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Old 03-05-2012, 16:58   #31
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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No compass? Plotting tools are a luxury too, I guess.


A compass? am waiting to see whether they catch on .

My point really is that pencil and paper builds in a degree of uncertainty / caution / room for error (navigator / chart / circumstances changing - for the worse).....am certainly not saying that a CP has no place onboard. As I said, they do make life easier .

Just that I would not be comfortable in being somewhere that I could not get myself out of without needing a bleeping box of tricks....like at 3am to exit an anchorage due to changing weather. Not to say that I would never be there - but it would be done so knowing it was unwise / taking a risk, and I would be sensitive to that....even if at the cost of inconveniance.

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My point is that there is room for everything and a prudent navigator should use everything available.


I think we are on the same page with that.

Although (to me) a bit early to say that the recent tragedy was down to someone following a chartplotter into an island (am not terribly sure how reliable that SPOT track is) - IME some people are not only slavish to what a bleeping box of tricks is telling them to do - but are lost if it is not. (IMO "real" navigators don't need no stinkin' electronics to be lost ).....couple that with the fact that some people can't resist fiddling with things they don't really understand and / or get withdrawal symptoms if they don't press a button every 10 seconds ..........easy for me to imagine circumstances where someone either re-programmed themselves accross land and then zoomed out so the small stuff dissapeared, scrolled to the destination or onto another page. Or simply did too much zipping around a squillion functions that they lose any point of reference back to what was intended / normal......could even have missed out a dog leg waypoint ("oh crap, I've wiped the original course " - "don't worry I've found the waypoint at the destination and pressed "go to", phew!, would hate to have woken the Skipper and looked like an idiot"...."hey, that sounds like surf..............").

Just like adding a stick to rock does make a better hammer - also means can hit your fingers a lot harder .

Personally I would feel a lot happier with electronic plotting if the Screens were at least half the size of a paper chart. To finance that I have bought some lottery tickets .
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Old 03-05-2012, 17:05   #32
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After my incident with crew and a tanker. I added ais to the equation. Another great tool. One lesson I took away was a chart plotter and inexperienced crew does not add up to experienced crew. I find new crew tend to gravitate to the screen. There are skills using a chart plotter as well that may seem apparent to a skilled member. My error in a away I relied to heavily on a chart plotter to compensate for the new crew. In my defense I did give lessons on how not to look at the chartplotter. Use the compass etc... Look around. I still run a log with position course and plot it on paper and then enter waypoints in the plotter. If something doesn't agree then it's back to the drawing board. All this arcane behavior keeps me in the experience. I can find a buoy because I am practiced at looking for them. I can steer a compass course dead reckon etc... So no it is not a necessity I think it's a wonderful tool but there are hidden down sides to look out for. My lesson is to look out for those down sides. I moved the plotter off the helm. Now it is on a bulkhead above the bridge deck. Not so predominant when at the wheel. You have to look over to see it. It's position of importance is lower then the compass and equal or lesser to the depth sounder. on a scale of proximity to the helm.
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Old 03-05-2012, 17:13   #33
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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Just like adding a stick to rock does make a better hammer - also means can hit your fingers a lot harder .

Personally I would feel a lot happier with electronic plotting if the Screens were at least half the size of a paper chart. To finance that I have bought some lottery tickets .
So happens that as the push to go paperless in the airline world accelerates, I hear more and more that while electronic plates are fine, folks prefer the paper charts for plotting a route across an ocean as they are much more "user friendly".

And that has everything to do with size to see and ponder details, and the "interactive" elegance of folding it as you need to.

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Old 03-05-2012, 17:31   #34
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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So happens that as the push to go paperless in the airline world accelerates, I hear more and more that while electronic plates are fine, folks prefer the paper charts for plotting a route across an ocean as they are much more "user friendly".

