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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation > Overuse of technology
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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Topic Review (Newest First)
06-30-2014 04:29 PM
nolatom
Re: Overuse of technology

how did folks (my dad the yacht broker, and the new owners) trust a 17 year-old kid and his friend to deliver their new 30-footer from Marblehead down to an unfamiliar harbor on Buzzards Bay? But they did. no radio, compass "to be compensated after the delivery", no depth sounder, nothing but compass, charts and DR. Boston Lightship was my first "buoy" on this long buoy-hop. And I had to figure out when to leave and arrive so the Cape Cod Canal would be fair current. No cell phones either, you were just plumb out of touch til you got there and phoned home from shore.

I had taken Power Squadrons at age 14, it was invaluable. And I had been sailing since age 8, and I believed I could do it, and it turned out I could. But the technology I had was about the same as what sailors had had for 400 years.

Fast-forward almost 50 years. I had picked up a small Coast Guard license along the way, and was drafted a fill-in second captain on the night watch on a 100' dive boat with 30 souls sleeping as I took her out from Texas to the Stetson Bank sanctuary offshore. All the electronics of a large ship--AIS, two radars, two GPS sets, ECDIS with AIS overlay, autopilot, three radios-- plus 3 engines and 1800 hp (me who thinks 45 hp is really a lot). And, oh, a compass, almost forgot ;-)

And yet--you still have to remember to *look out the windows* now and again, and not get mesmerized by these multiple "maritime TV sets". Not every other vessel (or platform) has AIS radio, radar, etc, etc, or even lights sometimes, or makes a discernible radar target.

So technology is good, as well as a possible distraction or even a source of possible error. And "old school" is not to be forgotten, if you went to one. On the delivery trips up to Rye or Portsmouth NH from Mass Bay, if the fog rolled in and I had not just a questionable compass, but the latest fad--a depth sounder! I could after sailing north from Cape Ann, make the left turn to shore early, watch the depth, turn right at 40 feet, then keep her at 40 heading north until I saw or heard the Seabuoy off Rye Harbor. Shazam! In the old days they would use a sounding lead, and effectively too.

Old is good. New is good. Sailing is good. Being entrusted with someone else's pride and joy is a big responsibility--but good. ;-)
06-30-2014 03:26 PM
tdoster
Re: Overuse of technology

People with less than adequate skills have been on the water since long before GPS. You can't fix that.

I somewhat disagree that you can overuse technology. Even the days before inexpensive technology, we learned to use multiple sources and senses to find our way.

Cruising guide can be worth it's weight in gold, but paper charts are a waste of space when there are electronic versions on the cell phone, laptop, ipad, Plotter, AIS, Radar, etc. I have yet to hear an argument that is not already mitigated.

They have been moved to dry land along with the Sextant and my old trusty slide-rule. Common sense, prudence, and good planning never give way to technology, just enhance it.
03-20-2011 11:52 AM
jackdale
Quote:
Originally Posted by L124C View Post
I do, but wouldn't have the stones to put it into practice on the approach to the SF Gate in fog (for example)! 6 knot currents, rocks and bridge...OH MY! I don't care how good you are, it's a guesstimate right? Oh yeah,,,did I mention the TANKERS? Nope, I'm throwing out the hook (obviously, not in the channel), or staying out (possibly Hove To) until it clears.
I know you have your share of current and obstacles up there (BC right?)....Would you thread the needle in the fog using those techniques?
You are correct. I would everything at my disposal. When I in a a high traffic area I would also monitor the appropriate vessel traffic services and use my radar. GPS and chartplotter do not show other vessels.

Set and drift are essential tools in planning. For example if I am leaving Vancouver and heading for the Gulf Islands I need to plan ahead to determine which of the passes I am going to transit. A 1 knot flood in Georgia Strait can knock off 20% of my boat speed if I am heading south to Porlier Pass. I am late to Porlier I really have no options as there are no anchorages or marinas in the vicinity. If that route proves untenable, then I can go over to Gabriola Pass which does have a marina and anchorage nearby. But in each case I can plan on what time I need to leave Vancouver.

