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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 07-12-2007
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Navigation/Charting/Plotting Tools?

I've been wondering about what tools I'll need at the nav station. Two I can think of right off: A pair of dividers and either a parallel rule (I think it's called?) or a pair of triangles. Those two will allow me to determine distance and bearing, correct? Watching a Garmin instructional video, there's a guy using a clear plastic, rectangular thing with a half-circle in the middle and all kinds of graduations all over. What's that? Looks like something else I should probably have? (And learn how to use ) Anything else, besides soft lead pencils (what hardness works best?), sharpener and erasers? And charts, of course If I choose to use a mechanical pencil, what thickness works best?

(This is just the Great Lakes I'll be navigating, so I think I can forgo the expense and learning curve of a sextant and celestial navigation for the nonce.)

TIA,
Jim
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SEMIJim-

I'd recommend dividers—the kind that you can open and close with one hand;



a GPS Plotter instead of parallel rules or triangles, which moves up and down the chart without moving laterally.



A protractor is a good idea.



Or a Chart Plotter, if you want to have one item that combines the protractor and the parallel rules.



As for pencils... I would highly recommend using a fairly soft lead, like a 2B, as it will leave darker marks on the chart and is softer so will not damage the chart paper as much as harder leads might. A good gum rubber eraser is also highly recommended. If you use a mechanical pencil, go with either .5 or .7 mm lead, anything larger is going to be hard to mark the chart precisely, and anything smaller is hard to see.

A few other things I've found useful.

1) Post-It flags... are good for keeping track of your position on the chart, without having to constantly mark and erase the chart.

2) A mylar or vellum overlay that is large enough to cover the chart can go a long way to helping you mark the chart without damaging it.

3) A large clear plastic envelope or case can serve the same purpose and serve to protect the charts from spray when used in the cockpit.

4) If you use the clear overlays, a grease pencil is a good way to mark the charts for dangers... since it is very, very, obvious.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 07-12-2007 at 08:37 PM.
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I use a set of dividers (I like the ones that have the option of inserting a pencil lead into one of the arms--Weems and Plath makes a good one) and a parallel rule. Along with a mechanical pencil and a good eraser, these tools have served most of my navigational needs. There are a few cases where a triangle protractor comes in handy, but I rarely use it.

Regards,

Leff
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SD,

The GPS Plotter is a parallel rule, is it not? (Albeit a very nice one .)

Where's a good place to get dividers like those?

Any protractor, or something special? (And what, precisely, do you use it for?)

I really gotta make a navigation book choice...

Thanks,
Jim
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leffklm
I use a set of dividers (I like the ones that have the option of inserting a pencil lead into one of the arms--Weems and Plath makes a good one)
I briefly tried to find dividers at the Weems & Plath site. Ironically, I found their site difficult to navigate! Perhaps I need to download their catalogue?

Quote:
Originally Posted by leffklm
and a parallel rule. Along with a mechanical pencil and a good eraser, these tools have served most of my navigational needs. There are a few cases where a triangle protractor comes in handy, but I rarely use it.
Thanks, Leff. Do you have a suggestion for lead hardness and, since you use a mechanical pencil (I've always preferred them) thickness?

Jim
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Jim-

I'd recommend The Boater's Bowditch as a good book for you to get on navigation. It is a more readable, re-written and edited version of Bowditch's, designed for the small craft navigator specifically.

The GPS Plotter is a parallel rule, but it moves perpendicular to the long axis, rather than at an angle to it... and it has small holes for a pencil tip to fit into at various locations on it. I have one... the only thing I didn't like was the rubber feet...they came off about a week after I started using mine... and had to be replaced.

Defender.com, landfall navigation, west marine, bluewater books, all sell the navigation tools.

If you do use a mechanical pencil on-board, highly recommend you spray it down with Boeshield T9 to prevent it from corroding and jamming. I use the Pilot Vanishing Point mechanical pencils. They have a lead type indicator collar and an extended fine tip that retracts to protect it from breakage or damage. BTW, I generally use HB lead in the mechanical pencils, as it is a bit harder than 2B, so it doesn't break as readily IMHO.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SEMIJim
SD,

The GPS Plotter is a parallel rule, is it not? (Albeit a very nice one .)

Where's a good place to get dividers like those?

Any protractor, or something special? (And what, precisely, do you use it for?)

I really gotta make a navigation book choice...

Thanks,
Jim
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Quote:
Originally Posted by SEMIJim
I briefly tried to find dividers at the Weems & Plath site. Ironically, I found their site difficult to navigate! Perhaps I need to download their catalogue?

Thanks, Leff. Do you have a suggestion for lead hardness and, since you use a mechanical pencil (I've always preferred them) thickness?

Jim

These are the dividers that I use. I use it almost exclusively with the pencil lead in one of the arms (for marking off distances on the chart) instead of dual steel points. I haven't tried the ones that SD mentions, but they can be bought from Weems and Plath also.

Weems Plath Nautical Products; Commercial Grade Marine Navigation Tools and Gifts for Boating Enthusiasts

I haven't paid much attention to the lead hardness or thickness, but like SD mentions, softer leads will be easier on the charts. I tend towards thinner leads since I find it hard to be accurate with thicker lines (0.5mm is nice).

I learned coastal nav. with the ASA 105 text (by Tom Tursi or something like that). I wasn't blown away by the quality of the book, but it got the job done.

Regards,

Leff
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Semi...may I tell you to throw away the parallel rules and plodding over to the compass rose AND most course line drawing. There is a $15 miracle called the Weems and Plath Course protractor that will allow you to plot a course (magnetic or true) between any two points in less than 10 seconds. Buy it and you will shower me with praise!! (G) I did all my navigation chart work in the cockpit in seconds and never used a parallel rule in 6 years of cruising. Next to the miracle cloth this is the holy grail of under $20 must have boat items!! This and some dividers are all you need.


http://us.st11.yimg.com/us.st.yimg.c..._1958_22055106

For those of you who I've made curious...here's the one page "operators manual".
http://www.weems-plath.com/uploaded_...uction.255.pdf
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By Jove, I believe you're right, cam! And at less than half the price of the Weems & Plath GPS Plotter, a real bargain! I think I'll go with that, the dividers/compass Leff recommended, Boater's Bowditch, that SD recommends, one of my good ol' mechanical pencils (mostly plastic, btw, SD) and a good eraser.

My plan is to use the hand-held GPS that's coming with the boat to establish position and plot the course this way--using my GPS/chartplotter/sonar for confirmation/verification.

Thanks, gentlemen, all of you!

Jim

Last edited by SEMIJim; 07-12-2007 at 09:50 PM.
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Good enuf.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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