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Old 30-03-2009, 08:05   #16
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Hi. I'm new to this forum but wanted to reply to the OP that, yes, I have an interest in navigation without electronics for the small amount of coastal navigation that I do. I'm taking the ASA 105 course for that purpose, and it's just an interest, I doubt if I would seriously cruise around with DR, running fixes, and hand calculating set and drift. But it gives me added confidence knowing that I could do it (maybe even get it right) if all the satellites fell out of the sky, the onboard instruments went dead, and I was caught in fog :-)
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Old 30-03-2009, 08:13   #17
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Retired has the right approach in my opinion. You are a more equipped sailor when you understand how to navigate and have some experience with the old school. However, chances are that you will not have to use it today because of hi tech nav gear which we now have and which is fairly inexpensive and quite reliable and can be redundant. And it can be very sophisticated expensive and complex too and prone to FUBAR.

More knowledge and more skills make you a better navigator or sailor, whether you are called on to use them or not.
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Old 30-03-2009, 08:33   #18
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Never for offshore use, but I did do a gulf stream crossing one time with nothing more than just a $7 orienteering compass.

I did it mostly as a challenge and confidence booster. I had a GPS if I needed it.

I find developing skills I hopefully never need has many advantages: It leaves me prepared should I ever need them. It gives me more confidence. It makes me more aware of the subtle things going on around me that I otherwise might not notice.

When my inboard bit the dust in the Bahamas one year, I was sure glad I was already confident anchoring under sail.


When I teach, I often teach skills that go beyond likely needs. Maybe they will be needed, but more I think people who are curious beyond their needs tend to be more observant, more prepared, better problem solvers and better at thinking outside the box.
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Old 30-03-2009, 08:33   #19
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I did it. I was lousy. I was dangerously inaccurate. If i didn't practice twice a week, I was HOPELESS. Further, we went THIRTY DAYS without a single sight, not even a noon shot. Thank God for inertial nav and what passed for electronic navigation back then.

So, tell me this: Just how in the world could you lose all electronics aboard if you took the few recommended precautions?
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Old 30-03-2009, 09:25   #20
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I feel it is important to know how to determine where you are without electronics because "stuff" does happen at sea.

I just want to make it clear that you do not need higher math skills to do celestial navigation nor any other sort of navigation for that matter. Sure, you may have to draw a vector once in a while...but you can do that with a couple triangles on a plotting sheet and not need to know what a cosine is.

As for celestial navigation, the Sight Reduction Tables (Publication 229) do all the spherical trigonometry for you. The rest of celestial navigation is very basic math...mostly adding and subtracting. Its no harder than balancing your checkbook once you learn how.

GPS may not always be with us. Especially if we get in a major war and the DOD decides to shut down the civilian side (public C/A code) or dramatically increase the selective availability error (SA error) of the GPS system in order to deny the enemy its use.
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Old 30-03-2009, 09:36   #21
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On my offshore passages, I often wondered how we would do if the GPS conked out. We always logged our position, heading, and boatspeed every two hours, so we'd have an accurate track. And, Sandy, I'm not sure how it could happen since we always had 3 or 4 GPS units onboard.

Nonetheless, I came to the conclusion that it would probably pretty easy to sail from the Chesapeake Bay to Bermuda or to the Virgin Islands using only a compass and DR.

How would you find Bermuda for example? As long as you're generally going in the right direction, there will be some indicators to help you find it--cruise ship lights at night coming and going, airliner vapor trails during the day, Bermuda longtails that fly quite a distance out from the island, and finally once you get withing 50-60 nm or so, the pattern of clouds that build up over land vs. ocean. Depending on prevailing wind direction, the patterns of the waves can also contain infromation.

Has anyone used these or other similar non-electronic navigation approaches?
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Old 30-03-2009, 09:53   #22
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...Has anyone used these or other similar non-electronic navigation approaches?
I personally have not, but that's much the way the polynesians navigated for centuries, though they watched bird flights instead of jet contrails.
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Old 30-03-2009, 10:27   #23
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Has anybody an interest in the older way, sextant, log, the Days Work
sun, moon , stars
All of my first offshore work was done like this, but I never was proficiant
I used moon with sun, 10 days a month
like to hear from experts please
Hello Stuarth,

I think Marvin Creamer is the expert you're looking for. In the 1980s(?) he sailed across the Atlantic a couple of times without any navigational instruments (no compass, sextant, watch or radio), then did a circumnavigation -- just to prove it could be done. He wrote a book about his experience, but it was never published. You can download and listen to an interview of him (two parts) at the FurledSails.com.

FurledSails.com Podcast #143 Marvin Creamer Part 1
FurledSails.com Podcast #144 Marvin Creamer Part 2

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Old 30-03-2009, 13:57   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David M View Post
I feel it is important to know how to determine where you are without electronics because "stuff" does happen at sea.

I just want to make it clear that you do not need higher math skills to do celestial navigation nor any other sort of navigation for that matter. Sure, you may have to draw a vector once in a while...but you can do that with a couple triangles on a plotting sheet and not need to know what a cosine is.

As for celestial navigation, the Sight Reduction Tables (Publication 229) do all the spherical trigonometry for you. The rest of celestial navigation is very basic math...mostly adding and subtracting. Its no harder than balancing your checkbook once you learn how.

