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post #22 of Old 02-09-2008
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Solar panels, wind generator: you'll need them at sea and on the hook. Gas gensets=Bad. annoy everybody.

Understand that it's a quiet Honda model, and it's a tertiary charging source: if the alternator, the wind and the solar aren't working, it's available to save the contents of the fridge or to power a pump. I got it mainly to run power tools at anchor (running these off the inverter, while doable, is not desirable from an efficiency standpoint), and to throw a charge into the windlass battery forward. On a steel boat, the ability to run Dremels, hand grinders and other power tools is useful on deck (obviously calm, dry days), as is the ability to "bring one's own power" ashore to do work on the beach you'd rather not do aboard.

Fuel system: Possibly unnecessary complications. (But I could be wrong)

In this case, yes. My system gives me the ability to polish fuel while sailing, to provide a back-up fuel pump, and to change filters without stopping the engine. I will have two 50 gallon keel tanks plus a 40 gallon "polish/day tank": even if I take on dodgy fuel, I'm not necessarily stuck, as I can isolate and self-remedy the situation in remote places.

PC Based navigation: Good for planning, otherwise - Bad. Prone to failure and may give false sense of security. be sure you have complete, up-to-date paper charts and plotting tools and know how to use them. Also have at least one hand held GPS with plenty of spare batteries. Disclosure: I have Garmin software and GPS interface on my PC but I NEVER use it for navigation while under way.

Yes, in keeping with the belt-and-suspenders approach, I will carry current and annotated paper charts. Understand I also have a pilothouse, a dry, large area in which to do my nav work. I don't need an outdoor, daylight-defeating, weather-proof screen for nav at the helm...I can buy approximately six identical used laptops for the same price as a current 10" plotter screen. Better that I have black boxes and six 15" handheld GPS, a sextant, and various other goodies.

While I'm on a roll (Or rant as it were); Navigation necessities, In my opinion of course, are:

Good quality steering compass.

Another good quality steering compass.

Ritchie Globemaster, KVH AC103 fluxgate and probably a Vector G2 "satellite compass" for the autopilot. A compass on the wristwatch (have to hold it five feet off the steel deck, but it works fine at my chin level or atop the aluminum pilothouse lid.)

Two or more hand held GPS units. These don't have to be fancy as long as they give you the basic data - lat, long, speed. We have one Garmin GPS76 and two GPS 38s. Total cost about $400. You MUST (In my opinion) have GPS unit(s) that operate independently of the ship's power supply and not too fancy lest yo be tempted to forego real charts.

Two old Magellans plus a surprisingly accurate Trimble from 1993 with just alphanumeric display. Plus the Raymarine 420 plotter still at the inside helm. I'll probably update the Magellans to something that eats AAs less voraciously.

Depth sounder. Even a lead line. A necessity when anchoring and very helpful when you are sailng where you shouldn't be

I have a rickety CRT sounder called a Marinetek that works nicely, but takes power and room. There are better options.

Current NOAA or Admiralty paper charts. Expensive but no prudent navigator would think of going to sea without them.

Nor will I.

Plotting tools. I use a Jeppeson aviation style rotating plotter/protractor and a Field Artillery plotting square, a 18" steel ruler and a set of traditional brass dividers. #4 pencils don't smear like #2s do. These work for me because I'm used to them and know how to use them. (My life story can come later) I don't like parallel rulers or yachtman's plotters but you might find they suit you. Use what works for you but be damned sure you know how to use the tools that you choose.

Both the wife and I have taken plenty of nav courses and I do mostly GPS-less coastal pilotage here in chartbooks, taking bearings, 60 D Street and such. I also known and keep up my celestial nav skills with a Freiberger and a Astra III B sextant.

Tide and current tables. Paper, not on your laptop. (Again, electronic is OK for planning but it is not a substitute for a book printed on paper)

This is a weak spot for me, as Lake Ontario has currents, but "seiche" is as close to tides as we get. I will need to experience tides around Nova Scotia next year, if, as planned, we do a shakedown cruise down East prior to heading to Panama.

Good quality binoculars. 7X50

WWII Carl Zeiss 10 X 50s, Tasco 7 x 50s, a cheap 4 x 30, Bushell birders' glasses and an old rangefinder I found in the club house garbage. I use the Zeisses and the birders' glasses the most, as the Zeisses can make out buoy numbers at a ridiculous distance, but the birders' glasses are good at taking in a large sweep of water.

Hand bearing compass.

Yep, a Davis pistol grip model plus the aforementioned Suunto watch bearing compass.

