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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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  #11  
Old 11-20-2006
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Paper charts still essential

Just to correct a couple of misrepresentations.
Of course, if you are "piloting" in a channel the notation on the chart of every buoy passed is not essential. But mentally recording it is necessary for radio traffic and the minute visibility is reduced you'd be well advised to have a paper plot; how can you dead reckon without one?
Merchant ships still use paper charts and probably always will. A lot of sailors think that those merchant ships have all the bells and whistles because they can afford it. Actually, it's not unusual to find a good size yacht with more navigational gadgets than a merchant ship. I sailed with the first Sperry steering stands that would integrate with satellite navigation. We never used it after some casual playing around with it. It lost course when the sat/nav dropped signal and was more trouble than just plotting a position and setting the course. Merchant mariners are slow to change. We use what works, but it has to be convenient and reliable. We get a fix, from satellite, bearings, or stars, and we plot it. Now it's on paper, and when the lights go out we've still got our position recorded.
Adam328 makes my point exactly. If I understand him correctly, he's navigating with his GPS and chartplotter and not using his chart unless he "needs" it. What he fails to realize is that by the time he needs it, it's too late. I know of no electronic aid that provides a signal that it's about to go Tango Uniform; they just quit working. Without plotting your position on the chart you don't know where you are when it quits, other than in a vague way. The practise of marine navigation is boring and repetetive. We plot positions all the way up the bay, just to erase them, and plot new ones going down the bay. But when things go wrong, as they inevitably do, your dead-reckoning is only as good as your most recent plotted fix. Charts at home are good for passage planning and perhaps you'll memorize the characteristics of some important lights, but when a light goes dark (and they do) you need to be able to glance at your chart for the lights you didn't memorize.
Technology is great, the reliance of the amatuer seafarer on it is not. That same Sperry steering stand was illuminated by LEDs-the latest thing! Well, when they died three months out of New York, we had no illumination until returning to New York and receiving a whole new touch screen pad. We got by, but the old stand was illuminated with 50 cent red light bulbs and if you were out of red, we'd paint 'em. So we replaced a $600 pad for what 6 cheap light bulbs had done previously! Automobile instrument clusters went through the same debacle. Most people don't want to have to replace an entire expensive circuit board just to fix their fuel guage light.
I am not a Luddite, I just believe that the first responsibility is to say, "what if it stops working?" Usually, we fall back on what we did before such marvelous machines were invented.
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Old 11-20-2006
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The recurring theme here is that electronic navigation aids can (and do) become inoperable due to several reasons.

What nobody has mentioned yet about paper charts is that they, too, can fail. Notably when you bring one on deck (i.e. to compare some land features) and a sudden gust of wind catches under the leading edge... goodbye chart and I hope I refreshed the batteries on the old GPS.

What this does boil down to, in my mind, is redundancy in critical systems. Fortunately paper charts don't often go AWOL and GPS handheld systems have become cheap.
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Ditto sailaway 21 on commercial vessels. All those that I have direct experience with carry THOUSANDS of paper charts. Same for cost no object luxury yachts with extensive electronics, large generators and many redundant backups. (Three mounted gps units plus personal handhelds of individual crew on our boat and we still plot on paper every half hour whether day tripping or passagemaking.) Paper charts are not going anywhere. The surveys are done, printing is cheap and they must make a couple of bucks on them.
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Old 11-20-2006
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You're far better off doing the plotting on the paper charts and then checking it occasionally with the electronic aids. If they don't agree, time to take some new LOPs.
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Old 11-20-2006
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probably a good plan...
If I ever upgrade to a cruising sailboat I will try to keep the electronics simple
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  #16  
Old 11-21-2006
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You'd have to figure that whether 'we' like it or not paper charts will eventually become extinct. More and more craft rely solely on electronics and this will reduce the number of charts sold plus more and more craft only have phtocopies of the real thing anyway. When we bought the old girl she came with sundry charts of the East Australian coast and not one of them was an original. One would have to think that eventually it will simply not be economic to produce the paper chart at a 'reasonable' price. Damn they are hellishly expensive now.
As for distributing charts only on CD and you can print them yourself, how many people have got a printer capable of handling a full size admiralty chart ?
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Can't say what smaller countries might do but US Canada and Britain for example are unlikely to stop printing charts because they don't sell as many as they used to. Commercial shipping is not close to stopping the use of them and they are still quite cheap to produce. Worst case they will just keep increasing the price (didn't they double in the last 5 years in US and Can?). Paper charts are still necessary for the safe operation of a vessel in my not always so humble opinion.
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Now that I think about it there are print to order outfits around that take the responsibility off the shoulders of the Govs. These are surely turning a profit.
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http://www.oceangrafix.com/agent_search.php
Something like this. Sorry that was three posts. I'll try to collect my thoughts better in the future.
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Old 11-21-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yotphix
http://www.oceangrafix.com/agent_search.php
Something like this. Sorry that was three posts. I'll try to collect my thoughts better in the future.
While you're out collecting your thoughts would you mind having a quiet search for mine ? They have a tendancy to wander of by themselves and are constantly getting lost.

When I said that about the extinction of paper charts I didn't mean in the near future but I do worry that inevitably it will happen. I certainly hope not that's for sure. For me I'd be quite happy with a GPS that simply gave me my lattitude and longitude and left the rest up to me. In other words the GPS simply becomes a user friendly alternative to the sextant. I'd certainly never go offshore without a sextant but would probably rely on a calculator to do the maths which in reality is only one step away from total reliance on electronics after all.

We can only wait and see I guess.

Cheers

Andrew
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