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Old 18-10-2020, 20:20   #1
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Reflections on Seamanship

This is an open discussion on the wonderful evolution of electronic navigation, weather routing technology, modern designs focussing on speed versus storm survivability.

For some modern sailors who are dependant on the reliability of this technology continuing, while they are crossing oceans,
.... what advice would you give them as a minimum backup of the arts of navigation and weather routing if global tensions turned off the civillian sattelite networks and GPS?
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Old 18-10-2020, 20:42   #2
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

Learn how to do a sun-run-sun and a noon sight. Learn how to latitude sail.

Understand weather systems, learn to read clouds, wind direction and velocity and how to read a barometer.

Connect with nature.
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Old 18-10-2020, 20:46   #3
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

Well, of course there's good old celestial navigation skills, tools and references and paper charts, and I still have all my old stuff collecting mold, but I confess, I will need a refresher class to practice the math and the ded reckoning skills, though it's probably like riding a bike. Sure wish we still had RDFs! As far as weather I would say that we go back to what is typical for a certain locale and time of year, but that will be tougher since at least in these parts what is typical is somewhat atypical these days and vice versa.
We really are spoiled aren't we? Are you bringing this up because of the potential problems with 5G and weather forecasting?
Oh, and of course we are all going to have to switch back to Tahiti ketches!
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Old 18-10-2020, 20:54   #4
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

My first advice would be to reduce your confidence in electronic exactitude that relies on external signals.....they could get compromised and slewd by defensive hacking.

Let your Radar and Depth sounder in conjunction with Chart soundings become the litmus test for reliable positions.

Consider them assumed positions rather than "Fixes" and adjust your landfalls or close passings to a danger to be during daylight hours.

Learn the various methods of proving your compass and speed log to achieve a more accurate dead reckoning course and distance.

Read a good book/manual on being your own Weather Observer and how to log and interpret them properly.

What other advice would you offer?
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Old 19-10-2020, 04:04   #5
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

I'll take a different tack on this one. Chances of anyone successfully learning celestial navigation as backup is low - you will learn bits and pieces and be caught short if you ever need it. While getting a reliable fix is difficult, you need to get comfortable with greatly reduced precision of the fix compared to GPS.

But you can greatly improve your dead reckoning skills. My observation is many users of chart plotters are over-fixated on them and tend to over-zoom. They want the "highway view" experience from Google Maps navigation. Navigate visually using ATONs instead of chart plotter. You will develop a much stronger sense of situational awareness. Dead reckoning is much more than bearing x speed calculations, it's developing a sense of how to assimilate multiple imprecise pieces of data into a relatively precise fix. Does the visual/radar undulations of land match what your chart says it should look like? Picking out small but prominent anomalies that can be reliably identified such as a tower or a hook of land. All go into developing situational awareness, and all of which are masked by reliance on a chart plotter. And frankly, situational awareness makes boating much more gratifying as it develops a stronger sense of self sufficiency and keeps your head on the horizon, not your instrument cluster. It's good seamanship skills.

As far as weather skills, it is, in my opinion, the most underdeveloped seamanship skill in yachting. These days, weather aggregation sources like Windy, PredixtWind, or BuoyWeather are common. These are excellent weather products and I use them too, But to learn weather, you need to go to the source data - the synoptic charts published by NOAA to understand and anticipate why the forecast changes. I used to be a delivery skipper, mostly between Alaska and Mexico along the pacific coast. It wasn't until I had to suffer the consequences of my weather decisions that I truly learned weather. The result was I became much more comfortable leaving port in weather that would keep recreational boaters in Port. It's not that I had a stronger stomach or more grit, I just learned what to expect and it wasn't that bad, or I wouldn't go.

Peter
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Old 19-10-2020, 04:40   #6
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

Of the skills, observations, effort and judgment applied to maximise the safety of the ship knowing where you are is just part of the matrix.

Knowing where you are not is important.
The distance to where you are not can also be useful.

