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Old 16-06-2011, 09:48   #1
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Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Interesting conversation at the bar about sailing with NOTHING not even a comapss.

Please read on before commenting and then be a bit honest in repy

A good skipper on a good boat who has sailed the Caribbean BVI's to Trinidad often. I have done BVI's to Grenada once, but a few bits twice.
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.
he said he wouldn't/couldn't. I said he could. Nor did he think he could go the other way through the islands.


Scenario is you are in waters you know WELL. Could you make a passage of 100 miles without nothing but your wits?

If so. How?

Next question is: As a test: Would you?




Additional rules:

This is not some test of having maps in your atlas or an emergency GPS in the grab bag. You have nothing so don't try to pull a magic butterfly out.
This isn't some veiled shot at other threads etc about navigating with or without particular bits and pieces. We're all in the same boat. Nothing! Not even charting instruments like a protractor or dividers, but you can have a pencil and paper.



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Old 16-06-2011, 10:23   #2
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Well, I could definitely do it in the Chess. No problem. Stick to the middle of the bay and head south. I assume you mean offshore?
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Old 16-06-2011, 10:25   #3
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Would I - NO

Could I- Probably

Used to sail from Key Largo, Fl to the Dry Tortugas, Fl all the time, a little bit different as that most of the way the islands are close together...Then again, I was raised down there by my family of commercial fishermen.

The Caribbean for the most part are visible to each other to an extent. PR to USVI something likr 50 miles, by the time PR fades out of site the USVI's become visible.
Plus, you can watch sea traffic in that area, plus watch for cloud cover over the islands but not always...
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Old 16-06-2011, 10:43   #4
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sneuman View Post
Well, I could definitely do it in the Chess. No problem. Stick to the middle of the bay and head south. I assume you mean offshore?
You might need to go a little further afield. By the look of my charts someone would go stir crazy with red and green lights

But then you could make it a senario to fit in 2 or 3 anchorages you know that are reasonably spread or complicated enough to make it fun.

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Old 16-06-2011, 10:53   #5
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

I could sail from the Southern Gulf Islands (once clear of the passes) to Desolation Sound and back without charts or GPS; but I would not do so.

I have probably done the route 20 times at least.
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:03   #6
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Could? yeah. Well, I like to think so IMO the "secret" would be looking where you are going (and have come from), so decent visibility would be fundamental. As well as a half decent mental map of the area. But can't say how long it would take to arrive, nor the exact route taken or how many places I would arrive at before my intended destination

Would? No - I'd want (need) at least the usual Compass / Watch / Chart etc. In practice also some form of GPS (to make life a lot easier ). But losing the lot wouldn't faze me, just no interest in ever trying
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:05   #7
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Mark - let's take a passage we both know pretty well - BVI-St. Martin and call it 80nm for arguments sake.
Most of the passage is off soundings so a fathometer wouldn't help, nor would the color of water.
With a good weather report before the passage you could get the wave and wind directions and could rely on a straight upwind or downwind run and that would make it easier.
Both islands are visible at a distance as they have hills, so even if your navigation were 40 degrees off if you timed planned arrival in the daylight hours you could see the destination from a good 20 miles out.
With only a knot of possible current you could sail upwind by timing your tacks and ensuring your tacking angle to the wind is the same each time.

Let's make conditions a bit tougher for this trip from St. Martin to the BVI - call it a medium to thick layer of stratus to obscure the sun so you can't use that for navigation, and you only caught the rear end of the weather report stating something about a frontal passage but you don't know if warm/cold or passing to the north or south.
In a case like that I don't think I'd attempt it - or I'd check the cruise ship schedules and see if I can use those floating Xmas trees as signposts during a night passage.
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:28   #8
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

could I YES,,, would I no,,,,,,,with the stars are out and a good compass you can go most anywhere,,,when there were no charts the Polynesians crossed oceans with only the stars to steer by it can be done
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:38   #9
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

If I had to sail 100 miles with no land in sight and arrive with-in 2 or 3 miles of a particular point....no way.
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:40   #10
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Waters you know well, especially if the swell is from a prevailing direction and you can use that and the sun to orient yourself a bit, yeah I could do it. The obvious caveat that I never would but it's possible.

I was reading about the Polynesian mariners of old and how they would navigate based on swell direction, and they knew if they were around other islands by the refraction/lessening of swell activity. Really minor stuff but it worked if you're really in tune with your environment.
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:42   #11
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by James S View Post
If I had to sail 100 miles with no land in sight and arrive with-in 2 or 3 miles of a particular point....no way.
I was kind of imagining just getting in sight of land, then using your knowledge of that land area to determine where to go from there. No way in hell could anyone get 2 miles on the nose after 100 miles at sea with navigation tools. But get land on the bow, figure out you need to go north because you're looking at the town to the south of where you should be: that sounds possible.
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:47   #12
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

How about a destination that is known to be due north, Bermuda from whatever point is due south of it, I thibk could be done with the North Star and watching for birds closer to Bermuda. And when all else fails, Harbour Radio will come on tell you how far off you are.
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:54   #13
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

I think Jim Baldwin wrote about an Argentinian that sailed nearly all the way across the Pacific by watching reflective waves, cloud formations and bird movements.

So it can be done and I would only attempt it if it were a matter of life or death. I am a surveyor though, I have a built in compass that only fails me when I am driving in West Virginia
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Old 16-06-2011, 11:59   #14
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

up and down the windies is relatively easy,since most of the year the wind is out the east,during daylight most of the islands visable at 12 miles or further,
at night you will see the loom of lights much further,except dominica and the grenadines.
land fall on trini you can see port of spain loom from 40-50 miles,if you miss the first boca,take the next left.........in fog...now that is a different story........
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Old 16-06-2011, 12:07   #15
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Re: Passage without Charts or GPS at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by captainKJ View Post
could I YES,,, would I no,,,,,,,with the stars are out and a good compass you can go most anywhere,,,when there were no charts the Polynesians crossed oceans with only the stars to steer by it can be done
The Polynesian navigators have memorized at least over two hundred stars and what time of the year of which star would be over an island. Plus they know their birds. Which ones that hunt fish far off shore and fly home at sunset. Also they know the differences in the Ocean's wave patterns and which are reflected from an island. And all of this without a written language... their charts were of wood reeds that showed the wave patterns with shells or pebbles fastened to those sticks representing the various Islands.
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