Set and drift are not useful in threading needles, but they can assist in determining which needle to thread.
03-20-2011 09:35 AM
P35juniper
Quote:
Originally Posted by alanporter View Post
A GPS should simply confirm what you already know.
Well said
03-20-2011 07:02 AM
Minnewaska Technology, as a rule, makes far fewer deviations or mistakes than a human. The human is there to identify and correct those few deviations or mistakes. Neither operate consistently well without the other.
03-19-2011 09:35 PM
fallard A compass is great if you are the only uncharted object in the area. If you are knowledgeable about local currents and are competent at dead reckoning, you can get by. But a compass (or GPS) won't tell you about the sailor who's parked in open water at anchor, nor will it tell you about the tugboat hauling a barge on a 1/2 mile hawse line (a frequent scenario in our home waters). The tugboat scenario is particularly scary. You might sight the tugboat, but not the barge, which might not be tracking directly behind the tug due to current and wind. Nor will you see the hawse line below the surface. In thick fog (<1/8 mile visibility) you need to worry about these things plus the yahoo in his powerboat doing 20+kts. I've seen too many large powerboats taking evasive turns in fog to ignore the risks they present. At least 2 of them did so in response to my securite call in reaction to seeing them (on radar) closing on me!

L124C is right on about knowing how to use your radar--it isn't as easy as some folks think. You need to practice in clear weather to understand the different kinds of returns you get from different kinds of vessels and other objects. The electronic bearing line is a particularly effective tool to determine whether you are on a collision course. I use it in places like Massachusetts Bay to evaluate closing situations in clear weather--let alone fog. It's also fun for sailors to use radar to determine gain or loss against other sailboats on the same tack.
03-19-2011 09:06 PM
alanporter A GPS should simply confirm what you already know.
03-19-2011 09:04 PM
L124C
Quote:
Originally Posted by jackdale View Post
How many folks still know how to compensate for set and drift, and leeway?
I do, but wouldn't have the stones to put it into practice on the approach to the SF Gate in fog (for example)! 6 knot currents, rocks and bridge...OH MY! I don't care how good you are, it's a guesstimate right? Oh yeah,,,did I mention the TANKERS? Nope, I'm throwing out the hook (obviously, not in the channel), or staying out (possibly Hove To) until it clears.
I know you have your share of current and obstacles up there (BC right?)....Would you thread the needle in the fog using those techniques?
03-19-2011 08:49 PM
sailordave
Quote:
Originally Posted by L124C View Post
I agree with every point you made sailordave except for this one. A compass does not compensate for the effects of wind or tide on a vessel's course. It simply tells you in which direction the boat is pointed. This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: "When fog descends, an anchor becomes a navigational device. It keeps you in a place where you are not sinking". I don't have GPS and therefore can't talk about using it in fog. However, I would trust it much more than a Compass. I do have a compass (of course), and anchor. I'll be choosing an anchor in fog. Having SF Bay as my home port, I would have thought fog would have been more of an issue as a recreational skipper than it has been. If it was a frequent issue, I still think my weapon of choice would be radar. Most of my dock mates who have radar say they have rarely, if ever, used it. It's my understanding that this in itself, can be a problem when it is used, as it takes practice to use effectively. If I had to work on the bay,or was cruising, I would have all four "navigational devices" at my disposal.

Yeah, on a SAILBOAT I would tend to think maybe the anchor would be the first thing to use! AFA the compass I was thinking about a friend that used to take a small boat out into the Great Lakes to fish. Didn't think they needed anything onboard til his Dad said what if it gets foggy? In that case (having a motorized boat that isn't making 4 knots) the compass is pretty much all you need. Don't have to worry as much about set and drift if you're moving faster. (and don't even start the arguement about how fast you should or shouldn't be going in fog! )

I know from my sailing last Summer going across the Bay of Fundy to NS it was real nice having A) a pilothouse! B) RADAR C) automatic foghorn
03-19-2011 07:39 PM
pdqaltair I've pulled 2 boats off that were using GPS to navigate a channel in good daylight. They were watching the chart plotter, not the color of the water.

One of them ran on the same spot 5 minutes later; he couldn't believe the GPS was wrong (it wasn't--the channel moved).
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