traditional navigators - Page 2 - SailNet Community
Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.

LinkBack Thread Tools
post #11 of 15 Old 10-05-2013
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: BC coast
Posts: 383
Thanks: 10
Thanked 24 Times in 23 Posts
Rep Power: 5
Re: traditional navigators

Traditional navigation was practiced in many was by many peoples for thousand’s of years.
Most was down to having been there before, Though there was always a few individuals who would go forth and explore where no one had gone before. Probably a lot did not come back while we remember those who did.
If they were wealthy powerful aristocratic or supported by the crown or the church.
For most they just came and went and nobody paid any attention.
The Phoenicians
The Greeks
The Romans
The Vikings
had no compass.
They knew the stars.
The had a means of determining angles.
They knew the main island and weather patterns. Currents. They could recognise hazards sometimes. Or they did not come back.
The Arabs knew of the monsoons, as did the Indians and the Indonesians
Seasonally trading by Dhow to East Africa and India was still going on until the 1970’s and early 80’s
Indonesian Prows were still trading to the island back then.

My Uncle, went to sea in a sailing fishing vessel in the early 30’s at the age of 14. He had been fishing as a boy in open row boats. Finding his way by traditional local knowledge and methods.

He later went to sea as an Ordinary Seaman
In 1942 he was torpedoed on a ship carrying Iron ore, He had just come of watch as QM, and was near a lifeboat. He cut the rope section of the falls with an axe. Picked up 14 other survivors.

He later served on another ship as QM. I cant remember the name, approaching the west of Scotland on a dark night.
He told the officer of the watch the were out of position and heading for the rocks. He could hear the seas breaking. And feel the change in the ships motion.
The OOW did not believe him, he left the bridge to call the Capt. who did. And ordered the ship stopped immediately they turned 180 and steamed slowly on a reciprocal course.
At first light they were just a couple of miles off the Torran Rocks at the south end of the Isle of Mull.

He next time out he sailed as the Uncertified 3/O.
He retired as a MM and Captain.
I knew him as an old man.
He came fishing with my Dad brother and I in a small open boat. We were fishing in or local water with no thoughts to navigation lifejackets or anything but fishing.
We head for an area we often caught fish. Just before we got there he suddenly sat up and said we have to get out of here were on to of a rock. There was a big swell at the time but not a lot of wind.
He grabbed the other set of oars and pulled hard with me until we were in his judgement we cleared.
He showed us the difference in the wave pattern that had altered him. Even though we assured him there was no rock. But we avoided the spot the rest of the night.
The next day my dad went and invested in a chart.
We looked at the chart and confirmed there certainly was a rock only a fathom deep at low water.
We had fished over it many times though probably not right at low water with a big swell before that day.

I cant claim to have any of the kind of knowledge he had. But I certainly believe it existed.
Slayer likes this.

Last edited by Uricanejack; 10-05-2013 at 08:21 PM.
Uricanejack is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
Sponsored Links
post #12 of 15 Old 10-05-2013
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Nanaimo B.C.
Posts: 3,409
Thanks: 3
Thanked 99 Times in 98 Posts
Rep Power: 6
Re: traditional navigators

I've had many experiences where the water just didn't feel right or days of steering by the waves in ice. Smelling the land way offshore. I don't doubt real sailors with a lifetime of survival experience did stuff we put down as fanciful folklore .No doubt there were some losers, we lose about a 100 thousand to the gods of the high way each year but still blithely drive to church or pub.
Capt Len is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #13 of 15 Old 11-29-2013
faiaoaehe's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 33
Thanks: 0
Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
Rep Power: 0
Re: traditional navigators

I think what you are referring to is the practice of Bahamian navigation. This is a system where the locals use the water color to navigate with, dark blue, light blue, brown. They judge the waters by color and navigate around coral heads based on the color. There are none /few aids to navigation as we have in the US.

The Last Navigator, on Pacific Navigation the natives use stars, animal migration habits, birds, as natural navigational aids. Their is also a great deal of knowledge passed on, from generation to generation.

Where my boat is anchored, we know if the birds walking there, you dont want to go there.

Surprising how many people dont notice things like that.
faiaoaehe is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #14 of 15 Old 12-01-2013
Tundra Down
downeast450's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Seal Harbor, Maine
Posts: 1,290
Thanks: 51
Thanked 21 Times in 20 Posts
Rep Power: 10
Re: traditional navigators

There are times when watching the jet planes can help.


Islander-28, Marshall Sandpiper
downeast450 is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook
post #15 of 15 Old 12-01-2013
Senior Member
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 776
Thanks: 158
Thanked 67 Times in 63 Posts
Rep Power: 7
Re: traditional navigators

They're still doing it in Polynesia:
Hawaiian Voyaging Traditions
Polynesian Voyaging Society

Hokulea is going on a circumnavigation; check the pages out. Good stuff.
Multihullgirl is offline  
Quote Quick Reply Share with Facebook

Quick Reply

By choosing to post the reply above you agree to the rules you agreed to when joining Sailnet.
Click Here to view those rules.

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the SailNet Community forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
Please note: After entering 3 characters a list of Usernames already in use will appear and the list will disappear once a valid Username is entered.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Navigators: The Sextant you own and have a License? Boasun Seamanship & Navigation 43 01-03-2014 03:06 PM
Traditional Navigation NeilAW Seamanship & Navigation 35 06-05-2012 04:57 PM
For Celestial Navigators cb32863 Seamanship & Navigation 24 12-13-2010 10:18 PM
ATTN: Celestial Navigators sailteachr Seamanship & Navigation 20 02-28-2005 01:19 AM
Morgan 30 traditional mco Boat Review and Purchase Forum 0 10-15-2002 12:59 PM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome