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Old 01-13-2016, 11:19 PM   #1
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When did you first go out to sea

and how much navigation experience dose one need with today's electronics ?

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Old 01-13-2016, 11:36 PM   #2
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What exactly do you mean by "out to sea?" That's kind of a broad phrase.

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Old 01-13-2016, 11:43 PM   #3
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Not counting ocean fishing in Hawaii which was on a friend's boat and we went out strictly by sight--- there was only a compass on board-- the first time I started boating where navigation was important was in 1987 when my wife and I bought our first "real" boat, a 17' Arima fishing boat, which we still have and use. I installed a compass and eventually installed a "charting" Loran-C. We used the Loran for going out before daybreak.

Not counting navigating an airplane, which I started doing in the 1970s, or the navigation skills my wife learned courtesy of the US Navy, we did not get into true navigation until 1998 when we bought the cabin cruiser we still have in the PNW. When we bought it it had a Loran-C, a radar, and a compass. We immediately installed a then-state-of-the-art GPS plotter. When the radar started to die we replaced it with a Furuno NavNet radar/plotter.

We also added a GPS plotter to the Arima.

We both know how to plot a course on a paper chart and use a compass to follow it. In fact we use a compass today to hold a heading, using the plotters to confirm the heading is still valid as it's the nature of the currents around here to be changing the required heading fairly constantly to maintain a desired course.

But apart from the compass we use electronics exclusively for navigating our boats. But..... we have the relevant paper charts/chart books on our boats and in the cruisers we keep them open at the helm to serve as a "big picture" reference, a role that has been taken over to a degree by our iPads.

As to your question as to whether or not one needs to know how to navigate--- by which I assume you mean draw and plot courses, calculate current corrections, and use a compass to hold headings and follow your courses--- I guess it depends on how much faith one has in the electronics. If one is convinced the electricicals will keep holding hands no matter what, then I guess the electronics are all one needs.

If one prefers to have a Plan B when the risk of potential electronics/electrical problems seems higher than zero, then perhaps knowing how to navigate with alternate means is a good idea.

We put ourselves in this category but it does not mean people who feel that having sufficient redundancy in their electronics is enough are wrong. The right choice is the one an individual feels is the one that's best for that individual.

We actually prefer to have a Plan B and C. Redundancy in electronics and electricity and the ability to use purely mechanical means--- charts, pencils, manual calculators, dividers, etc.
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Old 01-14-2016, 08:17 AM   #4
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When did you first go out to sea
and how much navigation experience dose one need with today's electronics ?

Delivery of my new build 45 ft sail,boat from Belize (then British Honduras) in 1967.

As the Carib is loaded with radio stations a home assembled kit DF radio made the trip easy.

On later trips PR to Norfolk Va a Davis (then) $10.00 plastic sextant for noon sun lines was used.
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Old 01-14-2016, 09:08 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by gaston View Post

1. When did you first go out to sea

2. and how much navigation experience dose one need with today's electronics ?
1. First out to sea - late 1952 or early 53... don't really have clear recollection... Born 4/3/52. Mom and dad would recall, and, next time I'm in Penobscot Bay Maine I'll try to raise them... as they swim with the fishes due to family spreading of their ashes.

2. Enough to make sure you know what you are doing and where you are heading and how to get there safely. Marin said it pretty darn well - see his post #3. I was brought up on compass and plotting out paper charts. Dad could read the stars like a book. Loran eventually became publically available and we used it as back-up to our chart plotting. All chart plot arithmetic was done on paper... always checked and double checked. Depth sounder was very useful and often referred to for general depths as stated on paper charts as well as constantly watched when in shallow waters, so we'd not go a ground. On the bridge, when need be, dad would pilot very slowly into shallow waters and I'd sit beside him giving second to second accounts of any depth changes.

Sun spots could open up and deluge planet Earth with electrical impulses that short out every electrical gizmo in existence (satellites included). Long as I have our 1977 Tollycraft (with no computerization on its basics) and our 1967 Buick Wildcat (with no computerization on it's basics) and our 1985 Chevy 1 ton 4WD pick up (with no computerization in its basics) I feel pretty confident that a compass and paper charts/maps will get us where we want to go... that is, as long as fuel remains available.