A good stong hand held spotlight with it's own battery, not one that depends on the ships power.

Yes, two Garrity 6V lanterns, plus a 3V halogen addition to the "auto spot light" off ship's power or off the emergency power pack/inverter I carry (a 700W model I got prior to the Honda generator).

Log. A device that tells you your speed through the water. Record speed, time and compass heading in your Logbook or deck log at regular intervals to determine your DR position.

The GPSes do this quite well, and we keep hourly logs from which we derive set and drift, etc. DR positions are customarily kept and then compared with bearings taken from the shore (when it's visible) or against GPS reports. I plan to add celestial-derived positioning into the mix in order to add another element this summer.

Chronometer. Really a good wristwatch will do and I don't mean a Rolex. We each have a Rolex and neither of them keep good enough time for navigation. Any decent quartz watch will be superior. If it has a stopwatch function so much the better.

I do, and it does. Plus a recording barometer, probably the function I use the most. I adjust it to UTC via the national observatory, and/or an Internet site with atomic clock numbers. The variance over six months is at most, one second, which probably has to do more with my reaction time during the initial setting than the watch wandering.

Logbook. To record our position fixes to facilitate dead (Or ded) reckoning.

I keep a dual log of positional and maintenance information. I only know a few people on Lake Ontario who even keep a log at all, but it's how I determine oil change intervals, weather states, total sailing days, etc.

Any additional information about your cruising grounds you can get. Charlie's Charts, Wagonners, Yachtsman's chart books, whatever.

Yep! I've got to read something in the head.

Sextant. Eh... not so much. For the price of one cheap sextant you can buy two cheap GPS units that will be far more accurate than any position you can get with a sextant from the deck of a small boat, and by "Small boat" I mean anything under 200 feet on deck. (On Endeavour, 151 ft LOA, the best I could do was a cocked hat ten miles across. My GPS 76 typically gives a position within one boatlength of my Vega27) Bear in mind also that, on our recent Pacific crossing we did not see the sun, let alone moon or stars, for five weeks. Sextant's no good under those conditions Buckwheat. Then there are the tables and almanac you will need along with the sextant. Skip the sextant and buy three handheld GPS units and plenty of batteries with the money you save. Keep a log and fall back on DR in the unlikely event that all three of your GPS units fail.

OK, I admit I have a sextant, and HO 249 and almanac. Mostly I use the sextant turned sideways to take bearings for coastal navigation. Then check my position plot with the GPS.

Whoops! Looks like I got off on a tangent there. Sorry I just thought I had something to say and my fingers went off on their own. Not aimed at anyone in particular you understand. Well, not after I got started on navigation anyway. It's just that I have strong feelings about computer based navigation. All well and good until the batteries go flat or the salt spray gets into the works then it's a dark and stormy night and the laptop won't reboot and that's when the screaming starts. And it's "My mother warned me not to go to sea!", and "What do you MEAN you don't have a satelite phone?!?!?!?" and then it's "What'll we DOOOoooooooooooo!!!!!!!?!?!?!? and that's when the cat stars wailing and throwing up in your slippers.

Now, If it was me, I would calmly light up a cigar (Punch double corona, maduro, of course), fire up my number two or three GPS unit, verify my DR plot on my paper chart and authoritatively say "Bring in the Jenny and hoist the number 2 jib. Take another reef in the main and lay 'er on the starboard tack at 040."

But that's just me.

Heh. Well, the sextant comes out sideways for that coastal pilotage I mentioned, and for getting a height of something on shore to determine distance off. It's superior to a bearing compass in many situations. Part of having them, however, is for the challenge of mastering the skill, the challenge of doing the math and staying comfortable with the tables, and the way in which a noonsight breaks up the nautical day. We are taking a kid, who will need daily lessons via correspondence materials, and 20 minutes of sextant work before lunch is a way to pass on a skill while providing a bit of a break on passage. Not to mention that doing SHA/star work at night is a hell of a way to teach astronomy, and, if the math skills are up to it, there's always the opportunity to do lunars.

GPS is a great way to *confirm* a position...but it too, can be off: I've seen with my own eyes a significant correction to a GPS display even while it was reporting a good contact with four satellites. Briefly, my boat was doing 130 knots SOG, until I learned I was four miles SSW of where I'd been seconds before! Thanks to pilotage, I knew that the GPS system itself was "having a moment", (I had two GPSes on, and they both went briefly mental) which is why I like to have as many sources of information as possible, like following a 10 fathom contour line, for instance.

Thanks for the comments. I didn't list everything above beforehand because I just assume that's standard. Maybe I'm naive...
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