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Navigation: Old School vs New School

Phil Herring

Dethroned Admin
Mar 25, 1997
4,508
Hunter 450 Bainbridge Island
It's been some years since we touched on this. Now that wifi enabled staplers are smarter than the Apollo 11 Lunar Module, what do you use for navigation?

Your phone?

Your watch?

A GPS-enabled laptop?

A dedicated GPS receiver or plotter?

Your eyes?

Or -- {gasp} -- paper and protractor?

Share your plotline here.

sextant.jpg
 
Oct 19, 2017
4,909
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
I grew up with paper charts, dividers, protractor and parallel rule, and, of course, my eyes. There will always be a place for those tools on my boats. But a good chart plotter seems like the best first solution when I can't just see my destination.
What I like best about a paper chart is the meta view of the harbor or group of islands, etc. Everything is there in one view, shoals, rocks, wrecks, cable crossings, military no nav zones. Zooming in and out and scrolling on a little screen to get to know what is ahead can be tedious.

-Will (Dragonfly)
 
Feb 3, 2015
258
Marlow Hunter 37 Reefpoint Marina Racine, WI
Chart plotter primary. Backups in order include several iPhone/iPad apps followed by paper charts. I always have paper charts of any area I sail and I particularly use them ahead of a sail in unfamiliar waters.
 
Jun 14, 2010
844
Quorning Dragonfly 1200 home
Chart plotter primary. Backups in order include several iPhone/iPad apps followed by paper charts. I always have paper charts of any area I sail and I particularly use them ahead of a sail in unfamiliar waters.
Same here. I haven't pulled out my paper charts (for use) since the 90's. I took my CG captains course a few years ago and had to brush up on it; manual chart plotting and ded reckoning calcs were a big part of the exam. It's good to know that stuff, but it doesn't stay with you unless you use it.
PS - a bit of nautical trivia: I did not misspell "ded". It is short for "deductive".
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,814
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
I think it’s a good idea
To learn to pilot on paper charts, especially for new sailors.

It’s been about 10 years since I’ve carried paper charts. Their back
Up function has been replaced
With various GPS Devices.

The chart drawer has evolved
Into a convenient spot for
Stuff needed regularly. That includes cords for various electronics.

6E7E306D-4E3B-4028-AD91-790A2FCFF11D.jpeg

But we still want a dedicated plotter. Not only for piloting. I rely on it 24/7 to keep track of the boat at anchor. I leave a point for anchor location. The track paints a constant arc of motion. I can tell at a glance (3:am) by the boats location if anything has changed.
42F0E185-4B16-4DC8-9368-01962E5F4EF3.jpeg

It’s a great time to be sailing!

Yesterday we sailed to windward with just the Genoa and mizzen through buoy strewn Jericho bay.

No way I could have done this 20 years ago piloting along on a paper chart which is how I learned.

I would have needed a vigilant navigator at the chart table keeping track of the hazards.

No problem sailing the boat, navigating and dodging pots ( I hit dozens anyway....) while mary Ann read a book.

A new toy: I brought a usb charger with a couple of fully charged batteries. We’ve been using it where cords aren’t convenient. Fantastic! 6 amp battery seems to last forever.
9C506C54-DDE3-424C-B39A-B36A538452CE.jpeg
 
Jun 14, 2010
844
Quorning Dragonfly 1200 home
A new toy: I brought a usb charger with a couple of fully charged batteries.
I like it. I doubled my boat's solar power this year (we now have 370 watts, rated power) and it's been no problem feeding our electron addiction. We make a surplus during daylight hours, even with autopilot, small danfoss fridge, and all instruments running.
 
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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,814
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
I like it. I doubled my boat's solar power this year (we now have 370 watts, rated power) and it's been no problem feeding our electron addiction. We make a surplus during daylight hours, even with autopilot, small danfoss fridge, and all instruments running.
I think of your boat when I see sailboats running their engines to keep up with refrigeration. Your solar panel capacity is probably a minimum to allow freedom from the engine. Few coastal boats around here come close. That takes deck space!

We ended up for 5 days with no charging from anything. My limited gizmos, a dig. Volt meter had us just below 12.2 with our light load. No complaints from the alternator which showed a moderate output of about 30-40 amps(old alt. Meter).

It’s good to have freedom just to stay put!
 
Jun 4, 2009
3,144
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
When SatNav first came out, I'd always check it against my sextant until I'd passed Silver Banks on any delivery north that had one.
I haven't even looked at a paper chart in years, preferring my Garmin 10" chart plotter at the helm. I will use the cruising guides should I be entering somewhere new or wish to refresh my memory. I don't even carry a sextant, sight reduction tables or a taffrail log, even on passages, anymore. I trust the GPS and have sailed the Caribbean long before it was invented, so that's no worry. Should the GPS signal (I have multiple back-ups aboard) fail on a passage, I can always sail latitudes, even w/o a sextant, so I'm not much concerned.
 
