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Old 16-04-2015, 19:57   #16
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
Mark, et al,
-- Just curious if these charting inaccuracies that you all mention are similar to the ones we see in the Bahamas??
-- In that the soundings / shoals / reefs, etc. might be accurate, referenced to the land / islands / coastlines....but based on GPS positions are inaccurately charted??
-- And, are many of the land masses / island shorelines, also inaccurate referenced to GPS positions???



Again, just curious....

Because, many years ago (decades before GPS), in the Bahamas, we used the charts we had, and based our position on the water depth, our DR plots, and coastal piloting / based on range and bearing from land / coastlines, etc....
But, in the last 20 years, I've seen many comment on chart issues in the Bahamas....but it is usually just that the positions of the reefs / shoals, etc. are out-of-place compared to their actual GPS position, but they are correctly charted when compared to distance off the island or distance between, etc....

So, just wondering if these San Blas chart issues are the same as we have in the Bahamas??


Thanks!

John
Hi John,

It is as you suspect--most things are right on the charts in relation to other things, just not necessarily in relation to the GPS grid. We navigated around the archipelago with compass bearings and eyeball, not using the GPS at all, and found the charts perfectly adequate for that. That was at the Western end, though. As you go east, the charts lose detail, and we were glad to have Zydler's guide with us, which has all the detail one could wish. It worked the same way as the charts--ignore the GPS, use eyeball, compass bearings and descriptions, and it was perfect. I can't speak to the Bauhaus guide, since I didn't have it, but I understand it's more of a list-of-waypoints sort of guide than the sketch-chart sort I'm used to.
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Old 16-04-2015, 20:18   #17
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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Originally Posted by Benz View Post
I can't speak to the Bauhaus guide, since I didn't have it, but I understand it's more of a list-of-waypoints sort of guide than the sketch-chart sort I'm used to.
While the Bauhaus guide does contain waypoints and routes through some of the more hazardous areas, it is in general a collection of very accurately detailed professional charts (not sketches), as well as satellite and aerial photos.

Turned into electronic BSB format and used with OCPN, Coastal Explorer, or the like, these charts become a quilted, zoomable navigation system more accurate than any of the commercial charts available - paper or electronic (WAY more accurate than the official paper charts).

It also contains a good deal of travel guide information, history, routing/weather info, etc. About the best cruising guide I have ever seen.

We also have Zydler's guide on board and it is a rather quaint antique in comparison. I don't know why we still have it.

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Old 16-04-2015, 20:23   #18
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
I'm surprised at how many boats I see moving around late in the day. Would not give me a warm fuzzy & Ive been cruising the San Blas for 3 seasons now.

In Florida I used to watch boats head thru shoal areas late in the day and say "hmmm...they are either a local or a yokel and we will see which in just a few minutes". It was surprising how many boats came to a sudden stop. Of course in that area it was moslty just sandy bottom so no big deal...much higher stakes here in the San Blas.
I think the extraordinary accuracy of the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas have quite simply spoiled many cruisers, and engendered a false sense of confidence... I'm always amazed how routinely I see people negotiating tricky spots in the Bahamas in poor light, but they generally manage to get away with it due to the fact that the Lewis' surveys are by and large spot on... With so many cruisers getting their feet wet in tropical and reef-strewn water for the first time over there, I think many wind up mistakenly assuming that degree of charting accuracy is similar elsewhere...

If and when Cuba opens up, and American cruisers start flocking there, I think there might be a LOT of folks in for some very rude surprises...

:-)
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Old 16-04-2015, 20:27   #19
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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I think the wrecks in the San Blas are due mainly to the lack of experience, and sometimes over-confidence, of the skippers. For many cruisers, especially those that have not cruised the Bahamas, this is the first time that they have had to truly do reef piloting. At the right time of day and right weather, the reefs in the San Blas are pretty easy to read. Push your luck as the sun gets low in the sky, or the cloud cover of a squall shows up, and it is pretty easy to make a fatal mistake. Also, many boats that are just showing up don't realize how narrow the safe water areas are in the Bauhuas guides.
At least half of the wrecks are drunk/drugged "captains" running backpacker cattle boats between Colombia and Panama. These guys are local to the area, but often come to grief because they are passed out below with a non-sailor partied-out kid at the helm when they approach the reefs from open water. The boats are also beat up disasters waiting to happen - and breakdowns often happen at very inopportune times.

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Old 16-04-2015, 20:44   #20
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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Originally Posted by Benz View Post
... I can't speak to the Bauhaus guide, since I didn't have it, but I understand it's more of a list-of-waypoints sort of guide than the sketch-chart sort I'm used to....
Benz, you are way off on your understanding of the Bauhaus guide. It is easily one of the most accurate and compreshensive cruising guides I have ever used in any venue. Its is accurate not only relative to GPS use, but traditional coastal piloting as well.

Sketch charts, no, full-on satellite cartography supplemented by extensive field surveys. Overlaid in many cases with recommended routes and waypoints.

A very impressive work...especially considering it covers not just the San Blas, which would be an accomplishment it itself, but the entire Pacific & Atalntic coasts of Panama.
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Old 17-04-2015, 04:21   #21
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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Benz, you are way off on your understanding of the Bauhaus guide. It is easily one of the most accurate and compreshensive cruising guides I have ever used in any venue. Its is accurate not only relative to GPS use, but traditional coastal piloting as well.

Sketch charts, no, full-on satellite cartography supplemented by extensive field surveys. Overlaid in many cases with recommended routes and waypoints.

