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Old 01-15-2011
skippertips skippertips is offline
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For the most part--I've seen appalling laziness by captains, both pro and recreational when it comes to backing up the black-box navigation devices. Having crewed on three offshore deliveries this past year, only myself and one other crewmember maintained a plot along with a running navigation log.

As a professional maritime instructor, former director of navigation and seamanship, and veteran Coastie navigator, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of basic navigation as a backup.

I'm not talking popping off sunlines every hour. I'm talking entering or leaving a harbor, making landfall, navigating through islands, making positive identification on aids to navigation or islands to the right, left and ahead.

One captain was using a 1:500,000 scale chart to thread his way through islands. I am always quite pointed about asking a captain if he or she carries and uses nautical charts aboard for piloting waters. The usual answer is "of course!". But once you're out there, it rarely if ever happens.

It's easy to get complacent in your own area of operation. But I tend to believe otherwise. For example...Let's say you're motoring down a busy, narrow channel 50 yards wide. Shoals to the left and right. Some pockets of good water between the shoals. Your engine dies. You need to get out of the channel fast and drop the hook. Which way do you turn? Left? Right?

On your nautical chart, deep-water pockets between the shoals are shown as blobs of white with clearly marked soundings. Good luck trying to find those same areas, with depths clearly shown on any chart plotter!

Enter the strip chart (or a folded nautical chart, or a printed copy of a nautical chart), properly annotated with these areas marked. Pop it on a clipboard with a rubber band and throw it down in a corner of the cockpit. See what I mean? That's easy. Dead simple.

And that's what I have taught and written about for years in small boat navigation or sailing navigation. I believe that in order to convince people to navigate, you have to give them something simple, practical, and something that will work short handed or single handed.

But most important--you have to set the example and practice it yourself, in front of others. That's where captains and skippers really have the responsibility to set an example. Anyone crewing with you will be influenced by how you do things aboard your boat.

Captain John
skippertips.com

Last edited by skippertips; 01-15-2011 at 09:37 AM.
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