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PJL

Apr 22, 2014
17
Hunter Passage 42 Austin, Texas
Some of us utilize several methods. So, the possible answers to the poll need to have a couple more items added. 1) Most of these: 2) All of these.
 
May 20, 2016
2,790
Catalina 36 MK1 Everett, WA
I like to plan trips on paper, mostly navigate using a MK 1 eyeball, but have chart plotter and iPhone, iPad and laptops as backup.
 
Oct 22, 2014
9,917
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Ok I understand the convenience of a plotter, gps, and all the electronics. When I am venturing into a new are I want a chart to explore. To develop situational awareness of the area. To help me distinguish the hazards and develop a mental image of the land marks. I prefer downloaded NOAA charts for my plotter. There is a reason all of the iPad and plotter software has disclaimers regarding the use of their charts for navigation. AquaMap even goes to the length to state their charts, you have to buy, are for recreational not navigational purposes.

To each our own. BUT WHAT EVER YOU DO KNOW THE PURPOSE AND LIMITATIONS. Sail safely.
 
Sep 25, 2018
104
Catalina Capri 22 Capri EXPO 14.2 1282 Serenity Too Stony Point
Day sail in the Hudson River solo. Only sail when weather is good so visual. Never even turn on the chart plotter that came with the boat. Too far from the tiller to see. Use a hand held GPS for speed info. Been working/recreating on the Hudson since 1969. I know all the shallows and eddy's but check the GPS once in a while to verify what I am seeing. A couple of weeks ago the GPS started to be very inaccurate. Assumed that the feds were up to their degraded satellite signals for some reason unknown but to them. Sure glad I don't need accurate GPS to navigate. Anyone experience this event with bad consequences?
 
Aug 12, 2014
2,207
Hunter 31 (1983) Pompano Beach FL
I-pad with Navionics app, and paper charts. Phone with navionics for backup.
 
Jul 20, 2005
2,422
Whitby 55 Kemah, Tx
My phone with Navionics has worked pretty good in half the world so far. Some places the detail is lacking but no charts have detail in those places like the atolls in the South Pacific and some places in the Caribbean and Bahamas are off 5-10 feet, but I make due. I have paper charts but they are just used for decoration on the salon table :)
 
Jul 27, 2011
3,297
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
For my recent trip up the CA coast from Long Beach to Port San Luis and Morro Bay, I extensively consulted my relativeLy new iPad loaded with the $15 version of iNavX . I also had my hand-held Garmin GPS 76cxs mounted at the helm station. In addition, my paper chart was out on the nav desk below. Typically, I write down on a paper pad next to the chart my GPS position each hour, but no longer plot it regularly. I also consult me radar to confirm my distance from shore, plus consult me depth meter when near enough to shore for a depth reading. I occasionally take visual compass bearings (Polaris Fujinon binoculars) on certain ATONs and reconcile those bearings with with GPS outputs, etc. I like to know where I am from a set of navigation aids when coastal cruising in case I need to give my location quickly in some kind of situation requiring it, not necessarily always to the CG. I alway have the paper chart out to consult when lying at anchor at the islands. I don’t use the sextant.
 
Last edited:
Feb 5, 2004
3,653
Tartan 3800 Westport, MA
PS - a bit of nautical trivia: I did not misspell "ded". It is short for "deductive".
Now you've done it.

"The term "dead reckoning" was not originally used to abbreviate "deduced reckoning," nor is it a misspelling of the term "ded reckoning." The use of "ded" or "deduced reckoning" appeared much later in history, no earlier than 1931; in contrast to "dead reckoning" appearing as early as 1613 in the Oxford English Dictionary. The original intention of "dead" in the term is not clear however. Whether it is used to convey "absolute" as in "dead ahead," reckoning using other objects that are "dead in the water," or using reckoning properly "you’re dead if you don’t reckon right," is not known."

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2053/is-dead-reckoning-short-for-deduced-reckoning/
 
Jul 31, 2010
5,335
Hunter 260 Lake Murray Sailing Club, SC
It could also mean that if you get your reckoning wrong you could end up dead.
 
Jun 4, 2009
3,144
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
There is a reason all of the iPad and plotter software has disclaimers regarding the use of their charts for navigation. Sail safely.
Interestingly, my Garmin plotter has been 100% spot-on everywhere I've ever used it, which is not to say it will be correct in some new place I go. Though repeatability is a feature much hyped by LORAN stalwarts, I haven't found any lack of it in GPS navigation. I generally find cruising guides have more information and are more up to date than any chart that commercial traffic is unlikely to ever use.