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Old 26-09-2017, 15:32   #1
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Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

I'm curious as to who, after anchoring, plots danger & escape bearings? And do you do it electronically (chart plotter), on a paper chart, both? Or one or two of the former, along with your pilotage notes for the anchorage & harbor?

I'm not referring to taking bearings so that you can ascertain whether or not your anchor is dragging. But rather, should you have to leave the harbor in a hurry in conditions of poor to no visibility. That by following the pre-designated course(s) AKA escape bearing, you know that you're in safe water, even at night or in haeavy fog. And that if your heading exceeds X, or Y (your danger bearings), you know that you're steering towards trouble.

Obviously radar & other electronic nav aids help in circumstances like this. But being able to steer out safely, primarily by compass, is a handy tool to possess. And I'm thinking that plotting said bearings might not be common anymore??? Thus the question.

Also, I suppose a similar question about pilotage notes begs answering. Who is in the habit of taking/making them prior to entering or leaving a complex, unknown harbor? And on paper, or electronically?
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Old 26-09-2017, 16:17   #2
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

I've gotten in the habit of taking a bearing to safe water by the cockpit compass and writing it on something at the nav desk if we should ever need to leave in the pitch black. This habit was started by getting caught by a cold front that put the shore to our lee, and we left the area bouncing off the bottom while the computer booted up with the chartplotter software.
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Old 26-09-2017, 17:30   #3
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

I put an icon on the chart plotter. If it's really tricky I draw a picture.
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Old 26-09-2017, 17:48   #4
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

I like remote places and anchor where few others if any anchor. Usually small, difficult to enter rocky coves. Some I check out with a small boat to make sure the big boat will make it. Places I intend to return to, I print out a blowup of a raster chart and plot with sextant angles safe anchor and depths places and if the channel is tight, plot landmarks and bearings to enter and exit along with rocks to avoid. I've found GPS doesn't work up close all the time.
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Old 27-09-2017, 05:13   #5
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

It's part of good seamanship to at least mentally catalog your options when anchoring. I try to anchor in such a way that an escape is easy, and "war game" in my head and with the chart when entering and choosing my spot. The chart of where we are is always handy, and alternative spots or exit strategies are discussed usually before we decide the anchor's settled and go below.
In a crowded anchorage, I also look at the condition of boats anchored and the size and material of rode before I choose whom to be close to. Is there a super-annoying wind generator making noise? Is a boat swooping all over the place on miles of nylon? Is there a barnacled, dirty, tarp-draped derelict swinging on a rusty, twisted-up chain? Where will they all go if the wind shifts? All these things get processed as I decide where to drop the hook.
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Old 27-09-2017, 05:39   #6
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

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It's part of good seamanship to at least mentally catalog your options when anchoring. I try to anchor in such a way that an escape is easy, and "war game" in my head and with the chart when entering and choosing my spot. The chart of where we are is always handy, and alternative spots or exit strategies are discussed usually before we decide the anchor's settled and go below.
In a crowded anchorage, I also look at the condition of boats anchored and the size and material of rode before I choose whom to be close to. Is there a super-annoying wind generator making noise? Is a boat swooping all over the place on miles of nylon? Is there a barnacled, dirty, tarp-draped derelict swinging on a rusty, twisted-up chain? Where will they all go if the wind shifts? All these things get processed as I decide where to drop the hook.
Pretty much as above.. I do like to do a couple of circuits of the anchorage 1st especially if its my 1st time there..
Checking chart depths against sounder as in many places a year can change some places quite a bit after a bad winter.. Assess currents and wind conditions.. all is stored in the grey matter..
One does not always have the luxury of time to pull up charts etc.. after a few years its an automatic and instant situational awareness.
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Old 27-09-2017, 06:07   #7
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

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Originally Posted by UNCIVILIZED View Post
I'm curious as to who, after anchoring, plots danger & escape bearings? And do you do it electronically (chart plotter), on a paper chart, both? Or one or two of the former, along with your pilotage notes for the anchorage & harbor?
No not really, a cautious approach with eyes on the two sounders (bow and stern) plus chart plotter will get us in most places we want to go and also occasionally into trouble . However, with two keels and a draft of 3'8" we can always look over the side to see what is going on. A photo from a previous visit is also useful, like this one which only shows a LW springs.

The breadcrumb trail on the chart plotter gives us the exit with an estimation for any changes in the tide. Paper charts are not good news on a NW corner of a continent, they tend to be wet and windy places so best left at the chart table, not brought up on deck.

We have got it wrong a couple of times, once parking the twin keels on the steep side of a sand bank as the tide went out. Wasn't sure how far she would go over or if the lower keel would sink in.

Another; having forgotten to look up whilst travelling along a river we hit a branch with the masthead. Whilst pondering what to do about the branch now firmly wedged under the windy thing, I missed the changing depth from 1.2m to 1.0m. Next we ran gently up on a gravel bank. No damage to the boat, but pride took a bit of a beating as it was lunchtime and the tourists were all sat on the nearby quay watching us power back and forth grinding our way off. The fishermen on the other side of the river also added to the fun by catapulting maggots at us in a friendly gesture whilst wishing us lots of sex and travel (euphemism).

