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Old 16-06-2011, 11:09   #16
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

I may have misunderstood the question...I thought it was with no visual nav aids apart from the weather.

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Old 16-06-2011, 11:43   #17
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Originally Posted by James S View Post
I may have misunderstood the question...I thought it was with no visual nav aids apart from the weather.
In which case, I would not.

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Old 16-06-2011, 11:44   #18
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
I asked if he thought he could sail from Grenada to Trinidad (starting a few miles out, and finishing a few miles out) with no nav gear at all, none whatsoever. Nuffin. So just relying on past knowledge and what you got.
Would that be so hard? You don't say what sort of accuracy of landfall though. north trini coast is about 50 miles long, keep up to the wind and up to the current, swell is pretty constant to use as a compass (from memory) and you'll see land at some point. Then you might see the oil rig lights along the way to get a bit of a fix. Assuming you'd go overnight. Then down the coast and in one of the bocas. Easy.

Let us know how you get on when you try it
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:50   #19
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Could I, probably. Coastal sailing you have line of sight and can transom navigate, (oh the boats all have Boston on their stern must be in Boston) . Soon as you lose sight of land hmmmmm good luck. So would I probably not....

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Old 16-06-2011, 12:11   #20
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

You pose a very interesting question, and after some thought I realized that I've been doing it for quite a few years. Although the charts and instruments are there they are rarely even glanced at unless reporting a danger. Aparently I've grown comfortably familiar with Puget Sound in 40+ years of work and play. So yes I could, but no I wouldn't, not much of a gambler I guess.
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Old 16-06-2011, 12:12   #21
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

I could do it sure Lets see the sun rises in the east and sets in the south err no rises in the north sets in the south hhhhh we are we going again....
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Old 16-06-2011, 12:55   #22
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

I'm with Jesse, I don't recall any commercial fishing vessels or towboats I worked on using charts from the mouth of the Fraser River to the west coast of Vancouver Isld or up as far as Rivers Inlet, south of Prince Rupert. One thing we did use were the tide tables, particularly close to some of the rapids you pass through headed north or south on the inside.
It becomes like walking through your neighborhood without a map. I recall charts being aboard but rarely if ever were they consulted.
We were aware of the lights at headlands and probably knew what their intervals were because we passed them so often and used them to estimate how long we were from port.
Further offshore on deliveries, we used self steering and knew our hull speed so had a fairly good idea where we were at any time before the days of GPS fixes. In those days we used a sextant (required skill to demonstrate for Mates ticket for Coastal Inland Waters) once every couple of days and radar (if it worked) when we closed the coast. Autopilots, chartplotters and GPS brought a whole lot of science and reduced the guess work we used to use.
They weren't necessarily 'the good old days', and a fair number of folks were killed and boats lost, but if you survived, you ended up with a set of skills which today are fairly redundant. Capt Phil
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Old 16-06-2011, 13:43   #23
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Comments welcome

I think the answer is in creativity. If we take all Nav things away and look from the boat with a totally blank mind at the situation we come up with creative ideas to solve the problems.

We all agree we could do it.

Slocumb did it after the famously cuddly goat ate the charts and Slocum made landfall of Tobago, Trinidad and then stopped in Grenada, Dominica and Antigua all without the chomped chart. But he doesn’t say anything about any difficulty in navigating there. Further he says he had only sailed the area in his youth. So it can’t be toooooo hard.

I also remembered Steve Callahan in Adrift saying he made a sextant from paper and a pencil – but I could never work out what the use would be when he was unable to make way. He just drifted.

So the scenario of a passage in pretty well known, to us, waters comes back to a few more basic ideas that we will creatively figure out as we go along, if and only if, we have the confidence in ourselves to do it.

It gets a little more difficult when as James says there isn’t any land and trying to stop in some water filled blob in the ocean within 2 or 3 miles after 100 traveled. That I couldn’t do. But we wouldn’t be 180 degrees off the course either.

Eric mentioned the wave patterns used by the old Polynesians (I say that because none seemed to remember how when I was there!), SNeuman with intimate knowledge; Unicorn Dreams about the cloud effects over islands; David with the mental map which I would draw; Zashin with aiming off like pilots did, and calculating exact tacks to keep course; KJ and Hannah with stars that they know; Surveyor with a hand made compass and given what boat junk we have could we all pop a wine bottle for its cork and magnetise a needle in the galley sink? As Atoll says some areas are easier just count the islands day or night and then turn; Boasun with more on (Bosun) birds; Conachair brings up when its eaiser to navigate a particular area day or night so the trip might have to be much longer but time is immaterial; Jesse and Phil with the obvious that as soon as boat work forces people to do without they just learned to remember, or learn to judge.

