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Old 03-01-2016, 10:43 AM   #1
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You ever get twisted around?

Course you youngsters with all your onboard digitalis won't grasp the concept, so this may just apply to the old geezers who know what DR means.

Spatial disorientation; flyers and divers know it but the average boater will not understand it until it bites them.

I've experienced it twice. First time, I missed the very narrow opening to a basin (Hidden Basin) and ran into Cockburn Bay right next door. Even going in I knew something was way wrong but kept going. Lucky, because both have obstructions right smack in the middle of the narrowest part of the entrance. Even inside, took time to sink in what I'd done. Other time was on Lake Powell. Easy to get spun out of whack there.

Another time, I escorted a new boat owner from Everett WA to Vancouver. He had next to no experience and no clue how to get home. I was ahead and part way up Saratoga Passage when he radioed he had to go below for a minute and that he would catch up. I watched as a few minutes later he fired up and tore off; away from me. I knew what had happened. He was almost out of sight when he slowed and called. Where are you? Behind ya. Huh? No you're not, I didn't pass you.

When he was below, the boat had done a 180, that quick, and he had no idea. He later told me he was really confused by the surroundings. I guess.

I learned really early on, when running at night I had a tendency to stray to starboard. Mostly in black inlets where there was no delineation; land to sea, no visible landmarks

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Old 03-01-2016, 11:46 AM   #2
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Sure! In fog. We have no autopilot, and being a planing hull we tend to wander at low speeds. Amazing how quickly we can be heading 90 degrees off course or more.

Richard Cook
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Previously: Bounty 257, C-Dory 22 Cruiser
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Old 03-01-2016, 11:48 AM   #3
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its happened to me twice too. Both times I stopped the boat and started from scratch with multiple bearings to locate my position. Not sure how I got so lost but it is a little scary.
If you can live with the consequences, go for it - wg
Y'am what y'am an' thats' all that y'am - Popeye
I had an allergic reality - Jillie the Bean
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Old 03-01-2016, 11:50 AM   #4
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Almost every night when I get up to...ah, er....You know...
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Old 03-01-2016, 11:54 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by boatpoker;
Not sure how I got so lost but it is a little scary.
Yeah, sorta like vertigo. Then you play the "what if" in your mind.
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Old 03-01-2016, 12:55 PM   #6
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Probably happened to me several hundred times....that's where training to grasp info from instruments quickly and calm yourself and focus on letting external guidance reset you internal gyro is critical.

When we finally got RADAR in the smaller, newer USCG helos...I'll bet those disorientation fits at night in the fog screamed to half or less.

Nothing but training and practice will prevent bad stuff from happening....even the best get disoriented enough in some conditions if it weren't for auto pilot and other take control automated systems...more accident would happen like the old days.

Like getting towed or going aground.... do anything long enough in all different environments and those will happen as well as getting disoriented.

Humans are just that....human. Remember you are much more susceptible when fatigued or not feeling well or dehydrated or dietary imbalance, etc....
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Old 03-01-2016, 01:00 PM   #7
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Before the days of GPS, it used to happen to me all the time. Most of the time it only takes a few seconds to get reoriented, but there were a few times at night where it took much longer and much time looking at the chart to get reoriented.

SPOT page
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Old 03-01-2016, 01:49 PM   #8
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When this happens, and in the case of any uncertainty about anything, we have found following the simple rule of stopping the boat (unless dangerous to do so) to be the most important step. Electronic gizmos providing an overload of information can be as much to blame for some folks as no information is to others.

"There's the Right Way, the Wrong Way, and what some guy says he's gotten away with"
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Old 03-01-2016, 02:11 PM   #9
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Yep. While trying to outrun it heading home, I got caught in a severe summer thunderstorm while single handing a 24' sailboat. When it passed I was going in exactly the opposite direction I thought I was headed.

Lessons learned:

  • Mount the compass in a better spot.
  • Drop the anchor and ride it out.
  • As soon as you know you're not going to make it head for the nearest dock.

I was on the Severn River and had plenty of options. It was my first season and I was learning fast!
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Old 03-01-2016, 02:36 PM   #10
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Never really gotten totally turned around, but I have gotten pretty disoriented a couple of time at night. Oddly enough, both times I remember, it was in areas I was quite familiar with (once in the Cape Fear River and once on the lower Waccamaw River). Both times I got disoriented because of the number of lights and a sudden feeling I did not know what they all were. At night, I could not easily pick out the lights I was looking for. Best advice from some above posters-Stop!-take stock and figure it out.
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Old 03-01-2016, 02:38 PM   #11
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LOL.....Yup. Missed the correct entrance into the ICW off the Pamlico river once...After an hour, my wife called my attention to a (low) fixed bridge ahead. Ooops! Backtracked and only lost 2 hour there. Stuff happens.

