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halyardz 01-26-2002 01:42 AM

USPS Courses--Issues
I''ve been taking some USPS courses, now in piloting. Overall, I''ve been quite pleased with the local instruction but the texts seem out of date...example, GPS is not covered very much...BUT working with TRUE is.

They also have what appears to be a test question generator that is random, so you can wind up with 3 questions of "wooden boats" or Western River nav, but only one on

Making suggestions to the various committees doesn''t yield much. Text updates are years in coming and when they do arrive, they seem
woefully out of step. The local instructors have to provide info the texts should cover.

Am I the only one that is frustrated?

paulk 01-26-2002 03:38 AM

USPS Courses--Issues
USPS will still be around when you and I are mouldering in the grave (or sleeping with the fishes). They will still be focusing ad nauseum on TRUE because the whizbang fad of GPS will have been replaced with a new and better system -- the same way GPS replaced loran. If they updated their books once, they''d have to keep updating them. This would require thinking, (as well as spending money, which they don''t have) and is therefore dangerous. Responses need to be formulaic - from step 1 to the end - and need to work in every situation. Even if the Earth''s magnetic field were to flip or dissipate, there will still be a geographic North Pole for them to use as long as our planet exists. Think long-term and you''ll see that you are not experiencing frustration but an awakening.

You might be better served by forming a study group of like-minded sailors to meet at a local club or library, and setting your own course and speed. US Sailing has some excellent (and more modern) materials that may interest you.

Jeff_H 01-26-2002 04:41 AM

USPS Courses--Issues
I haven''t taken a power squadron course since 1964. (I was 14 at the time and they did not allow kids in their but Dad was freinds with the guy teaching the course and so they let me ''audit the course'', but that''s another story.) At that time they emphaisized that they were trying to give us, who were new to the sport, a foundation on which to build other skills. I would think that even if the courses had not changes and seemed focused on the arcane and anachronistic, (in this electronic age) it is important to understand basic navigation in order to really navigate using a GPS.

Beyond that, as amazingly reliable as my little Garmin GPS has been. There was a night when for no reason that I was aware of, it suddenly could not aquire any satellites. One minute I had a position and the next it was trying to locate a signal. It was no big deal to navigate my way back home, especially here on the Chesapeake, but I used basic navigation skills that I was glad to have.

Like so many things in sailing today. You can elect to only learn a topic superficially or you can elect to learn it in depth. Most times you can get by with a superficial knowledge, and a lot of people do, but then there is that one time when only that piece of esoteric trivia can get your butt out of the sling.

I thought that USPS had added an electronic navigation course to its long list of courses, but even if they haven''t, if you understand navigation, using a GPS is pretty intuitive. I learned how to use my Garmin without ever looking at the instructions because it was so well designed to be innately intuitive.


walt123 01-26-2002 08:08 AM

USPS Courses--Issues
USPS courses offer excellent if sometime dated education on things nautical. There basic piloting and navigation is excellent. Remember these courses are given by volunteers with the same love of water that the neophyte is looking for. Take them and enjoy the community of boaters! You will make many friends and maybe even learn something.

BigRed56 01-26-2002 09:16 AM

USPS Courses--Issues
Ahoye ye knaves I too took the course and have that pretty document to grace me walls in the captains cabin. Be it ever so humble a document it is a place to start. Aye there be a proliferation of old school learning and the company might be more powerminded for the like of us , but they be good lads tried and true and in a pinch and a bad blow tis good to pluck one of the fellows to the safety of a real sailing ship. Mind ye I''s can''t tolerate the authority and chain of command one wit but thats what a Pirate is ye see. ARRH Big Red the Pirate of Pine Island.

bporter 01-26-2002 04:38 PM

USPS Courses--Issues
Several years ago when my wife and I were taking the Chapman School''s "Offshore Sailing" course, the skipper/instructor told us a little story...or set of stories as the case may be.

This guy was popping back and forth from Stuart FL to the Bahamas fairly regularly as part of teaching the course. He mentioned that every few months or so, he''s have a radio coversation that went something like:

<SOME BOAT OVER VHF - call her "GPS Queen"> "Eastbound white sailboat in the Gulf Stream, this is GPS Queen"

SHADY LADY - "This is Shady Lady"
GPS QUEEN - "Where are you headed?"
SHADY LADY - "Port Lucaya, Bahamas"
GPS QUEEN - "Can we follow you in?"

Inevitably, someone would drop the handheld GPS overboard, run out of AA batteries or in some way screw the sattelite nav system. Then, having no clue about Dead Reckoning, and not having maintained a DR course on a paper chart, they''d have no clue where they were.

Moral of the story - every hour during the passage we made a DR note on the chart. We''d check them against the GPS periodically, but if we lost the GPS we still would have made port just fine.

So, even though GPS navigation is getting pretty simple and almost any fool can figure it out in fifteen minutes you can still get into trouble if you don''t learn the "archaic & anachronistic" fundamentals.

I still want to learn how to do Celestial Navigation, just for the perverse fun of it...

halyardz 01-27-2002 03:54 AM

USPS Courses--Issues
Don''t get me wrong, I really find the local USPS instruction outstanding and I agree one must learn DR, piloting basics, and so on. My source of frustration is not with them or the basics...its with the boys at national that organize the course materials, create the tests, and so on. Some of the material should be optional, like wooden boats, Western Rivers and they should be quicker to respond to the changes. If you don''t teach GPS and focus on celestial, you are doing a dis-service. They have an affirmative responsibility to catch up.

bporter 01-27-2002 12:45 PM

USPS Courses--Issues
True - they shouldn''t completely neglect somthing like GPS. But navigation fundamentals are more important, GPS is just a tool. Should be addressed, but NOT at the expense of basic nav skills.

Frankly, I think Celestial is more important to teach in a classroom setting than soemthing like satelite nav, if you''re going to teach only one tool. Most GPS''s today are pretty foolproof - if you understand navigation then figuring out how to use the GPS takes 15 minutes with the instruction book. Older ones are a little trickier, but I can plot a course from my East Greenwich RI to Nantucket on my Garmin GPSMap 76 within in couple of minutes, AND without a chart if I am feeling pretty stupid.

Of course things like learning about the care & feeding of wooden boats doesn''t make sense at all. At least not as part of a USPS "core curriculum". Sure, there are plenty of people that love the smell of varnish more than life itself out there, but the vast majority of us have plastic...

HHJ 01-28-2002 05:04 AM

USPS Courses--Issues
I''ve been taking the USAPS courses for a number of years now - I''ve earned a JN for celestial navigation. In my years of taking the courses, I have not found an emphasis on wooden boats or western rivers or anything else along those lines. While national does write the tests and textbooks (which were updated within the last 2 years) much of the flavor of the courses rest with the individual squadron.

I found that my instructors gave a nod toward GPS (and Loran) where appropriate, but always with a caution and also with the advice that you can learn it easily from the instruction manual; they were not going waste classroom time on something you could do just as easily yourself.

The first squadrom I joined consisted mostly of power-boaters, so I looked around and found another local squadron that was 80% sailors, and it did make a difference. Depending on where you live, you may not have a choice, but check around.

halyardz 02-03-2002 12:07 AM

USPS Courses--Issues
I agree with you guys. The texts are basically pretty good, if dated, and that you learn a good deal from instructors...and HHJ, we do have a heavy % of sailors in our Squadron. My comments were made in the spirit of making a good thing better but also a nudge that the organization is terribly slow to change.

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