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Old 15-08-2022, 13:34   #1
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How changing habits of navigation affect us

I posted this link on the "New to Nav" thread because I thought it might be helpful but will repost here.

It's a study about the loss of spatial memory as a result of using GPS navigation over time. I read this article in the r/sailing subreddit and thought it should be shared here:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/art...6/#!po=82.6923

The methodology involves driving cars and is a longitudinal study; but I don't see why it wouldn't apply equally to sailing, and it draws from other studies that include native hunters in arctic conditions and how their time honored methodologies of land navigation are giving way to the younger hunters relying on GPS. So the application is broad.

I find it concerning that some schools are now reportedly (I have not confirmed!) dropping paper chart navigation from their curriculum, but I find this hard to believe. The Navy made the mistake of dropping celestial only to pick it up again later.

I learned on paper charts and my first boats didn't have plotters, as I am sure is familiar for many of you also. Taking multiple fixes close in to traffic and land I often would forego putting lines on paper and just splay my fingers out between the navigational marks and transpose it to paper in a couple of rapid successions, marking an estimated position to let me know how I should handle passing arrangements and where the safe water was.

With paper chart navigation, or piloting to use the correct term, I was constantly tied to observing the environment around me. The chart was reference. The locus of control was internal.

With plotters we turn this on its head. People tend to be tied to the chart plotter. The environment becomes a secondary reference. The locus of control becomes external.

I'm also not against electronic charts. We got spanked pretty hard (100% my fault) and we were sent running for refuge from a storm when, in the spray sodden winds, I lost a number of pages out of a chart book. It was the cell phone that came to our rescue. But then it could have just as easily been the phone that got wet. This underscores the importance to of having separate independent methods (i.e., not a second phone) of redundancy.

Coming back to the cited article, how does all of this change our abilities to navigate in a seamanlike manner? More and more we make technological progress (good!) but I also see this growing belief that this progress is mandatory to go sailing.

The concerning part to me is that if people are relying on this progress to take the burden of sailing from them, then it's true, it IS mandatory, because we've collectively outsourced our abilities and habits, and this in turn is affecting our ultimate capacities.

This can make for a "dumbing down" of the requirements to put to sea even while it means more people are at sea than ever before. Not the best possible combinations of events.
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Old 15-08-2022, 13:52   #2
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

I've heard the argument that celestial is useful to the Navy only under extremely narrow circumstances that are hard to envision in any plausible scenario: if electronic satellite navigation is unavailable, many of the weapons systems aren't going to be usable either, so fighting the ship isn't realistic.



The counter argument is that celestial is of some small benefit and the cost of celestial is extremely low: teaching it isn't all that time consuming and all that's needed are a sextant, a chronometer, and a book of tables, so the benefit per cost is still respectable.
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Old 15-08-2022, 14:22   #3
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

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Originally Posted by thesaltytar View Post
With plotters we turn this on its head. People tend to be tied to the chart plotter. The environment becomes a secondary reference. The locus of control becomes external.
Personally, I always like too look around even when using the chartplotter .

Sometimes I even use (shock, horror) a hand bearing compass.

Paper chart navigation requires some time, typically below decks. This minimises rather than enhances referencing the environment.

There is no need to exclude modern technology to be seaworthy. It even enables us to do clever tricks that would have amazed previous generations such as permitting accurate distance measurements via radar.
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Old 15-08-2022, 14:25   #4
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

AS soon as I find my loran C I’m going to find my way out of the tread.
I love paper charts but my grandson made me a multiscreen expert who needs occasional re training. We bought a second plotter for the nav station. He says the table should be a touch screen. Batteries everywhere!
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Old 15-08-2022, 14:26   #5
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

I can agree with the argument that a situation requiring a warship to use celestial may also make it unable to engage it combat. I'm not going to lose too much sleep over how a lack of technology makes it difficult for us to kill each other, or if our military-industrial complex has considered our vulnerability to electronic disruption. I like to think the have us covered.