For what it's worth, it was a scenic ride down that (wrong) tributary!
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Old 03-01-2016, 02:49 PM   #12
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Was running in fog in the ICW south of Tampa Bay. Could see the stern light of the boat ahead and just kept following him. After a few minutes he hailed me saying, "Captain, not sure where you're headed but I just turned off the main channel on the way to my dock!"

Oops. Fortunately, no harm no foul.
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Old 03-01-2016, 03:17 PM   #13
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Never been lost in a boat unless I fell asleep at the wheel. But I wandered around in a field in South Texas quail hunting in the fog and it took me about 2 hours to find my truck.LOL
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Old 03-01-2016, 03:39 PM   #14
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Yes, in fog and a swift, swirling current. Both radar and GPS update too slowly, and by the time you notice something's wrong you've spun 180 degrees (or more) off course. After a couple of those, I learned to use the compass to maintain course, and only check the other displays to verify position. Overall a good habit to get into.
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Old 03-01-2016, 04:19 PM   #15
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I got so twisted around once on the Columbia River in a very dense fog that my track must have looked like the track a worm makes in soft mud.

I was between the south shore of the river and a long, slender island. I kept thinking I was headed upstream and would find myself heading straight to one shore or the other. I'd get straightened around and within just a few minutes I'd be headed back toward a shore.

I finally got smart and when I could see the shore and knew I was paralleling it, I got a compass reading. Bingo, I ended up running out of the fog in just a few minutes and was right where I wanted to be, but it took me an hour to get there.
Mike and Tina
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Old 03-01-2016, 04:49 PM   #16
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Cap't Tom-you raise a good point-The Compass! And not the compass on a plotter, An old fashioned compass. With all the electronics, I think many of us have forgotten about steering a compass course. I began boating learning to steer a compass course as a mate on a charter boat. All we had was RDF and then Loran A. My Captain, a real old salt, could leave the dock, run a course and judge speed and conditions and them have his clients drop lines on a rock ledge 35 miles offshore. He could hit the same ledge every single day, no matter the conditions. Like you, even around the generally closed in areas in the PNW, I still pay close attention to my compass on the helm. My old paper charts have common compass courses written on them.
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Old 03-01-2016, 04:54 PM   #17
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Sometimes at the end of a long passage my exhausted brain could make any light say what I wanted it to say, and any headland change shape to become the final turn.

Less problem now with GPS and chartplotter, but still something for me to be wary of.
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Old 03-01-2016, 05:05 PM   #18
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Something like this happened to me at work a year or two ago. We had just left a port on the east shore of Lake Michigan, and were heading north. I was informed by the engineers that they would be switching some power systems around, which was routine.

The standard blink happened, and rather than bounce back immediately, half of the electronics cut out. The gyro compass lost power, and started sending incorrect signals to the radar and plotter, which I didn't realize at first. About 10 seconds later, a dense fog bank rolled in from the west. Since the auto pilot was still engaged, the ship started turning to follow the faulty gyro heading, which manifested itself as a right turn on the radar and plotter, but when i looked at the magnetic compass, I was starting to turn LEFT. With no frame of reference out the window... It became really disorienting, really quickly. If I was in the middle of the lake, It wouldn't have been so scary, but I was only a couple of miles off the beach, and there were plenty of small boats around. I stopped the engines until I could make sense of what the hell was happening. It was pretty sketchy.
Just be nice to each other, dammit.
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Old 03-01-2016, 06:00 PM   #19
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It happened to us once on the ICW in an area we hadn't been to previously. It just did not look like it did on a chart or like we pictured it. We thought for a moment maybe we weren't where we thought we were and we needed to choose one way or the other. So, we waited a moment, looked again. On the chart the channel angling to the left looked much wider than the one to the right. It was actually narrower visibly. We were at high tide in an area of an 8' swing. Our guess was that at low tide it would come much closer to looking as it did in the charts.

I must say we've done it far more in a car. Get talking and suddenly realize we have no idea if we've reached our turn and passed it or not there yet. That's when you're very happy there is GPS.
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Old 03-01-2016, 06:17 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by psneeld
Remember you are much more susceptible when fatigued or not feeling well or dehydrated or dietary imbalance, etc.
Excellent point.
On the bike, my hands would always tell me when I was dehydrated; crampy and weak on the clutch/brake. It always amazed me how quickly a big slug of water would fix it.

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