But its all part of the fun.

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Old 27-09-2017, 06:59   #8
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

Good question.
We always have a compass bearing to exit our anchorage and also a plan B should we have to move for unpredicted weather or events.
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Old 27-09-2017, 07:29   #9
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

I have a waterproof notebook that I keep at the helm. I jot down the initial bearing to an escape route and any relevant notes when I shut down the engine after anchoring.

I keep pilotage notes electronically for the simple reason that I don't always pull out the paper charts when entering/exiting a harbor or anchorage. Also stored electronically they are easier to pull up.
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Old 27-09-2017, 07:51   #10
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

Kind of. I plot course all the way into the anchorage. My plotted course in reverse now becomes my 'Escape Bearing'. We get fog in my area. I can wake up 180 degrees from where I went to sleep, and in a fog bank. You have to get home somehow.
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Old 27-09-2017, 08:25   #11
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

Twenty-five or so years ago in the Sea of Cortez and alone in a rock-bound anchorage, I failed to make note of an escape route. About midnight, engulfed in a truly rare thunderstorm with zero visibility, my eight-foot keel began bouncing on the hard bottom.

Yes, we got out safely but I learned my lesson. I do not rely on electronics. I take a compass bearing to establish my escape route and write it conspicuously on the hull near the helm.
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Old 27-09-2017, 08:33   #12
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

Great question.

I am a bit old-fashioned, and unlike many modern sailors, I use the binnacle compass as a primary tool. So it's an old habit to plot "clearing bearings" for pilotage of all kinds, including escape plans from anchorages, and I include them in my passage planning notes. That way, in any given complex pilotage situation, I know what range of bearings to what landmark means I'm safe. I keep a hand bearing compass always at the ready also.

I think all this is probably not necessary -- but I feel like it really helps me personally with being strongly oriented, and the goal of passage planning is to really understand thoroughly where you are and where you are going, and what dangers there are along the way. With a modern chart plotter, it might be enough to study the area thoroughly, memorize critical bits, and put skull & crossbone waypoints on important hazards (I also do this!).

When I enter a new harbor somewhere, I do study the approaches carefully, and MEMORIZE the buoyage and safe passages. Same thing with an anchorage. I don't know if this is the ONLY safe way to do it, but for me it's the best way to have total orientation when I come in -- I don't want to face a field of buoys and a bunch of shoals and have to fumble around with the charts before I know which way to turn. But I wasted a good bit of my youth training to be, and then working as a professional musician, so memorizing stuff is in my blood.

As to how I record my passage planning work -- I do less and less of drawing on charts, as I do less and less chartwork with paper. Unfortunately. One of my pet peeves with my beloved OpenCPN is that the drawing tools are not adequate to do the kind of chartwork I like to do.

But I do do my passage planning on paper -- in notebooks I keep for that purpose.

I spend a lot of time on it -- rarely less than an hour. But I don't do it just because it's good seamanship -- I love the process of navigation and passage planning and get a great deal of pleasure out of it.
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Old 27-09-2017, 09:06   #13
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

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. . . The breadcrumb trail on the chart plotter gives us the exit with an estimation for any changes in the tide. . . .
We shouldn't overestimate what electronics can do, but it is equally bad to UNDERESTIMATE. The recorded track on the plotter screen -- the "breadcrumb trail" is an immensely powerful tool.
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Old 27-09-2017, 09:25   #14
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

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Pretty much as above.. I do like to do a couple of circuits of the anchorage 1st especially if its my 1st time there..
Checking chart depths against sounder as in many places a year can change some places quite a bit after a bad winter.. Assess currents and wind conditions.. all is stored in the grey matter..
One does not always have the luxury of time to pull up charts etc.. after a few years its an automatic and instant situational awareness.
This. It's the same reason I check bearings with a hand compass to obvious landmarks...I don't wait for the anchor drag alarm. If I have to make a few dog legs to get in somewhere, I note the number of seconds and revs and write the reciprocal courses down. It's one of the best ways to use a Globemaster, because the reciprocal course is right in front of your eyes!
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Old 27-09-2017, 14:52   #15
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Re: Danger, & Escape Bearings - Who still plots them, & how?

Don't forget that whatever has stolen your vis may have also caused you to drag, changing your simple escape bearing significantly. We had this happen once (zero to 70knots+ in 2 minutes under clear skies) but by the time I had guillotined the dragging and irretrievable anchor we were nearly up on the bricks to leeward and had zero vis. I guess my geometry skills were not quite to scratch because after estimating the distance we dragged, distance to the sand bar (avoid point) and adjusting the escape course upwind, we ended up missing clear water by a metre or so. Being on your beam-ends on a yacht in heavy surf is something that takes a while to fade from memory (which is not necessarily a bad thing I guess - the best lessons tend to be the ones that don't quite kill you)
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