And yes, I do believe that modern-day electronics are wonderful, easy to use, accurate pieces of equipment. But, the what if they ever fail factor is always in back of my mind. If so, then I revert to my navigation trainings from dad during late 1950's, throughout the 60's, into early 70's.

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Old 01-14-2016, 09:22 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by gaston View Post
and how much navigation experience dose one need with today's electronics ?
in the ocean? 1977. My electronics were a CB radio and a Ray Jefferson depth flasher.
You need enough experience to know when your electronics are giving you bad info for various reasons. Some quick examples:
A gps waypoint that if you steered to it in fog you would cross a sandbar, island, jetty, etc.
Too much Sea or Rain clutter that obliterates close targets on radar.
Over reliance on an Autopilot and not keep a proper lookout.
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Old 01-14-2016, 09:49 AM   #7
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My first boating experience was in Puget Sound in 1959. I captained a raft with my little brother as crew until I pushed him overboard, at which time my dad pulled me back to shore with the rope attached to the raft. Navigation was pure visible. By 1960 I had graduated to a row boat which I rowed around the east side of Budd Inlet between shore and the mothball fleet. Navigation was by sight although I also had a pocket compass (boy scout branded) for when the fog came in - I steered east. All my navigation was by sight and compass until 1970 when I learned proper navigation (charts, dr, plotting, celestial) and sailed for the first time on a vessel equipped with a satellite navigation system and radar although I was required to take sun and star sights which were then confirmed with the satnav system.

In the mid to late 70s I sailed all over Puget Sound with a compass and charts. I started using GPS for navigation in my land based work as soon as man portable systems became affordable. On the water I started out using a Garmin 45 GPS and charts in '94 and graduated to a Furuno chart plotter and radar in '97. I still carry a sextant and full charts and can navigate without the GPS.

I think that a person is foolish to go out without the knowledge to use and read charts and do compass and dr navigation.
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Old 01-14-2016, 10:02 AM   #8
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I'll further define your question: The first time I was on the water out of sight of land was in the early 70's Dead reckoning only. (Google that).

The regulations say that "No mariner shall rely on a single source of navigation."
Sometimes the regulation makes sense.

GPS has no doubt made getting lost a lot harder. But it doesn't always show you everything you need to know, even the most sophisticated plotters. I have plenty of examples of that. And you need to really know how to use them, at which point an understanding of the fundamentals comes in handy. Sometimes all it takes is 100'. You must have and use paper, or at least a raster chart on a separate device. (The electronic version of a NOAA chart.) Google raster versus vector chart, true versus magnetic, variation, deviation.... and all that.

Are there tons of people out there with only a smart phone in their hand. Yes. Are they less likely to get in trouble than their predecessors? Yes. Is it safe? No.
Currently boatless but looking. Avatar is my first boat....Holland, 1965 ish.....
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Old 01-14-2016, 10:10 AM   #9
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1970 on the water. 1984 out of sight of land.

Marin and others have said it well. But I'll throw my opinions in also

I like having the skills and experience to navigate without electronics. I love how precise and easy navigation has become with electronics.

Some basic aspects of navigation have not changed with electronics. Make a plan, stay ahead of the vessel and be observant.

Make a plan:
Unless operating on familiar waters and good visibility do your course work ahead of time. This can be anything from creating a route on your chart plotter to drawing a course on a paper chart. In new and or challenging areas I like lots of pre - plotted decisions made well ahead of time. Course, distance, distance off and bearing of dangers. ETA at major points, tides and currents.

Stay ahead of the vessel:
This is old skool but I think it should also be practiced with electronics. When we navigated exclusively on paper charts we were working ahead of our position. As we passed over point A and took a fix we were confirming we knew where we were. Point B was already in our 'sights'. If you dig up old accident investigations you will often find the cause was navigational error and that often "failure to stay ahead of the vessel" was cited. Avoid being surprised, know what's coming, deal with it before it becomes critical.

Be observant:
Use everything. GPS, radar and look out your windows. Are they all telling you the same story? Each will lie to you in a different way.

I'm confident I can get back home with nothing more than a compass, watch or clock, paper chart, dividers, rule and decent visibility. But.... I won't leave the dock without radar, GPS and depth finder functioning.

We all know the strengths of electronics. We often do not think of the weakness. Besides potential failure the biggest weakness is a chart plotter encourages us to just look at where we are and no more. We all, I'm guilty of it also, tend to use the GPS plotter like we use our car GPS. Keep the dot on the line.