No matter where you go there you are - deal with it. (in a seamanlike manner)
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Old 19-10-2020, 08:49   #7
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

What are the odd's that GPS is not going to work during any long term ocean passage? .00001%

It's probably lower than the chance you drop your sextant off the side of the boat, which is at .024% or fall down the companionway, or pretty much any, and really ANY true sailing problem. It's so low as to not be worth the effort of thinking about.

The problem I have with threads like this and the reason I'm adding a post is that someone is going to read this and think "Wow, I better learn to use a sextant". Sure, if you enjoy learning old, out of date skills for the fun of it. But most sailors time would be much better spent cleaning their bilges. It's like an app developer learning how to use programming punch cards.


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No matter where you go there you are - deal with it. (in a seamanlike manner)
Couldn't agree more.
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Old 19-10-2020, 08:56   #8
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

Know where you are and what is around you.
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Old 19-10-2020, 09:52   #9
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don C L View Post
Well, of course there's good old celestial navigation skills, tools and references and paper charts, and I still have all my old stuff collecting mold, but I confess, I will need a refresher class to practice the math and the ded reckoning skills, though it's probably like riding a bike. Sure wish we still had RDFs! As far as weather I would say that we go back to what is typical for a certain locale and time of year, but that will be tougher since at least in these parts what is typical is somewhat atypical these days and vice versa.

We really are spoiled aren't we? Are you bringing this up because of the potential problems with 5G and weather forecasting?

Oh, and of course we are all going to have to switch back to Tahiti ketches!


Don:
What kind of sextant do you have?
What method did you use? 249? I was about 1/2 way thru teaching a class with 249 when COVID hit.
I have an RDF if you ever want to borrow it.

OP:
Bare minimum for celestial: Davis-3 sextant, some watches (3-5 Casios) and https://www.amazon.com/GPS-Backup-Ma.../dp/0914025600 and a cheap shortwave radio (https://www.amazon.com/Tecsun-PL-360...3126151&sr=8-7 which also doubles as a mediocre RDF).

Better would be 249 & Kolbe long term almanac replacing the Burch book.

I would not use a Davis 15 or 25, 3 has better stability. If I wanted better than the Davis-3 I would get a metal sextant.

For weather get a barometer. After that a temp/humidity gauge.
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Old 19-10-2020, 10:11   #10
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

I got into celestial navigation a few years ago. I was in a bookstore in Cape Town, looking for something else to read on a delivery. I came across Sextant: A Voyage Guided by the Stars and the Men Who Mapped the World's Oceans by David Barrie. The concluding paragraphs convinced me to spend some time with the sextant on board.

This was the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph:

Quote:
"Its time to rediscover the joys of celestial navigation, not merely as a safety net, but because using a sextant to find our our wat outs us in the closest possible touch with the natural world at its most sublime."
The last paragraph continues in that vein. That enthused me.

We had the necessary publications and forms. I spent some time doing sun-run-sun and noon sights, which are all you really need to find your position, plot it and set a course.

It was a rewarding experience. I highly recommend the Barrie's book.

My manual was Tom Cunliffe's book.
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Old 19-10-2020, 10:12   #11
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

Quote:
Originally Posted by Palarran View Post
What are the odd's that GPS is not going to work during any long term ocean passage? .00001%



It's probably lower than the chance you drop your sextant off the side of the boat, which is at .024% or fall down the companionway, or pretty much any, and really ANY true sailing problem. It's so low as to not be worth the effort of thinking about.



The problem I have with threads like this and the reason I'm adding a post is that someone is going to read this and think "Wow, I better learn to use a sextant". Sure, if you enjoy learning old, out of date skills for the fun of it. But most sailors time would be much better spent cleaning their bilges. It's like an app developer learning how to use programming punch cards.

.....


Past history is no guarantee of future performance.

For GPS there are multiple low odds failure modes and a few not so low. Most likely in my estimation is the system being hacked or some other adverse event related to hostilities with any number of possible adversaries.

It is telling that the USNavy went back to teaching celestial to officer candidates. It’s not that the USN ever stopped doing celestial, but it was enlisted doing it. Now they realize they need to have the officers effectively manage celestial if there is a GPS outage.
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Old 19-10-2020, 11:46   #12
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

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Past history is no guarantee of future performance.