GPS may not always be with us. Especially if we get in a major war and the DOD decides to shut down the civilian side (public C/A code) or dramatically increase the selective availability error (SA error) of the GPS system in order to deny the enemy its use.
no one does not NEED higher math skills at all, but to be a competant ships officer you did, for instance to rendezous with another warship , one travelling 25 knots, the other 18, and to meet at a location 3 weeks later with an hour or so, which is what they did, then you do need it And to be a navigator who knows all the tricks you do need it To find postion by sextant is easy , but thats a tiny part
Take the convoy escorts, in WW1 and 2 they had to keep tabs on a convoy that got spread over huge areas, some times with fog, no sun or stars for days, they were absolute geniouses, it was all math, and had to be done fast and constantly try the book,HMS ULYSSES
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Old 30-03-2009, 23:45   #25
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I was taught navigation when I went to Coast Guard Officer Candidate School. in 1975. We all had to learn it of course, coastal, dead reckoning and celestial as well as the lectronic stuff. They didn't have GPS then. But there was loran and Omega. Coastal and dead reckoning are a snap. The math is simple. Celestial is a little more difficult but with the right tables and forms it can be done. The hard part was the sites. Not the sun for local apparent noon or the moon, but star sites. I always seemed to shoot the wrong star. That really screws up your fixes. But with a good sextant and chronometer, and up to date charts, you can navigate pretty well.

Of course, keep in mind that people navigated for thousands of years just using the stars. They didn't even have a magnetic compass, let alone a fluxgate or gyrocompass. The polynesians found Hawaii after sailing thousands of miles just by the stars, currents, the birds, the direction of the waves, and other natural indicators.

So learning to navigate the old fashion way can't be all that hard, and as for the math, you can get forms where you just fill in the blanks and follow the procedures given, or for those really challenged, battery powered hand held calculators that have built in software that do the calcs for you, you just punch in the data.
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Old 08-05-2009, 07:28   #26
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How would you find Bermuda for example? As long as you're generally going in the right direction, there will be some indicators to help you find it--cruise ship lights at night coming and going, airliner vapor trails during the day, Bermuda longtails that fly quite a distance out from the island, and finally once you get withing 50-60 nm or so, the pattern of clouds that build up over land vs. ocean. Depending on prevailing wind direction, the patterns of the waves can also contain infromation.

Has anyone used these or other similar non-electronic navigation approaches?

In the 1990s Alberto Torroba sailed across the Pacific from Panama to the Philippines in a 15' open dugout sailing canoe using a plumb-bob as his only navigation tool. No compass, sextant or watch. Alberto's story is told by James Baldwin in his Atom Voyages blog. Atom Voyages | One With The Oceans - Sailing Across the Pacific by Dugout Canoe Following is an excerpt about how Alberto navigated.

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^^^^^^^^^^^

To navigate, he used methods similar to those employed by the ancient Polynesians when they explored and settled the islands of the Pacific. With his knowledge of the stars, winds and currents, and the habits of sea birds, he found his way from island to island unaided (and unencumbered) by modern technology. After he’d lost his hand-held compass and sole chart of the Pacific overboard during his first capsize, his only navigation tools were a bob line (a string with a small lead weight on one end) to sight the stars, and a keen sense of observation that few other sailors possess.

“The way I calculate latitude,” he explained, “is to find a star whose zenith passes directly over the island I’m heading for. All you need to know is the latitude of your destination and the declination of the star. To measure the angle of that star, I lie on my back on the floor of the boat looking at the sky with one eye just below the lead of the bob line. The string will point to the zenith. The bob line moves like a pendulum as the boat rolls, but after some practice the error is usually less than half a degree, or 30 nautical miles.
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Old 08-05-2009, 12:48   #27
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....As long as you're generally going in the right direction, there will be some indicators to help you find it.....airliner vapor trails during the day...
I had always wondered why nav charts usually show airport locations, even though they often have very little other detail about stuff on shore. Then I read somewhere that charts show airports because one can often see planes converging in a general area, and therfore could get a rough bearing on an airport. One learns something new every day!
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Old 10-05-2009, 17:23   #28
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Given what I know about the sorry state of the world today and Murphy's tendancy to mess with my life, I'd never set out to sea without a decent non-electronic means of finding out where I am. GPS is nice, but what if it goes out? Chartplotters look real pretty but without electricity, they don't work so good.

I just bought an Astra II sextant, the nautical almanac and had my watch checked for loss. As soon as I get my boat into a semblance of order, I'll be coming down to the club dock at 0dark30 to practice celestial again. I haven't touched it in years but I'm going to be going at it again.

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Old 10-05-2009, 17:26   #29
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That's smart and when and if the GPS goes down there will be less boats out there except doing visual navigation.

How pleasant that will be!
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Old 27-05-2009, 03:56   #30
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Hi , I live and travel Far North Queensland Oz, Torres Strait and Gulf. Have sailed with those who believe in electronic nav only and watched them bottom out on sandbars and reef. Sailed through the Thursday Island group and looking at the screen, we're sailing over the middle of Hammond Island. 3nm off!!Did a jet boat course while I was there, the instructor insisted on GPS/Plotter nav at night, if it wasn't for local knowledge we would have impacted with Black Rock. Same instructor put boat onto sandbar outside Weipa, he wasn"T hurt, 3 of his students in hospital. Coastal Nav/dead reckoning is a must. May not be 100% accurate, but you can aim off, miss the nasties then hang a left or right and follow the coast to get where you want. This part of the world the coastal sandbars and creek/safe anchorage approaches change with every wet season. Every year we lose boats and sadly sometimes people through relying solely on electronic navigation. Pulled my new Garmin out of its box, first thing instruction booklet said " an aid to navigation only". Simple nav does not need to be complicated to save your life.
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