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Old 01-08-2014, 09:23   #46
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

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Originally Posted by jtsailjt View Post
It seems that there's a lot of us pilots on this thread and of course we're all very accustomed to relying on electronics. But modern airliners electronics have built in redundancy and constantly compare themselves with the other inputs so you get an alarm if there's significant disagreement. Pretty easy to feel safe with such an arrangement. But, even with redundancy that's automatically being monitored for disagreement, it's important to always be asking yourself "does that make sense?" On most of our boats, there is redundancy available, but it's up to us to monitor and detect when when there's disagreement rather than having a comparator system doing it for us.

As has been aptly pointed out in an earlier post, it's situational awareness that we all need to have and electronics can be a tremendous aid to achieving that at a high level, and this can free up our brains and bodies to be available for other tasks. But if misused, electronics can become our worst enemy. The extreme example is the automobile driver driving off the end of an unfinished overpass or the wrong way up a one way street because his dashboard GPS told him to. But most of us hopefully have a little more common sense than that.

The doctor that was previously mentioned has developed a habit of over reliance on electronics so was blindly following what his plotter told him without that most important step of constantly asking himself if it made sense. To those of us who navigate for a living, it seems absurd to do that, but I've seen it many times before, where a very intelligent person misuses something that's meant to be an aid to his situational awareness and instead it becomes something else so he becomes helpless without it. Dr. killer airplanes come to mind. Unfortunately, that moniker has been applied to almost any airplane that doctors buy and attempt to fly themselves and usually has almost nothing to do with the actual airplane. The reason is that, while they are certainly very intelligent people, they also have big egos and tend to not fly enough to stay truly proficient and develop the right habit patterns of automatically crosschecking all the info that's available to them. Because of the ego issue, they tend to go beyond their actual ability and as long as things go well, they do fine, but like the doctor who doesn't even have enough SA to go back into the channel with the bridge that he just came out of, when their "normal" electronics fail them, they have no other source of info so are out of luck and ideas all at the same time and we read about them in the newspaper the next day and the airplane they were flying gets the "Dr. killer" tag attached to it. This phenomenon isn't restricted to doctors, as other successful executives and wealthy professional athletes are prone to the same sort of mindset.

About 25 years ago, when I was arranging to buy insurance for my first ocean going sailboat, I was answering all the insurance agents endless list of questions and being very honest about how I answered. I truthfully told him that my prior sailing experience was 99% aboard a Sunfish on a lake and the only boat I'd had on the ocean before was a 24' speedboat for about 2 years. I expected that, due to my inexperience, I'd have to pay high insurance rates for a couple of years until I could get some experience and mentioned this to the agent in the form of a question. He basically ignored my question and kept asking me questions and came to the part about asking what I did for a living so I told him I was a commercial airline pilot and until recently had been a single seat fighter pilot in the USAF. When he finally quoted me a price to insure my new to me Hinckley Pilot 35, the premium was much lower than I expected and was lower than what I had heard some of my friends with similar boats were paying. I told him I was surprised at the low rate and asked him why. He replied that it was all about what I did for a living. He said that their statistics showed that before professional pilots stick their nose in somewhere, they have already figured out how to get it back out in case things aren't as they seem and they don't even realize they are doing it. It's just a habit they don't even realize they have. Folks in most other professions are used to having someone else catch/fix their mistakes, whether that be a secretary or assistant, or a nurse. Of course pilots usually have co-pilots to back us up, but I think that most of us do develop a strong habit of constantly asking ourselves if the info we are getting makes sense, and automatically having a backup plan in mind just in case conditions change of something important stops working.

Other successful boaters/cruisers, no matter what their professional background may be, have developed this same mindset of constantly questioning and comparing ALL the info available to them, whether it originate from a paper chart, a chart plotter, a GPS fix, a celestial fix, what they see visually, what they hear or even smell, and that is what keeps them safe and able to cross oceans or enter unfamiliar harbors in heavy fog or just daysail safely.
This is the most concise description of things I have ever read. A very well thought-out response. Thankyou!