And that has everything to do with size and the "interactive" elegance of folding it as you need to.
I agree with the size thing (but on electronics I suspect that is only a matter of time) - but I think what works well for the human brain with paper is not that it is paper, but that message is consistent and the information is only ever added slowly - and that the basic info does not change (everything is the same size / in the same location) so easy to understand what has changed / what has not, without a great deal of thought - the main loss of clarity coming from how many times the chart is folded! Electronics could easily mirror that but never will (functions sell - including for good reasons).
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Old 03-05-2012, 17:58   #35
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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I agree with the size thing (but on electronics I suspect that is only a matter of time) - but I think what works well for the human brain with paper is not that it is paper, but that message is consistent and the information is only ever added slowly - and that the basic info does not change (everything is the same size / in the same location) so easy to understand what has changed / what has not, without a great deal of thought - the main loss of clarity coming from how many times the chart is folded! Electronics could easily mirror that but never will (functions sell - including for good reasons).
Yeah...I've wondered about this alot. Not to hijack this to the aero side of the aero/nautical divide, but Alaska doesn't fly the distances that Delta (old NWA guys it appears actually) does as in the pic above. Alaska's routes are pretty much "canned" and fed into the Flight Management Computer with only a few button pushes. The crews fly the routes routinely, pretty much know what to expect during normal ops, and don't get the sharpened pencil out and pore over a chart for hours (they have people like me who do that). Load the route up into the FMC via ACARS, and off they go! So it no wonder their crews are luvin the no paper world.

I have to wonder what the experience of the American 777 (much longer ranged airplane than what Alaska operates) crews is though. Bet money that many -if not most- still prefer to use their paper Jepp ETOPS charts over the electronic version

Whereas that ETOPS Delta flight across the Atlantic from Paris demands close attention from the crew about the disposition of their enroute alternates, fuel burns at specific points, actual route (which change daily).... For many -most it seems more and more- Its a whole lot easier for them to lay out a paper chart and plot and annotate all this stuff laid out on a table in whole(this is usually the First Officer's job before the Captain shows in ops), rather than shift the screen in 10X4 blocks.

So, that long digression is all about: Its a see the whole picture cognition thing with a course on a chart. Something you can't do with any size chart on an iPad or affordable chartplotter.

Chart plotters -like FMCs- are most useful for doing the drudge work of keeping up with the position on the course after its been planned and entered. They are not so good for passage planning because you basically can't see the start and end, or even half a passage in many cases....IMHO

How many here find it difficult to envision a route plan on a chartplotter?

Just curious.
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Old 03-05-2012, 18:43   #36
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

1. A handheld GPS is simply a small chartplotter. I have no idea why so many folks think otherwise. I guess I'll find out....

2. Here's someone who has all the bells & whistles and explains what they have and how they use it.

Sequitur

There are undoubtedly thousands of blogs just like this one, but it's here to respond to the OP question.

Reliance on only one means of navigation is just plain stupid. Even before they invented the pencil and the chart, the guys frolicking around the Mediterranean figured that one out.

I share the concern that too many folks out cruising as we speak don't know anything but electronics.

And I particularly wonder about those folks who have those huge displays behind their wheels. I have a friend who gets dizzy when she watches the compass, that'd drive her bonkers. I like the idea expressed about having the display up behind the dodger, a much better place.
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Old 03-05-2012, 18:54   #37
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

This is an interesting discussion. I see it as pointing to a very basic thing, a fundamental aspect of seamanship. For a very long time now man has been developing better ways of determining position and heading. Early developments were the compass, followed by the astrolabe, sextant, chronometer, RDF, radar, Loran, GPS, etc. Every single one of these things made life easier for the seaman. They told him more about where he was, what was there, etc.

But there is also the other side of the equation. Which is that with devices telling him more and more, he needs less and less to supply this awareness himself. And so this can breed a lessening of awareness of the world around oneself.

In my experience human beings have the capacity to do remarkable things. But frequently these remarkable performances only occur because the person has to pull them off. Necessity is a remarkable motivator.