I can more easily see a situation that might render GPS inoperable on a smaller vessel. A broken cable, lightning strike, fire, electrical failure, or power failure secondary to the loss of a generator / alternator's prime mover. Most boats have good redundancies however and I would be surprised if anyone on this forum has "had" to break out a sextant for lack of alternative.
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Old 15-08-2022, 14:32   #6
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

Guess what this is?

Iíve you guessed some lame sextant made from a CD LEGO. Brick and a few mirrors we got from Pinterest, you are correct. My grandson not so good in maths used a real sextant all of his fingers and toes to find Jupiter and estimate our longitude using a raspberry pi
We turned on the Plotter and we were bang on the little guys navigation combining New with old. Night move.
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Old 15-08-2022, 14:47   #7
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

I get a 404- Page not found when I click on the link in Post#1
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Old 15-08-2022, 14:53   #8
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

Didn't the Navy, (in the last few years,) have a couple of collisions that upon investigation were found to be, (at least partly,) the blame of staring at screens and numbers instead of using the Mk1 eyeball with binoculars and actually plotting the CPA on a sheet.
A mentor of mine, (retired Commander USN,) used to joke that vessels needed two radar units so that they would only get in half as many collisions.
I can look at an electronic device but have and use paper charts.
Isn't it in Bowditch, something like, "The prudent navigator shall use all means at his disposal to fix his position".
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Old 15-08-2022, 16:07   #9
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

Two ships collide in Germany, GPS error blamed, 2014. https://www.spirent.com/blogs/gps-in...time-collision

Two Navy collisions within a few weeks and an investigation, 2017.
https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-...t-you-to-read/

Seems the one Navy ship had more going on than an over-reliance of electronic navigation - the navy is actually an example of where a ship does make an attempt to combine the electronics with practical redundancies.

I feel confident that about half the bridge crew on vessels I've worked on could put together a LOP and figure out how to plot ourselves somewhere. When I was in the Gulf on a SOLAS classed vessel with a captain and three mates, I felt secure we could even get a sun line (it's where I learned celestial).

The biggest issue I see with technology in the commercial sector and at sea is that it's made people think (for example) oh, now we don't need a radio officer! Just send a mate to GMDSS school and now you have one less crew member but one more thing for the mate to do. Technology has squeezed efficiency out of the ships company by requiring fewer people do more. And this is one contributing factor keeping officers out of the wheelhouse buried in paperwork when they used to be steering the ship.

On our own boats we have the luxury of being more in charge of our shore side support. We ARE the office so any paperwork we do is of our own volition. I feel we, like many deck officers, would prefer to just operate the boat. As long as we remember how.Click image for larger version

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Old 15-08-2022, 18:28   #10
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

as I mentioned the RYA in its powerboat courses , does not teach paper chart work, it still does in its sailing courses , ( it was a heated debate in the RYA) but the course work recognises that GNSS is the future

personally , as a fan of celestial , its a dead end, on a recent boat , there was 7 GNSS systems , 4 on the crew , 3 on the boat ) , so its largely impossible to have a complete failure to arrive at a LAT LONG and celestial that isn't practised regularly typically gets forgotten , so its useless in an emergency

so lets park the position fix argument and accept as a given that's going to be electronic and it will be GNSS based ( Loran is dead and buried )

So now we are left with paper charts versus electronics charts . While I am a fan of backup paper, these days , with charts on multiple devices ( ie on a phone, laptop,MFD etc ) , I think we can accept that more and more route planning will be on electronic charts. even commercial marine with ECDIS IMO compliant aren't required to carry paper !!.

underway , these days almost everyone I know , uses electronic on route charting and paper is relegated to back if at all. The smart phone generation aren't going to paper in my view and paper is hard to get and expensive

IN my view therefore the argument isn't paper versus electronic, its teaching people to understand the issues around electronic position fixing and using electronic charting and to remember the maxim " keep looking out the window", ie don't surrender your autonomy to a machine !!!