All great ideas useful in peoples own areas and Capttman says for everyone watch ships because we basically know where they often are going. I'f we don't we will quickly be wondering.

We could. That’s great that we know we have the ability in an emergency. Then here’s the next part: Would. That’s where everyone has said NO! Even Jack who undoubtedly can. I think it would be a great exercise for those that know they could. Obviously setting out to do it we would have the emergency, OK I’m lost, back ups, maybe a friend sitting below with a plotter – he’d be damn bored!

Even James’ idea of just doing it at sea and seeing how far off we are in 100 miles.

One day I will do it. The passage will no doubt take longer than normal and I might even have to stay awake now and again but I am fairly sure I can do it and do it safely. I just as sure we all can. Perhaps we all should?

Who wants to come with me?

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Old 16-06-2011, 14:20   #24
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

IF the Island has an airport, follow the planes. You may not get to the island you want, but keep trying...and following planes...

Do this on purpose? Never...

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Old 16-06-2011, 14:23   #25
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

I once read where a lot of the clipper ship skippers would only take one or two sexton reading after rounding Cape Hope headed for Boston or NY and could find their way with no problem. That is a long way to go with little aid.
I used to watch my grandfather who was a commercial lobster fisherman find his way around Quincy Bay and Boston Harbor in heavy fog. He rarely missed a pot even when you could only see the bow of the boat. He motored slowly, watched the bright spot of the sun through the fog, watched any wave action on the water and had a counting system for the distances between pots. I remember asking him to teach me how it works and he told me to watch and observe I'd learn it much easier. Did learn a lot of it but not all. I think in the old days sailors had a lot more time for observation of what was around them then they do today. If you dare on a foggy day throw a towel over your chart plotter and radar, point your boat first towards a destination a couple miles away and see if you can come close to it. We used to practice it down on the Hood Canal in Washington St where there was very little traffic. My wife and kid used to slowly turn to the left every time till they got the hang of it. I think with practice one could find his way across open water for 80 miles or so without any new type of navigation aids.
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Old 16-06-2011, 15:31   #26
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Watch for Mark's new blog...

Might be handy to add a couple of books from David Lewis... "We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific" and The Voyaging Stars: Secrets of the Pacific Island Navigators

Funny aside.... when Lewis was getting to grips with their star maps, he pointed to a particular star and asked what they called it... "Same as you guys. Satelite!"
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Old 16-06-2011, 15:59   #27
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Yes. I'd do it. No problem. No worries. I think it pivots on what one "knows well." If all I'd ever done is hit GOTO like many cruisers then I'd certainly have no idea. Lacking the compass would be inconvenient. But a sunrise or sunset angle, or just watching the wave and wind direction would be enough to rise an large island only a hundred miles away. Of course in bad weather it'd be another story....
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Old 16-06-2011, 19:18   #28
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Could, yes. Would, yes with reservations. I go out all the time without GPS/charts etc, in the Ottawa river; not 100 miles, but it's the mile closest to shore that's gonna getcha. Given waters that are familiar to me - if I was off the west coast of Vancouver Island and the goat ran amuck and ate all the charts, the GPS and the compass, I would be quite comfortable sailing the 100 miles back to Victoria - I wouldn't feel the need at all to stop in at a nearer port. I'd do the same in the Gulf Islands, and in a manner of speaking have frequently done so - commanding training boats, the trainees have the compass and charts and do all the navigating; but it's the skipper's mark-one eyeball and knowledge of the area that keeps the boat safe.

Many years ago as a training exercise in one ship, we (the junior officers) were tasked with navigating the run from Panama to Manzanillo with the Satnav/Omega (that should give an idea of the era) turned off. We still had the gyro-compass, so not quite the same, but we only fixed infrequently by celestial due to the overcast skies - these occasional fixes or LOPs would then have an expanding pool of errors applied to them (this was a system submariners used while dived). It was truly amazing how soon our probable position could only be narrowed-down to hundreds, or even thousands of square miles.

So would I deliberately start out in open ocean - yes, but there would have to be an incentive, a million-dollar prize perhaps. Maybe there's a reality TV show idea for you Mark
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Old 16-06-2011, 19:32   #29
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Could, probably, would, if there was enough money or beer involved in the bet, but don't know if I could carry enough bread crubs to find my way back if I got lost.
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Old 17-06-2011, 03:09   #30
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

The BIG advantage that we have over our forebears who set off with only a pencil is that we know we won't be sailing off the end of the world - and even the dumbest amongst us has at least a vague idea where the continents are (Well, the main ones ).

My bet is that a lot of Polynesians didn't arrive, and that a lot of time was spent around campfires arguing over the merits of following clouds vs following waves .........and deriding the new fangled idea of using the stars

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