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Old 31-07-2014, 09:58   #1
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Putting Faith in Electronics

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 ???
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Old 31-07-2014, 10:32   #2
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Re: putting faith in electronics

I'm like you, I do both. Do a 3point fix before going to bed, set the anchor alarm if I feel that I may drag, and then get up a couple of hours later to check. Built in redundancy.
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Old 31-07-2014, 10:44   #3
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Re: putting faith in electronics

Where I grew up, navigation is not done on faith.

Electronics are just tools and as such they can be misused by an ignorant user, damaging the material, the tool and, at times, the user, in the process.

Give the same tool to a skilled worker and they will do a better job.

I can't see any limitations as to how many or which tools should be used onboard much as I cannot see any need for excessive use of tools when a job at hand can be done by hand.

Electronics can fail, and so can our perception and our senses.

If I see a blot on the radar I will BELIEVE there is something out there unless and until proven otherwise. I think we call this attitude FAITH.

I would not hesitate to navigate a narrow and ill mapped reef passage, at night, trusting our plotter only, if this were the only option.

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Old 31-07-2014, 11:01   #4
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Re: putting faith in electronics

Randy, maybe you need to define "faith". Charts, Buoys, Markers, Plotters, GPS, Sextant, Bearing Compass, Depth Sounder, and Radar are all aids to navigation. They all can be useful tools... or not. None of it, all or in part, replaces experience, knowledge, and judgement. I put faith in my experience, knowledge and judgement, above all else. I need, (another vague word), very little else.

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Old 31-07-2014, 11:07   #5
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Re: putting faith in electronics

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Originally Posted by s/v Beth View Post
I'm like you, I do both. Do a 3point fix before going to bed, set the anchor alarm if I feel that I may drag, and then get up a couple of hours later to check. Built in redundancy.
I agree with Newt. Especially the part about having redundancy. On the sole topic of trusting electronics, I'm cautiously optimistic about any system where my survival hinges on it operating autonomously without my input.

That said, Having a couple anchor alarms (chart plotter, tablet app, phone app) running simultaneously sounds like a better option than interrupting one's sleep every 15 minutes. Trying to reset an anchor (do anything) when the body and mind are compromised from exhaustion sounds like a much greater risk, than placing a little trust in an electronic companion.
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Old 31-07-2014, 11:13   #6
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Re: putting faith in electronics

Trust, but verify
It pays to always have an idea where you are, and at least where safety is, although I don't plot on paper, but I don't keep a logbook either, log my flights or dives for that matter.
Anchor alarm, sure one on my phone (Drag Queen) and the one on my plotter, likelyhood both will go down? awfully remote, loss of GPS signal sets the alarm off so not even that, but if the Wx is awfully bad, I'm up anyway, aren't most people?
Electronic navigation? Phone, Ipad (both Garmin app and Navionics), plus chartplotter. likelyhood of all three, four if you count the handheld going down, remote, back to GPS system going down, still have a heading which way land is, for me that is all I need. I'm not crossing oceans trying to find an island, I'm just in the Gulf of Mexico.
Multiple redundant systems without a single point of failure, except the GPS satellites? Your pretty safe, I don't lose sleep over it, no I don't set an alarm to check for anchor drag every 15 min., and if it's that bad I'm not sleeping through it.
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Old 31-07-2014, 11:13   #7
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Re: putting faith in electronics

I'm a recently retired electronics engineer, and the naive faith many folks have in the reliability of electronic gear never ceases to amaze me. Having worked with this stuff all my life, I know the foolishness of such blind faith.

These days I'm sticking to coastal cruising with my little catboat -- having sold my big old bluewater cutter -- but I'll never be without the traditional tools for navigation and piloting: paper charts, magnetic compass, hand-bearing compass, etc., as a backup to my relatively simple electronics.

Furthermore, I firmly believe that too much reliance on electronics rots your brain. Using all your own senses for piloting and navigation with a chart for reference hones your innate sense of direction. If you just blindly go where your chartplotter/GPS tells you, all that is lost.

Never underestimate the perversity of inanimate objects.
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Old 31-07-2014, 11:52   #8
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Re: putting faith in electronics

Setting an alarm for waking you every 15min to check an anchor for dragging may speak more to inexperience/uncomfortableness in anchoring or to needing new anchor gear if not that.

The wind would need to be a constant 35+kts and varying directions before we would be up checking the anchor more than once. We anchor almost every night of the year and have good gear.

When good anchor gear is set, it is set. If you have chosen good ground, it takes a tremendous amount to unset good gear. If we regularly experienced dragging, we would be getting different anchoring gear.

Sleepless nights just because it is a bit windy would get old very quickly.

As for electronics, if your connections are regularly failing due to fog, you have an electrical problem, not an electronics problem. If you are worried that your 12V system will suddenly fail during the night, you again have an electrical problem.

But even so, you can use an electronic system for anchor alarm that isn't tied to the boat 12V at all.

I think waking yourself every 15min is a larger false security than using an anchor alarm. As you get more tired and sleep deprived, the chance that you will make a false determination or error in correcting it is much greater.

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.

Does typing on a computer rot the brain more than a typewriter? More than handwriting? Does getting news and product information through web searches rot the brain more than buying a newspaper and calling up individual companies or writing them letters asking for brochures?