A very impressive work...especially considering it covers not just the San Blas, which would be an accomplishment it itself, but the entire Pacific & Atalntic coasts of Panama.
I rejoice to hear it. Accuracy and completeness in guidebooks is much to be desired. But I never had many problems with the Zydler guide (which BTW covers most of Pacific Panama as well), and what I liked about it is that I could go for days and weeks without once turning on the GPS--just eyeballing around with the aid of sketches and compass is great fun.
As for the wrecks being backpacker charter boats, I can well believe it--there's every sort of boat doing that now, some pretty seaworthy, others which appear to be barely salvaged wrecks, but it's my opinion that the huge influx of drunken backpackers to the area is not good for either the locals or the cruisers who will be associated with the fly-by-night charter folks.
That's not to say that I don't think there's good, responsible, seamanlike charterers, but there's a few irresponsible ones, and there's groups of backpackers who seem to only want to drink and party, and that sort doesn't do anybody any good.
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Old 17-04-2015, 11:13   #22
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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At least half of the wrecks are drunk/drugged "captains" running backpacker cattle boats between Colombia and Panama. These guys are local to the area, but often come to grief because they are passed out below with a non-sailor partied-out kid at the helm when they approach the reefs from open water. The boats are also beat up disasters waiting to happen - and breakdowns often happen at very inopportune times.

Mark
For sure. I guess I was referring to the cruising boats that also come to grief in the San Blas - no small number. This season you were right next to the German boat that hit the reef heading from Cartegena to Porvenir off the Swimming Pool. And then the big cat that drove into the Tigre area. I saw a really sweet aluminum cruiser with a carbon fiber mast hit the reef in Porvenir. That one was a line in the prop.
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Old 17-04-2015, 11:15   #23
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
I'm surprised at how many boats I see moving around late in the day. Would not give me a warm fuzzy & Ive been cruising the San Blas for 3 seasons now.

In Florida I used to watch boats head thru shoal areas late in the day and say "hmmm...they are either a local or a yokel and we will see which in just a few minutes". It was surprising how many boats came to a sudden stop. Of course in that area it was moslty just sandy bottom so no big deal...much higher stakes here in the San Blas.
Its not so bad if you've already been into the anchorage. It is the first time that really needs some light.
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Old 17-04-2015, 11:48   #24
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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Turned into electronic BSB format and used with OCPN, Coastal Explorer, or the like, these charts become a quilted, zoomable navigation system more accurate than any of the commercial charts available - paper or electronic (WAY more accurate than the official paper charts).
Mark - can you give me a brief explanation as how to do this? specifically for OCPN

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Old 17-04-2015, 12:01   #25
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

Ed, I used a DOS program called "tif2bsb". It is rather complicated and involves first scanning the charts, then georeferencing them in MapCal program, then creating a header file, and finally joining it all together into a BSB-format.

Not for the faint of heart, and I did this several years ago. I think someone has come out with a more streamlined and user-friendly method for doing this, but I don't remember who/what. Maybe someone here will jump in, or perhaps you may want to open a thread on doing this. It is even possible that GE2KAP could do it - maybe contact Paul Higgins?

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Old 17-04-2015, 15:39   #26
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

I'm starting to think I'm some kind of pussy.

When I read the blog above I could not understand how people with nine years of cruising experience do not know better. From my perspective they have an enormous gap in their knowledge. The way they tell the story is focused on their chartplotter and lack of waypoints to follow. I feel they completely miss the point-- that it’s absolutely crazy to try to navigate through a reef by GPS alone.

But the subsequent conversation about getting ‘the good charts’ into a chartplotter, through scanning or licensing, is making me wonder if I am in a parallel universe or stuck in old timey ways.

So please, be honest with me -- do any of you drive through unfamiliar reef passes solely with a GPS? Without being able to see into the water or any nav aids or bearings to landmarks?

I am wondering if I am way too conservative-- do real cruisers these days drive the little green boat icon in OpenCPN through reefs? Or type numbers into their GPS and make a track that they follow with 0.00 XTE? And-- that works?-- at least in the Bahamas?
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Old 17-04-2015, 16:56   #27
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

I should post a photo of the $25,000 prop sitting on the dock near our boat here. Pro Captain for a luxe motor yacht left Providenciales and set a course in the auto pilot for the Windward Passage. Didn't notice his path passed right over the top of the reef near West Caicos, with four feet of water at low tide. Hit the reef at 25 knots. He ripped the bottom out of a two million dollar boat. It's patched up enough to be towed and is floating four slips over from us, but it's an insurance nightmare.
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Old 17-04-2015, 16:59   #28
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

I know at least one of those wrecks is because the skipper is a sailing ignorant.

People listen to stories and rush in to visit a location. But some locations are more difficult than others. When they are close at hand, expect many wrecks soon.

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Old 17-04-2015, 17:31   #29
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

It is a difficult area to navigate, and it doesn't take ignorance to get into trouble. The reefs are intimately woven throughout the area and are completely unforgiving. If you hit one for any of many reasons, your boat is probably lost.

For example, dragging anchor during a chokasana (sp? - it is the local equivalent to those violent winds from a different direction that usually hit late night/early morning) will likely put you on a reef with severe damage to the boat, if not a complete loss.

Many boats are lost in an area where the barrier reef extends out much further than expected (and charted on paper charts) and the normal approach is from windward from the North - very difficult to see any reef from this perspective. Without prior accurate charts, even prudent navigators who do try to stand off, often don't stand off enough.

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Old 17-04-2015, 20:21   #30
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Re: San Blas Panama Wrecks

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I should post a photo of the $25,000 prop sitting on the dock near our boat here. Pro Captain for a luxe motor yacht left Providenciales and set a course in the auto pilot for the Windward Passage. Didn't notice his path passed right over the top of the reef near West Caicos, with four feet of water at low tide. Hit the reef at 25 knots. He ripped the bottom out of a two million dollar boat. It's patched up enough to be towed and is floating four slips over from us, but it's an insurance nightmare.
Oops, bad career move.
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