Generally speaking, we all prefer to take the easy way out. And so, with most people, most of the time, if you give them a choice between buying an electronic box which "tells them what to do and when to do it", and putting in a significant amount of time to learn the skills necessary to do without the box, they will pick the box. And their attention will be on the box. It's their prime data source.

Moitissier, when he taught sailing, would require his students to hold a course at night without using the compass. He didn't want their attention on the compass. He wanted it out on the environment. This required more work, knowing the night sky and referencing a nav table for azimuth for a star maybe, or being able to steer by feeling wind direction, whatever. His point was to require the student be aware of his environment, not focused on an instrument.

The way I see it, for all of us, our experience out on the water, or anywhere else, is not a set thing or a constant. It is variable, dependent on the level of our understanding and awareness of the environment. Paying more attention to what's out there pays a dividend of enhanced, deeper experience.

I don't think many seamen would choose not to have some of the modern nav aids. GPS is marvelous. But in my honest opinion they can be overdone. And in my opinion new sailors starting out who learn to pay attention to electronics instead of attention to the world around them are missing out on some great stuff.
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Old 03-05-2012, 19:09   #38
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

The best argument against electronic charts that I have heard is that the medium on which they are displayed....chart plotter, laptop, phone.. will eventually fail.

But let's get this into perspective, just how disastrous would it be for most people? I would expect all but a very small percentage could get to a safe haven without a chart. For that small percentage, I would expect that they had already thought this eventuality through and had some backup in place. Paper charts, spare laptop(s), chart aps on phones, tablets - the medium is of little importance. The fact that a backup may be necessary may be of great importance.

At the other end of the scale, the worst argument against electronic charts I have heard is that there is an assumption that the user will doggedly follow the gps derived position into danger. This is clearly a case of the user using the tool inappropriately, rather than a failure of the tool itself.

Competent use of the navigation tool for its intended purpose is the issue. The same could be said for any navigation tool.
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Old 03-05-2012, 19:22   #39
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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Agreed Bash, they obviously contribute to your safety because in part, you are a skilled operator of these aids. I even bet you would manage OK if one (or more) went dark on you but I have to ask "are they a necessity for you rather than a very nice to have onboard type item".
Bash is blushing.

I was navigating long before the invention of chartplotters, and am still capable of doing so. And I always have paper charts aboard. However, I'm no longer willing to cruise here in the Eastern Pacific without radar. Clearly, if I had to choose between radar and a plotter, I would go with radar.
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Old 03-05-2012, 19:31   #40
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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the worst argument against electronic charts I have heard is that there is an assumption that the user will doggedly follow the gps derived position into danger.
Competent use of the navigation tool for its intended purpose is the issue. The same could be said for any navigation tool.
You are very right its not the fault of the electronics themselves...

But the point is that it has in fact happened multiple times to otherwise highly competent, professionally trained crews aboard both military and commercial ships...

Why?

And with these systems becoming ubiquitous in the recreational boat world, we are starting to see the same kind of puzzling actions in this realm.

Why?

And now it appears more and more compelling that its a threat that has taken a deadly turn...



We don't know the facts of the Aegean case yet, but the Spot track suggests strongly that the boat was on a "railroad track" right into that island....That we do know.

Why?
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Old 03-05-2012, 20:13   #41
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A chart plotter is a luxury. A chart is a necessity.

If the position information from the gps component is not used than it is simply a chart.

Isn't navigation simply current position vs. desired new position?

Position information can and has been derived in many ways. Hand bearing, adf/rdf, vhf (vor), celestial, loran, gps etc.

The most accurate fix must be bearing information off known landmarks. I could be standing at the base of a light with known position and cellestial might get me within 1/4-1/2 mile. GPS will get me to 30-300 feet. But I know I am at the light and the position is known. So nothing works better than the MKI eyeball.

Integrating position (GPS) with chart information has to be a good thing. However no navigation works without looking out to verify position.

