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


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  #1  
Old 09-30-2013
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traditional navigators

Does anyone know of an island or group of islands in the Caribbean where mariners sail offshore, either fishing or coasting, without modern navigational equipment; ie, with nothing more than compass, basically? I know fishermen in Tobago and Haiti sail with only compass, but they don't go far. I've heard rumors about Carriacou but can't find info. I think the old Caribbean schooners are all gone. Any help appreciated (this is for a book on navigation). Thanks!
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Old 09-30-2013
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Re: traditional navigators

None as far as I have seen
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Re: traditional navigators

I used to do it in New England in the '60s. We called it 'boat delivery', chuckle chuckle.

But seriously, I suspect the onset of cheap GPS handhelds and even smartphone nav programs have done in the old "just sky" navigators.
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Old 09-30-2013
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Re: traditional navigators

Quote:
Originally Posted by sloop.odyssey View Post
Does anyone know of an island or group of islands in the Caribbean where mariners sail offshore, either fishing or coasting, without modern navigational equipment; ie, with nothing more than compass, basically? I know fishermen in Tobago and Haiti sail with only compass, but they don't go far. I've heard rumors about Carriacou but can't find info. I think the old Caribbean schooners are all gone. Any help appreciated (this is for a book on navigation). Thanks!
Traditional "Island Navigation" was never very much practiced in the Caribbean, simply because the distances between islands are too limited (99% of the time one can see one's destination from one point of departure). For a better sense of the subject, you might look up a copy of David Lewis's book "We The Navigators" which deals with traditional inter-island navigation skills in the Pacific. You might also try doing you research in a good Library rather than on Google. You might find it more rewarding albeit a bit more demanding on your part.
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Old 10-01-2013
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Re: traditional navigators

In Nassau and the islands south you see Haitian's working their sailing cargo boats up and down the chain. Some do not even have a compass.

Fruit and veg going North almost anything vaguely useable going south. Broken freezers bent bikes etc.

About 550 miles of fairly challenging navigation with reefs and bars and many islands which the guide books say to identify with a conspicuous stand of casuarina trees and a red roofed house.
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Old 10-01-2013
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Re: traditional navigators

I know this isn`t exactly in line with the question, but for what it`s worth, +1 for the "We the Navigator`s". I`d also recommend "Emergency Navigation" by David Burch from Starpath.com. Those two books combined are a great read to generate a lot of thinking and ideas.

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Old 10-01-2013
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Re: traditional navigators

Still off the location... in the Pacific in Tonga where these navigators were meant to be I saw absolutely bugger all evidence of them being able to do it now, or even ini the past.

There are no, none or very few fishing boats going outside their protecting reefs, few even use boats except for water taxi type boats. None were heading offshore.

If they had any great knowledge apart from the normal ability to keep direction by the sun and the stars they have lost the lot.
But I dont think they had any such miraculous powers of navigating. One in particular always bugged me as being stupid to believe is the wave patterns around individual islands showing them to the island. Any wave pattern your see you will see the island at the same time. The only chance is it its quite a huge low island and you are just out of sight of it. (As you might if you are west of the east Caribbean islands... but only by 100 miles or so, not 1,000 miles or so. And what use is it in the trades to have missed the island and only realize its there when you are miles past it? Sail back upwind?

Finally, they didnt keep records upwind of how many arrived downwind so we dont know the attrition rate. A raft leaving Hawaii is 50% chance of hitting something if it goes SW. I wonder if 50% survived the voyage?

As for the Caribbean islands I could navigate up and down here with no compass, no binoculars and one eye tied behind my back!

Mark
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Last edited by MarkofSeaLife; 10-01-2013 at 06:07 PM.
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Old 10-01-2013
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Re: traditional navigators

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Originally Posted by MarkofSeaLife View Post
Still off the location... in the Pacific in Tonga where these navigators were meant to be I saw absolutely bugger all evidence of them being able to do it now, or even ini the past.
I guess that is why the book is called the last navigator!

The Last Navigator: Stephen D. Thomas: 9780070645745: Amazon.com: Books The Last Navigator: Stephen D. Thomas: 9780070645745: Amazon.com: Books


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Old 10-04-2013
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Re: traditional navigators

I wonder if Polynesian navigators of old could hear the sound of surf carried long distance by the water more so than by the air. That would help locating the nearby island. But I think they just had bigger balls and were not shying away from big risk journeys. None of us would even think of hunting grizzly bears with a spear, yet people used to do that long time ago.
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Old 10-04-2013
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Re: traditional navigators

Anyone interested in this topic, and of an academic bent, should check out this book. Fantastic read and really explains how Micronesian (and modern) navigation works.

Cognition in the Wild (Bradford Books): Edwin Hutchins: 9780262581462: Amazon.com: Books Cognition in the Wild (Bradford Books): Edwin Hutchins: 9780262581462: Amazon.com: Books


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