Monday, 13 February 2012

Electronic Navigation

Talking to fellow sailors and students, it is worrying that there appears to be an over reliance on technology. With the accuracy of modern GPS its hard not to rely on it but when I hear of people running aground in areas clearly marked on the charts as shallow, I have to question the logic in putting your confidence (and lives) in the hands of the little electric box. Surely common sense and your own eyes should at least prompt you to double check your position if the shoreline appears closer than it should, even if the gadget tells you, you are fine.
Passage planning and basic navigation should form the backbones of any trip, regardless of where you are and the distance you intend to travel. Solas regulations also require us to record our trip .i.e. fill in the ships log. The answer is simple, plan and monitor your outings on the water, pre-plan, identify hazards, set a safe depth and make regularly entries in the log. Whilst you there, pop a mark on the papre chart and look around to confirm that you are seeing what you should be.
If its been a while since you practiced traditional navigation skills, brush up with a 2 day Basic Navigation or 5 day Day/Coastal Skipper shorebased theory courses. Navigation is like any skill, no matter how competent you were, if you don't practice frequently those skills will slip away. Enjoy the challenges of seamanship and arrive safely at your destination, I am not saying throw the GPS away, but get back into the habit of using depth contours, 3 point fix and landmarks to help you on your way. With a little extra attention and effort we can all stay safe on the water and enjoy letting those everyday stresses slip away. Who know's you may even enjoy the challenges of using the traditional techniques.

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