, the problem with Decca was that it faded at dawn and dusk due to radio wave propagation. Also you had to switch transmitters when you moved to a different area and then your position jumped too. Oh and it didn't like rain either. Decca charts were a real work of art with concave lines running all over the place in different colours.

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