If you enjoy learning and sharpening your nautical skills add paper chart navigation to your routine. You will be surprised how quickly you pick it up. And you may someday be glad you did.
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Old 01-14-2016, 10:14 AM   #10
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First time was aboard a BC Ferry up the Inside Passage when I was six.

Then my wife and I, before real full time jobs, a mortgage, or our daughter, had a dream of sea kayaking the coast of BC...

All our kayak navigating was done by paper chart, compass, string (handier than a ruler or dividers) and watch. Highly recommend the first edition of Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation by David Burch for a lesson on seat of your pants bush pilot style navigation...for when all that fancy electronic stuff goes turtle at the most inopportune time.
"The most interesting path between two points is not a straight line" Murray Minchin
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Old 01-14-2016, 10:47 AM   #11
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In the early 70's running 45-70miles offshore to snapper fish. We relied on a good compass and paper charts with block numbers for the Gulf. If we felt we where off course we would head to the nearest oil rig to check block numbers posted on the side of it. The AM radio with directional finder was used by many but to me the most useful electronic device at that time was the flashing depth sounder. When Loran-c came on that opened up a whole new world for rocks/ wreck fishing that was hit or miss before using dead reckoning for locations. Still use paper while running in backup to GPS. I don't use radar to its full potential, something I need to study on.
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Old 01-14-2016, 10:54 AM   #12
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My first offshore trip was under sail, a thirty-four hour leg from the Tampa Bay entrance to Ft. Jefferson, in the Dry Tortugas. Nav equipment on board: a compass; a Ray-Jeff table-top radio direction finder powered by flashlight batteries; a fathometer; paper charts, parallel rule, and chart divider. When the loom of the lighthouse on Garden Key appeared on the horizon dead ahead, I felt like Henry the Navigator. On the return leg, locating the coast of Florida seemed less challenging.

As the others have noted, contemporary electronics make navigation ridiculously simple. Perhaps I date myself when I insist that a prudent mariner is someone who can still get where he's going even if every electronic device onboard suddenly and permanently went dark. The rule should probably be to avoid situations where you are utterly dependent on GPS. Use everything there is, of course - but keep a running plot on paper, compare your common-sense appraisal of how far and how fast you've travelled in which direction, and keep asking yourself those "what-if" questions.

Recently a buddy who is older and saltier than me spent a day aboard a fancy new Hatteras sport-fisherman loaded with every device the salesman could get the inexperienced customer to order, including GPS and plotter interfaced with the autopilot, and (reportedly) even the electronic engine controls. After describing the experience to me later, he paused and said, "These days you don't need a lick of sense to run a boat!"

I thought that about summed it up.
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Old 01-14-2016, 11:20 AM   #13
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I was born in Ocean Falls BC Canada, the only way to get their was by boat. The only navigation used was a hand held compass and hand drawn maps with some basic bearings and land marks. 60+ years ago.

When I bought my first boat, 19 ft run about for the Puget sound had a compass and an actual real navigation chart and a depth sounder, which was high tech at the time. That was 40+ years ago.

About 25 years ago came GPS, which changed ever thing as you could actually plot on a chart where you where with in 100 yards as they were not that accurate and real time. Now we are talking high tech.

25 years ago for our wedding present we bought a 28 ft Rienell that had a fix compass, depth sounder, GPS and RADAR. Woo, now we are really high tech as we knew where we were, and what other boats where around us.

Then 20 years ago my wife wanted a bigger boat, so she found and bought the Eagle, 58 ft, 40 ton. At abou that time electronic navigation was start to be available. So we out fitted the boat with a fix compass, depth sounder, Vhf radio, Gps, electronic navigation, and an auto pilot. Could not get more high tech than that at the time.