The argument here, is NOT whether or not to use electronic navigation tools. The argument is whether to rely on them to the exclusion of other available input data, and having the skills to acquire that data via means other than the electronics. Doing mental "sanity checks" of the data from *any* source is something that good pilots and sailors do without thinking. It becomes ingrained in how you do things and you don't even realize you're doing it. It's the "whole picture" that is important. The more ways you have to validate the data you're getting from other sources, the more valid that data becomes overall.
And to the pilots who fly exclusively via instruments, are you saying you can no longer fly VFR at all? Have you lost your VFR skills? Of course not! You continue to use your VFR skills *with* the instrument's data when flying IFR. Were this not so, there would be no need of a human pilot at all as sensor driven software would fly the craft more reliably. There would certainly be no need to put the flight crew in the front of the aircraft with the big windows. Those would be some uber first class seats and would be some pricey tickets.
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Old 01-08-2014, 09:51   #47
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

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I don't think using electronic tools rot your brain. In fact, just the opposite. I now have so much electronic information integrate-able in so many different ways, that my brain is always working and alert.
I agree. What electronics does for us is to give us the time and attention to maintain situational awareness and the brain power to make good decisions without being distracted by the mechanics of navigation and piloting (or steering). Certainly not all boaters take advantage of the opportunity. Bad on them. The opportunity is there.

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Does typing on a computer rot the brain more than a typewriter? More than handwriting?
Good question. I type a lot faster than I can write. That allows me to do a better job of capturing and sharing (lucky you!) my thought process. Don't let the mechanics get in the way of the process.
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:26   #48
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

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(...)

... to rely on them (electronics) to the exclusion of other available input data ...


(...)
Would this not equal to being insane, incompetent and plainly nuts?

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Old 01-08-2014, 10:27   #49
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

Ukeluthier - "Well, he was motor-cruising very actively for at least 20 years before GPS and chartplotters came along, so he must have been using his noggin to some extent to stay off the rocks".

I am a professional guardian who has experience working with senior citizens with various medical issues that have resulted in a loss of decisional capacity. In addition I, like many other folks, have family members who have suffered from age related cognitive losses.

It is not appropriate to diagnose your friend - I am not a doctor and have never met the person. I can state that one of the first symptoms of some types of dementia involve confusion over spatial relationships. My late father in law was a math teacher who wrote textbooks as well as being a pianist who wrote and arranged music. While he still could accomplish many thing, he had problems in a few areas that alarmed his family and led to the evaluation, at age 65, that revealed that he had Alzheimers disease. His problems? He drove to a gig, played the entire evening, forgot that he had driven the car and took a cab home. It took quite awhile to find his car because he couldn't remember that he had driven it, let alone where he had parked it. He owned a antiquarian book store with his wife. He couldn't make change when someone bought a book, despite being a math teacher. He could discuss the book, at length, but couldn't make change.

The fact that your friend could navigate for all those years prior to the advent of the aids leads me to believe he isn't one of those hopeless folks who get lost on the way to the grocery store.

The relevance to this stream is minor, I know that.

To the stream - this seems a matter of personal preference. To those who wish to use an astrolabe, quadrant and lead line to navigate - more power to you. There are a few folks left in the world who can navigate like the Polynesian seafarers - I would love to be able to do that. There a complicated ways you can establish longitude using very complex and time consuming ways without the use of a chronometer and sextant. But, for the majority of us, (the prudent ones, anyway) we will use DR when coastal and in clear conditions. Radar, GPS & sonar when visibility drops and several, independent, means to fix position when offshore. In addition to whatever traditional ways we wish to use as a back-up. Common sense, right?

From the Department of Redundancy Department.
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Old 01-08-2014, 21:01   #50
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

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Nope, I trust my eyeballs (and depth sounder) before my plotter. .
Over rated, eyeballs are mine see what they want to see quite often, lots of times seeing such and such a buoy as that's what they expect to see when in fact it isn't..
I use both eyes and plotter. And trust neither
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Old 01-08-2014, 21:24   #51
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

I once nearly ran aground on a very windy night trying to enter a harbour on a range. My new to me plotter saved me when it showed me leaving the channel. Turned out that what appeared to be the top light of the range was actually a forever red traffic light....guiding me right to the rocks....Mark9 eyeball failed, instruments were correct. When there is no reason to think your instruments are malfunctioning you better believe what they say. But old fashioned means are still there if they are needed.
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Old 01-08-2014, 22:24   #52
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

I have never understood why some sailors defend their choice of navigational instruments or their use in a "Either/Or" manner?

An anchor alarm does not tell you that another boat is dragging towards you on a windy night.... So despite your array of electronics.... an anchor watch seems prudent.

Same with understanding the fixed and variable errors of each navaid...(including sleep deprived or age related dyslexia in the navigator).

So using all available tools including your instincts honed from years of non electronic and conservative techniques.... is a hard formula to argue against.

Complacency is what makes a bad sailor!

If my eyeball and the plotter disagree at night, I turn around and assess what is wrong before committing to either.