On the bridges of ships these days manning costs have lead inexorably to the deployment of more and more automated and semi automated system , controlled by a very regulated environment . This isn't going to change , whatever you say about GMDSS. Bridge manning is constantly under pressure ,

On unregulated yachts, The technology is cheap, offers a lower barrier to entry ( perhaps incorrectly ) and the fact is 99.99% of the time you arrive unscathed , sadly the 0.01% kills you , but then so did it in the paper chart days

The reliably issue of electronics is largely moot, with multiple redundant systems , both fixed to the yacht and carried as personal computing , its unlikely , even in extremis, you'll be left with absolutely nothing , certainly not if you add redundancy etc .

Whats really needed these days is that all boaters need competency certification and one of the key aspects of that competency is to hammer home the strengths AND weakness of automated location fixing and automated routing system .

Letting increasing autonomous systems into the hands of completely untrained people is scary and needs to be dealt with ( "Sir, can I see your competency cert in order to sell you this MFD" , sort of thing !!!
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Old 15-08-2022, 18:30   #11
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

Quote:
The biggest issue I see with technology in the commercial sector and at sea is that it's made people think (for example) oh, now we don't need a radio officer! Just send a mate to GMDSS school and now you have one less crew member but one more thing for the mate to do. Technology has squeezed efficiency out of the ships company by requiring fewer people do more. And this is one contributing factor keeping officers out of the wheelhouse buried in paperwork when they used to be steering the ship
officers may be buried in paperwork, but that's nothing to do with automated systems on the ship . Iwas on a bridge tour of the QM2 and all planning was done on a dedicated computer chart system not paper !. I saw nothing wrong with that !
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Old 15-08-2022, 18:36   #12
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

Maybe the Navyís need for celestial arises after a conflict..... every lifeboat once had a sextant and instructions and maybe EPIRBS can cease to function in warfare.
Both the above mentioned marine incidents with US navy destroyers indicated no navy AIS tracks and not readily visible on radar( singapore VTS)
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Old 15-08-2022, 18:40   #13
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

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Maybe the Navy’s need for celestial arises after a conflict..... every lifeboat once had a sextant and instructions and maybe EPIRBS can cease to function in warfare.
Both the above mentioned marine incidents with US navy destroyers indicated no navy AIS tracks and not readily visible on radar( singapore VTS)
what a military does is driven by completely different criteria then what affects leisure sailors , we don't " need" to go to sea , particulars in times of global conflict etc. hence it has no relevance for us

having said that this is a good account of it https://www.surfpac.navy.mil/Portals...411-spread.pdf

mind you celestial nav needs good time keeping , I'm not sure I have the space for a Harrison clock
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Old 15-08-2022, 18:47   #14
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

The older person uses a sextant and paper charts.

The younger person uses the plotter, GPS, and tablet.

Then both confer and agree on the actual situation.

That is the way to compromise to bring both methods together. Neither is "better" than the other.
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Old 15-08-2022, 18:48   #15
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Re: How changing habits of navigation affect us

People are stupid and clueless regardless of what electrical doo dads they have or don't have. Modern MFDs provide an incredible amount of situaltional awareness with little strees or effort. Do I want to wait two hours to see how much inshore current there is? The COG vector tells me in the 5 or so minutes it takes to average it out.


10 minutes below working a ded reckoning to see if I'm near the tanker super highway that runs along the coast? No thank you. I'll know when I'm in and when I'm out. Does that mean that I don't keep a lookout all around the horizon for the bruisers? Of course not because I'm not stupid and clueless even though I have the full suite of electronics.


I'm going to Catalina next weekend. I'm going to find one of the OG harbor patrol guys and ask if more or less people are going up on Harbor Reef than in the way back days when men were men and could navigate around the world by watching which way their pipe smoke blew.
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