The electronics argument is a red herring. It is an ageless argument going back to the caveman, and throughout history - it is an argument waged by those past a certain age. I think the base fear in it is a fear of growing old and things changing under one too quickly.

I'm past a certain age.

Mark
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Old 31-07-2014, 12:22   #9
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

Faith is a subjective quality that I'm not used to evaluating. I do like a redundant means to identify my position.

There's a long list that would make me feel less secure with reliance on a single source of position,- electronic or not. Wind speed, current set/drift, bottom type, fetch, other boats, nearby rocks/reef, wave/roll, and how tired I am all play a role in my "faith".
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Old 31-07-2014, 13:25   #10
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

I'm always amused by the paper chart vs. chartplotter discussions. A chart is just a nice piece of wall art if you can't reliably fix the location of your boat on the chart.

Unfortunately, the non-electronic ways of fixing your location are either not very accurate (sextant) or not always available (a navigation buoy).

Why should an electronic GPS receiver deserve more "faith" than an electronic chartplotter?

The answer, of course, is not "faith" but "redundancy". I have five independent devices that can get a GPS fix and have charts in four formats (chartplotter, PC, Ipad, paper)

I don't put a whole lot of faith in any one of them
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Old 31-07-2014, 13:40   #11
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Re: putting faith in electronics

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ukeluthier View Post
I'm a recently retired electronics engineer, and the naive faith many folks have in the reliability of electronic gear never ceases to amaze me. Having worked with this stuff all my life, I know the foolishness of such blind faith.

These days I'm sticking to coastal cruising with my little catboat -- having sold my big old bluewater cutter -- but I'll never be without the traditional tools for navigation and piloting: paper charts, magnetic compass, hand-bearing compass, etc., as a backup to my relatively simple electronics.

Furthermore, I firmly believe that too much reliance on electronics rots your brain. Using all your own senses for piloting and navigation with a chart for reference hones your innate sense of direction. If you just blindly go where your chartplotter/GPS tells you, all that is lost.

Never underestimate the perversity of inanimate objects.
I know you don't like his argument Mark, but I've heard it before and I think it has some validity. To make a GPS fix, one only needs to write down numbers. To take a hockey puck and figure out a two or three point fix takes a lot more brainwork. You lose what you don't exercise.
So to do both you have redundancy and you don't loose your mind as fast.

Heck, when is the last time either one of us has written down a fix? Case closed.
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Old 31-07-2014, 13:41   #12
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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.

Does typing on a computer rot the brain more than a typewriter? More than handwriting? Does getting news and product information through web searches rot the brain more than buying a newspaper and calling up individual companies or writing them letters asking for brochures?
I think you miss my point. I'm talking about ignoring the sensory inputs regarding your environment and failing to construct a mental model of where you are and where you are going... simply steering from waypoint to waypoint (or letting your autopilot do it for you). I've found that if I study a chart for a little while, take a bearing or two to confirm some landmarks and headlands, I can pretty much pilot safely without a chartplotter telling me what to do, because I've built that mental model. In familiar waters, that model is already firmly in place and gets more refined with each sail. That ability is developed in the first place from relying primarily on your senses and reasoning, not a cursor on a screen. The same thing applies to finding one's way around on land, by the way. The main reason people feel they have no sense of direction is because they've failed to develop one; they've always let their GPS tell them how to get there.

A relative of mine is a good case in point. He's 80 -- 14 years older than me. Despite his age, he's always kept up with and relied on the latest technologies. Despite his intelligence -- he's a very respected physician who graduated at the top of his med school class -- he's clueless about where he is out on the water without his vast array of sophisticated electronics on his million-dollar 52' motor cruiser. When he's under way, his eyes are glued to the instrument panel while his wife looks out for crab pots. If you turn off his chartplotter, he's blind. To get somewhere, the only way he knows how to do it is to steer from waypoint to waypoint. Same thing on land. The first thing he does when he gets into his car is to program the GPS, even if he's going to a store a couple of miles away that he's been to dozens of times before. His over-reliance on electronics has rotted his brain; he no longer has any mental model of where he is and where he's going.

Last winter we were visiting him at his second home in Florida, where he keeps his second boat, a 23' fishing boat. On an afternoon outing with us, he was only about two miles out from his marina and had just passed under a highway bridge when the chartplotter went out because of an electrical system problem. He knew he had to return to his marina, but apparently had no idea how to do it. He headed for a different marked channel under the bridge other than the one we had just come through until I and his wife convinced him that he was headed the wrong way. He simply had no idea of where he just came from and how to get back there.

So here is this brilliant man -- still sharp as a tack, and with 50+ years of boating experience under his belt -- whose location-modeling brain cells have rotted away through disuse.

THAT is my point.
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Old 31-07-2014, 14:09   #13
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

Wonder if this is age relevant. I'll stick to My electronics.

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Old 31-07-2014, 14:36   #14
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

I KNOW I've seen this thread more that once. I'm thinking maybe it has something to do with moon phases and star alignment

I just use the tools available and don't really understand why people make taking a fix using visual points of reference as some special skill over looking at your chart plotter. I can/could do either but if the plotter is available I believe I'm better on knowing where I'm really at, over when I'm kind of at.
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Old 31-07-2014, 15:17   #15
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Re: Putting Faith in Electronics

The way that people who work with electronics for a living don't trust them tells me a lot.

It reminds me of when I was in my twenties, and once I started to really understand heavy equipment, I stopped going on carnival rides.
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