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post #9 of Old 03-09-2007
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The Yeoman was a very good idea for its time, and may still be for those with a certain discomfort with the technology of chartplotters or computers. But depending on where you sail, you can do quite well with a coastal navigation course, a decent handheld GPS with a 12 VDC plug (as they eat batteries), and updated and corrected paper charts.

Just be aware of tricky things like "does my GPS agree with the chart datum as listed on the chart I am using?" Going from a large-scale to a smaller-scale chart for the same area...and not noting the different datums...has put many a GPS-wielding sailor on the reef, for instance. Eyes, ears and even smell trump little flickering and occasionally fictitious numbers.

It's the habits of mind that cause navigational errors in most cases. The best way to use a paper chart is to read it and plot your course away from land and reefs, and then to note a couple of waypoints on your GPS that are free from obstruction. Account for lee and tidal effects (this can be noted in the useful cross-track or "XTE" function of even the cheapest handheld GPS), and you can sail safely in most situations, given an updated chart and the ability to coastal pilot.

Chartplotters are only as good as the charts they summarize, which in some cases are awful in detail and in others are outright wrong. Better in my mind is to use a PC laptop with a scanned or "raster" chart which is an exact representation of a real paper chart, rather than the "vector" charts that the chartplotters tend to use (although there are exceptions). Vector charts have their uses, however, due to the ability to zoom in to features that are easy to miss on a screen representation.

My choice is PC and paper and to avoid the proprietary cartridges of the chart plotters. My experience is that some skippers pay more attention to the creeping movement of the little boat icon of the chartplotter than they do to the sea around them. Needless to say, this is not only a grave navigational error, but also turns the experience of sailing into, in part, a glorified video game.

No thanks.

Good luck. Play with these gadgets at West Marine, and view the simulations. But if you just coastal cruise, I think paper and GPS and plenty of practice alone will suffice.
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