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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 03-18-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by L124C View Post
A compass does not compensate for the effects of wind or tide on a vessel's course. It simply tells you in which direction the boat is pointed.
How many folks still know how to compensate for set and drift, and leeway?
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  #12  
Old 03-18-2011
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Got this link from CF

http://www.noonsite.com/Members/val/R2011-03-09-2

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Old 03-18-2011
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This thread is misnamed. It isn't about the overuse of technology, but the misuse of technology associated with the underuse or lack of brains.

I started out as a Luddite, sailing a boat that didn't even have an electrical system. I would go on short trips anchoring at night and sailing in daylight. We had a handheld VHF from the start, and as time went on, a handheld LORAN, a battery and running lights, cabin lights, and electric bilge pump were added. We had a good compass, charts, and Eldridges tide tables (for New England waters). We got caught plenty of times in fog that crept in on Block Island Sound, but were smug about the accuracy of our dead reckoning in acquiring passages in the reefs southwest of Watch Hill.

Then we moved up to a real cruising boat with sailing instruments, plotting LORAN and GPS, and autopilot. Sailing was a lot more enjoyable, but you had to know how to use all this stuff--not just what the buttons did, but how all this stuff plays out in the real world. (Your GPS doesn't know about currents, but it does know where you are over the bottom, so you want to use this new information and plug it into your dead reckoning process.) We learned, for example how to finesse the currents into and out of the eastern end of Fishers Island sound. Before then, we didn't know the current vectors took a decided turn in the area of the reefs--Eldridges tables and charts were too coarse.)

Then we added radar. What an eye-opener. We thought we'd supplement our early plotter (non charting version) for navigation purposes, but what we found was that it was much more useful for avoiding other boats and ships--not only in the fog! We also realized how vulnerable we had been--pre-radar--to unseen idiots moving through the fog at unreasonably high speeds. We also used it to be aware of those folks who simply drop their anchors in channels in the fog. Long story short: We use 2 charting displays when caught in a fog. One is for a radar watch, and the other is for regular navigation. (Our newer displays (2010) will allow a radar/chart overlay, but if you are using the radar for self-defense, the picture is less confusing with separate displays.)

As time moved on, our electronics advanced and we had an integrated sailing instruments, chartplotters, radar, and autopilot system. We had left the Luddite days in the long ago past. Now we didn't have to pick off waypoints with divider and calculator to enter a new waypoint. We could simply move a cursor and click. Our integrated autopilot/chartplotter system could show us the effect of time-varying currents on our sailing strategy and alert us to a condition leading to a stall in close hauled mode. All the while, we were verifying the accuracy of our electronic charts, sometimes by means of comparison with paper charts to reconcile channel location with respect to buoys. (We actually had a situation in home waters where the channel was indicated outside the buoys. We used our radar and paper chart to determine the buoys were accurately placed and the channel was in error--but this was a no-brainer in home waters!)

All that said, we have had 2 lightning strikes that took out all of our electronics in an instant--actually, 2 separate instants, 10 years apart. The silver lining in this cloud was that we replaced our electronics with then-current electronics, which amounts to significant technology upgrades. At the same time, we became acutely aware that you had better have current paper charts and a good compass and know how to use them.

Unfortunately, it is too easy for some folks to be over-reliant on technology and be totally lost in a lightning strike situation or due to another kind of electronic malfunction. And then there are the folks who never understood the limitations of their technology or its proper use in the first place--like th kayaker at the beginning of this string. Proper use of technology can add significantly to your safety and sailing knowledge. We're better sailors for all this technology, as long as we understand how to use it properly and how to manage when it malfunctions.
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Old 03-19-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fallard View Post
This thread is misnamed. It isn't about the overuse of technology, but the misuse of technology associated with the underuse or lack of brains.

Well....against my nature, I was trying to be diplomatic!

All that said, we have had 2 lightning strikes that took out all of our electronics in an instant--actually, 2 separate instants, 10 years apart. The silver lining in this cloud was that we replaced our electronics with then-current electronics, which amounts to significant technology upgrades. At the same time, we became acutely aware that you had better have current paper charts and a good compass and know how to use them.

I wonder how many "digital natives" (learned the term on NPR!) will take the time to learn the basics. My hunch is they will have little patience for it.