Future position requires having a chart and plotting a course that avoids hazards. Paper or electronic works fine. Margin of safety from known hazards is a function of accuracy of position. The gps being able to update position continuously affords the ability for lesser margin. However blindly following the magenta line will eventually lead to tears.

I use the plotter extensively. Especially at night. It allows my to have a large and unweildy paper chart at my fingertips and helm. I don't know about others but I dont simply hit "goto" and follow the magenta brick road. I look for navigational aids on the chart and then verifiy by looking outside that the aids are where they are supposed to be and that I have positively identified those aids.

I have paper charts. They are stowed. If I need to get them out and have a look I do. Hasn't happened in a long time.

Navigation is pretty darned important. Proliferation of boaters and electrtonic gear must have had some effect on the frequency of collission with objects but it is not the navigational tool. It is the navigator.

And yes while there is growing attention to navigational errors related to electronics, don't forget that Amelia Earhart got lost too.
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Old 03-05-2012, 21:07   #42
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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A chart plotter is a luxury. A chart is a necessity.
If an ancient Polynesian or Minoan were to appear suddenly, they may well snort at that one.

They'd say you don't need no stinkin' chart [in their respective lexicons]

But joke aside, its not so much the chart as its really the necessity to always be able to derive a fix in the environment you are in.

Daysailing in the bay? Better be up on your pilotage skills and know the area. water sailing">Blue water sailing? Better have planned your passage carefully and have back ups to find a fix with.

Thats the necessity. Have the skills and tools to competently navigate the waters you sail in.

Couldn't leave this last one alone though...

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And yes while there is growing attention to navigational errors related to electronics, don't forget that Amelia Earhart got lost too.
My dad flew the navy version of C-54s out of Rodgers Field in the late '40s. They used to use a technique they called "latitude flying." Going to, say Wake, they would fly deliberately north or south along latitude and then take sun sights for long. When they would hit the long they needed, they would then turn north or south and pick up the radio range beacon.

(totally unrelated trivia, but you might relate. I have his logbooks and he has time in this airplane, which ironically was a USN aircraft and also didn't go to the Berlin Airlift with them /digression out)

It was a technique that PanAm had conceived prior to the war, and was how Earhart and Noonan were navigating

The method of navigation Noonan used in locating Howland Island is called the single line of position landfall. It entails making a right turn in north and short of the destination and tracking south to Howland Island. The islands (Howland and Baker) would come up on the left side of the airplane giving Noonan a good view from the left distortion free window in the rear of the cabin.

And your right they got lost too...And in the end, their dependence on getting that RDF fix off the Itasca to confirm their DR/sun sight position failed them.

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Old 03-05-2012, 21:42   #43
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Cool links. Thanks. My dad flew in New Guinea probably 417th of the 5th in the big one. Got some pics somewhere.

The Earhart barb was just to prompt thinking about how easy it is today vs. days past. Eahart, of course, being the most famous of navigational problems (note I didnt say error) - this stuff isnt easy. There but for the grace and all that stuff...

I have been lost while flying. Low ceilings, low altitude, resulting reduced vor reception. Dumb mistake. Found a river, followed it to an airport. Lived to see another day...

I think navigating has a large intuitive component to it. I think all can learn given application and desire but for some it comes more easily and naturally.
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Old 03-05-2012, 22:02   #44
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

Any component the failure of which puts you and/or your boat at risk should be examined. Because electronics and electrical systems in a marine enviroment are prone to failure, they should never be relied on completely.....chart plotters are a powerful (and useful) navigation tool, which eventually will fail, you should be equipped and trained to be able to navigate with out them.
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Old 03-05-2012, 23:13   #45
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Re: To Plot, or not ? Is a Chart Plotter a luxury or a necessity?

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You are very right its not the fault of the electronics themselves...

But the point is that it has in fact happened multiple times to otherwise highly competent, professionally trained crews aboard both military and commercial ships...
If someone doggedly followed gps derived information that put the boat into danger, I don't think that I'd be referring to them as highly competent.
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