However 60 years later we only leave the dock on warm sunny days with 10 miles visibility with our high tech 58 ft, 40 ton trawler. so back to a compass and chart.
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Old 01-14-2016, 11:25 AM   #14
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Salmon fishing out of Monterey Bay in the early 80's. I had a 18ft Bay Runner Baja with just a compass and depth finder. And you prayed the fog would lift by noon.
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Old 01-14-2016, 12:29 PM   #15
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@ 16 (1969) sailing in the fog on inland lakes using time, distance and heading just to see if we could do it. We don't need no stinking chart! Worst case we would bump shore but it didn't happen often. Then RDF, LORAN, gone with the flasher in with all digital. Unless we are in home waters that I have sailed for 30 years I have a chart on the fly bridge or in the cockpit along with all the bells and whistles but most importantly my eyes. Never trust a magenta line.
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Old 01-14-2016, 01:49 PM   #16
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First time? When I shoved off from shore of Lake Huron in my 9' row boat. It was 1951 and I was 5 and was told not to go out beyond the ends of the docks. The net year I could go beyond the docks but not past the wood stakes that kept boats out beyond the swimming areas. When I was 7 I got a motor and really hit the "high seas" (about 10' of water and 150' offshore). No nav equipment, no lights, just me and my trusty Evinrude.

Around age 15-16 I went with friends (other kids the same age) on their boats and we'd make a 15 mile run up to East Tawas, MI. The parents didn't know and that made the trip all that much better.

My first real "off shore" trip was 3 years ago when I helped take a boat from Seattle to Stockton, CA.
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Old 01-14-2016, 02:08 PM   #17
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My first time "out to sea", which I'm defining as taking a boat I'm operating into the ocean, was 2012. At that time I had over 1400 sea days of experience (using the definition of the USCG for Captain licensing), all inland (My wife had about 400 sea days). We still went out initially only with a licensed captain and him teaching us. Since then we have added over 500 sea days, covered over 50,000 nm., many while receiving instruction, and had roughly 45 days of formal classroom and simulated and training boat instruction (including fire lab and emergency room time).

With all that we still recognize how little we know compared to those teaching us who have been doing this for 30 years.

So, label us long time boaters, new to "out to sea" and very active boaters and aggressive in continuing to try to learn more.
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Old 01-14-2016, 02:21 PM   #18
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When I was a kid, my friend and I entered a sailing regatta in Cowichan Bay. He had a 15 foot open sail boat and we competed in the dinghy class.
Sadly we lost to some guy on a sailboard and came in last.
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Old 01-14-2016, 02:37 PM   #19
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Experience? That comes with practice and knowledge. Many different ways of getting the knowledge. Experience teaches that you do NOT depend upon only one means of position finding.
I am no expert at chart work but use charts all the time even though we also use electronic means of charting.
We have had electronics goof up. It may only be a hiccup but some of those have happened at the WRONG time. If I had not also been in practice with the charts and using them we could have landed in trouble.

Last year,[2 yrs] we were with several other boats in an area with a rock pile around and one members plotter hiccuped. It did not outright fail but just went blank. We had to get out of dodge and they had to VERY closely follow another boat. Turned out it was a chart changeover problem[???] but it took another group member with the SAME plotter who had the same problem sometime previous to get it sorted much later. The programmers picked an unfortunate location to change chart AREA group changes.

Myself, depending upon my gps, darn neared goofed a few years ago. Didn't have the zoom level set properly and missed a slight angle change in the course laid out. If I hadn't been following on paper I think I would have piled up. The paper following showed that the islet configuration, paper vs reality, didn't make sense so I stopped untill I realized what I'd done. Wrong zoom level. I have since revised the overall course to simply eliminate that dogleg.

That's why even with electronics, good as they are, you need a GOOD backup., ready and able to pick up the slack NOW.

I recommend, and personally still do, having and using charts in combination with any plotting device you use just in case.

If you don't agree, fine, but then at least have two totally independent units, one of which that can be run without ship power, at least for a few hours.

All you have to do is look at the spectacular failures and groundings in the last few years due to total dependence on electronic charts. The people involved were good/expert navigators but got lulled into complacency and guess what. Not common but you do not want it to be you.

Maybe not entirely to the point but hope not to far off. By the way from '79/'80.
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Old 01-14-2016, 02:44 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by C lectric View Post
Experience? That comes with practice and knowledge. Many different ways of getting the knowledge.
Every time we boat, even when we discuss boating, we learn something. We have to filter it on a forum. However, we do learn from the experiences of others. Some of our lake experience was even relevant. Docking or handling with twin engines was something we'd long done. Dealing the 4-6' seas was all new. I don't depend on my visual alone but shoals throughout the ICW and telling visually where the water is more shallow is really no different than on a lake.

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