Unfortunately, it is too easy for some folks to be over-reliant on technology and be totally lost in a lightning strike situation or due to another kind of electronic malfunction. And then there are the folks who never understood the limitations of their technology or its proper use in the first place--like th kayaker at the beginning of this string. Proper use of technology can add significantly to your safety and sailing knowledge. We're better sailors for all this technology, as long as we understand how to use it properly and how to manage when it malfunctions.
Well said. A thoughtful informative post (which I shortened here)!

Last edited by L124C; 03-19-2011 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 03-19-2011
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I've pulled 2 boats off that were using GPS to navigate a channel in good daylight. They were watching the chart plotter, not the color of the water.

One of them ran on the same spot 5 minutes later; he couldn't believe the GPS was wrong (it wasn't--the channel moved).
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Old 03-19-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by L124C View Post
I agree with every point you made sailordave except for this one. A compass does not compensate for the effects of wind or tide on a vessel's course. It simply tells you in which direction the boat is pointed. This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: "When fog descends, an anchor becomes a navigational device. It keeps you in a place where you are not sinking". I don't have GPS and therefore can't talk about using it in fog. However, I would trust it much more than a Compass. I do have a compass (of course), and anchor. I'll be choosing an anchor in fog. Having SF Bay as my home port, I would have thought fog would have been more of an issue as a recreational skipper than it has been. If it was a frequent issue, I still think my weapon of choice would be radar. Most of my dock mates who have radar say they have rarely, if ever, used it. It's my understanding that this in itself, can be a problem when it is used, as it takes practice to use effectively. If I had to work on the bay,or was cruising, I would have all four "navigational devices" at my disposal.

Yeah, on a SAILBOAT I would tend to think maybe the anchor would be the first thing to use! AFA the compass I was thinking about a friend that used to take a small boat out into the Great Lakes to fish. Didn't think they needed anything onboard til his Dad said what if it gets foggy? In that case (having a motorized boat that isn't making 4 knots) the compass is pretty much all you need. Don't have to worry as much about set and drift if you're moving faster. (and don't even start the arguement about how fast you should or shouldn't be going in fog! )

I know from my sailing last Summer going across the Bay of Fundy to NS it was real nice having A) a pilothouse! B) RADAR C) automatic foghorn
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Old 03-19-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackdale View Post
How many folks still know how to compensate for set and drift, and leeway?
I do, but wouldn't have the stones to put it into practice on the approach to the SF Gate in fog (for example)! 6 knot currents, rocks and bridge...OH MY! I don't care how good you are, it's a guesstimate right? Oh yeah,,,did I mention the TANKERS? Nope, I'm throwing out the hook (obviously, not in the channel), or staying out (possibly Hove To) until it clears.
I know you have your share of current and obstacles up there (BC right?)....Would you thread the needle in the fog using those techniques?
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Old 03-19-2011
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A GPS should simply confirm what you already know.
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Old 03-19-2011
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A compass is great if you are the only uncharted object in the area. If you are knowledgeable about local currents and are competent at dead reckoning, you can get by. But a compass (or GPS) won't tell you about the sailor who's parked in open water at anchor, nor will it tell you about the tugboat hauling a barge on a 1/2 mile hawse line (a frequent scenario in our home waters). The tugboat scenario is particularly scary. You might sight the tugboat, but not the barge, which might not be tracking directly behind the tug due to current and wind. Nor will you see the hawse line below the surface. In thick fog (<1/8 mile visibility) you need to worry about these things plus the yahoo in his powerboat doing 20+kts. I've seen too many large powerboats taking evasive turns in fog to ignore the risks they present. At least 2 of them did so in response to my securite call in reaction to seeing them (on radar) closing on me!

L124C is right on about knowing how to use your radar--it isn't as easy as some folks think. You need to practice in clear weather to understand the different kinds of returns you get from different kinds of vessels and other objects. The electronic bearing line is a particularly effective tool to determine whether you are on a collision course. I use it in places like Massachusetts Bay to evaluate closing situations in clear weather--let alone fog. It's also fun for sailors to use radar to determine gain or loss against other sailboats on the same tack.
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Old 03-20-2011
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Technology, as a rule, makes far fewer deviations or mistakes than a human. The human is there to identify and correct those few deviations or mistakes. Neither operate consistently well without the other.
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