For GPS there are multiple low odds failure modes and a few not so low. Most likely in my estimation is the system being hacked or some other adverse event related to hostilities with any number of possible adversaries.

It is telling that the USNavy went back to teaching celestial to officer candidates. It’s not that the USN ever stopped doing celestial, but it was enlisted doing it. Now they realize they need to have the officers effectively manage celestial if there is a GPS outage.
All this is true. Yes, the Navy is teaching it to Officers as a backup but they are also in charge of warships that have huge crews and cost upwards of a billion. Though, I used to think that was a lot of money and have recently found out it's chump change.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...e-in-a-decade/


Again, IMO, there are a hundred other things that should be learned that would be of more benefit to a sailor than celestial navigation. It would be better to master them first, then, if so inclined, to learn celestial. Tide tables, electrical diagrams, proper sail trim (my weakness), diesel engine repair, fiberglass, etc. Heck, even cooking a healthy meal.

But I'm really not posting to argue, just to let "modern sailors who are dependent on the reliability of this technology continuing, while they are crossing oceans" know it's not a very likely problem to encounter, as in near zero.
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Old 19-10-2020, 12:02   #13
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

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Originally Posted by Palarran View Post

Again, IMO, there are a hundred other things that should be learned that would be of more benefit to a sailor than celestial navigation. It would be better to master them first, then, if so inclined, to learn celestial. Tide tables, electrical diagrams, proper sail trim (my weakness), diesel engine repair, fiberglass, etc. Heck, even cooking a healthy meal.

But I'm really not posting to argue, just to let "modern sailors who are dependent on the reliability of this technology continuing, while they are crossing oceans" know it's not a very likely problem to encounter, as in near zero.
Self reliance is also an essential component of seamanship.
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Old 19-10-2020, 12:26   #14
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

A few observations:

I agree that practising DR based on distance, heading and speed, incorporating leeway of your boat (easily seen in your wake) to derive an approximate position can be fun. I sometimes do this and then check it using my dodgy, unreliable GPS.

An old navigation adage that I was told in the infancy of my passage-making career is “You never are where you think you are.” That I believe to be less so with the modern technology on my boat today but I think about it nevertheless.

Military vessels teaching crew the art of celestial navigation? Well, yes, that makes sense. If ever there was a condition in which GPS reception will be compromised it is in combat conditions where the owners of the system will distort or even eliminate the transmission. Personally I would go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that I’m not sailing in such an area.

What backups would I have? Triple redundancy on my electronics with a firm belief, based on probably 30 years of faultless experience during which I have never once found GPS performance to be less than perfect, that I can depend upon the global system as do tens of thousands of passenger jets and commercial ships.

My paranoia is clearly under-developed by comparison to some.
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Old 19-10-2020, 13:53   #15
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Re: Reflections on Seamanship

Well it seems not everybody has been current with all the Ken, Barbie and the cat blogs. All you need is a weekend sailing course, pay the broker,and off you go! All this “be prepared “Boy Scout stuff ...bumming me out dude.

Wait a minute. What ever happened to the guy who wanted to know what was the SMALLEST boat he could...comfortably...cross oceans in. I forgot to ask him why he wanted the Smallest boat, not the least expensive or most easily sailed...just small. I mean, one theory could be that by being tiny, you are less likely to get run over by ships. Or, if you dump ALL that navigation stuff, you have more room for food so if you get lost...what does it matter.
Actually, if you float off in a commercial lifeboat, getting lost, really doesn’t matter whatsoever. Do you NEED to know where you are ALL the time?
What would any shrink say about that kind of thinking...
You can just float along till you land on a beach and then everybody will show up and bring you stuff...especially if you have a cute cat.
Buy an old orange enclosed lifeboat. Lots cheep as they dismantle Cruise Ships.
Add a used light pole, some old sails and happy trails to you.
Mark and his “let the cat navigate during happy hour” manatees.
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