Even if that means waiting all night
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Old 01-08-2014, 22:48   #53
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

There was a comment a while back that stated probably noone on this form goes to sea without electronics. I think that is true for the oceans and seas. I have sailed the Great Salt Lake for many years however, with only a compass and paper charts and my eyes. This is a lake with lots of rock reefs, 40 miles wide and over 100 miles long. So it can be done.
But like you, I think you would be crazy to go into a busy shipping channel in a fog without our toys. The world is just too busy of a place to rationalise doing it without them.
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Old 01-08-2014, 23:18   #54
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

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I have never understood why some sailors defend their choice of navigational instruments or their use in a "Either/Or" manner?
Says more about the way people write in Internet forums than about how they behave in the real world.
Hopefully
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Old 01-08-2014, 23:28   #55
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

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we've all been through the argument of chart plotters vs paper charts but how much faith do you really put in electronics???

On another post I mentioned setting an alarm every 15 minutes to do sighting on a windy night at anchor to make sure you dont drag.
The reply was to get an anchor alarm....

I've been on the water long enough to see electronics (both new and older) fail at no reason, for an entire 12volt system to go down due to dampness in contacts from fog... its not "Old School" to have a backup. just good common sence.
and an anchor alarm using electronics, I think it a false sence of security..

Whats your views on the faith you put in electronics only ???
wow, every 15 minutes that's a lot of faith in your electronic alarm I suppose
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Old 03-08-2014, 11:17   #56
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

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An anchor alarm does not tell you that another boat is dragging towards you on a windy night.... So despite your array of electronics.... an anchor watch seems prudent.

Complacency is what makes a bad sailor!

If my eyeball and the plotter disagree at night, I turn around and assess what is wrong before committing to either.

Even if that means waiting all night
Do you REALLY stay up all night and forgo any REM sleep to watch that your anchor isn't dragging? I might do that if it were blowing 30+ in an unprotected, marginal anchorage mostly because I probably wouldn't be able to sleep anyway with all the movement and noises, but 95% of the time at anchor, even if it's pretty windy, I do my best to get a good set, check it again just before bedtime, then turn on the anchor light (and another light at deck level if in a busy area) and go to sleep.

I've sometimes had bad luck with electronic anchor watches or alarms, even GPS based ones. They seem to "wander" electronically so I get woken up unnecessarily, or if I set them with a large enough radius to avoid that in a harbor full of boats, I'd be bumping into my neighbors before the alarm was triggered. I haven't given up on them, but even modern WAAS GPS's seem to occasionally "go for a short walk" once in awhile.

Complacency does make a bad sailor but what faster way to become complacent than to first become fatigued by staying up all night making absolutely sure your anchor still hasn't dragged, and still hasn't dragged, and still......maybe you meant that you post an anchor watch only during extreme conditions, I hope?

I do agree with idea summarized by the old saw "one peek is worth a thousand crosschecks" so it's always wise to compare what your plotter is saying versus what you see, and resolve any disparity before proceeding.
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Old 03-08-2014, 19:50   #57
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

We basically agree...
It is not a nightly thing but only on developing windy nights of a passing system +35kts.

My primary concerns are other vessels around me or new ones getting shelter from the storm.

By bunking down in the pilot house with the radars' VRMs and EBLs set to measure changes in CPAs... the rest of my crew sleep better while I monitor the worst of it.

The next day is usually a lay day only as we wait for things to calm down.

However I do have a habit at night of quietly relieving myself on deck while enjoying and assessing the weather and anchorage...

One of my more satisfying superstitions....
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Old 03-08-2014, 20:03   #58
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

The first thing they teach a pilot your instruments. I have flown many I am far hours where you do just that, because your sense of up or down or right or left could be distorted. Why are instruments on a sailboat any different? Don't get me wrong, on my sailboat they are merely aids to my navigation, and most of the time you have reference points on your horizon. I guess I'm just pointing out that even with being taught to trust your instruments, when it comes to instruments on a sailboat they are merely a to confirm what I think I know.

What say you?
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Old 03-08-2014, 20:04   #59
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

Trust your instruments IFR not I am far

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Old 03-08-2014, 20:33   #60
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

I don't think you can equate the Instrument Rating technology, installation, training of a pilot and aircraft with your average yacht.

You perhaps could with advanced SEN courses (Simulated, Electronic Navigation) at the top Marine Colleges, provided the vessel has been built and maintained to Class with the highest IMO and UMS rating .

But the aircraft industry is held to a much higher standard!

I have traveled many days in almost zero visibility (pre GPS days) to and from Vancouver to Skagway, towing container ships thru the inside passage... So I know it can be safely done using Radar.

There were many techniques and tricks involved in using the radar alone in tight passes with strong currents.

Not something the average yachtsmen would ever really need, but today the only check I can think of if relying on GPS alone in blind pilotage in extremely tight and active passes with other traffic.
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