Today is 20 October 2013. It was a delightfully sunny day. It is a month ago that we left Cape Town. We have been at sea for 29 days now, including the stop at St Helena. There are about 15 days left before we reach St Maarten, depending on the weather.
For navigation from home for the readers, to get an idea of our whereabouts on the ocean, the problem is quite simple. Draw a straight line between Cape Town and St Helena on the map of the world. Divide this line into fourteen equal sections. That is our progress as near as dammit.
For the second leg of the voyage, draw a line between St Helena island and Barbados in the Caribbean. Divide this line into twenty-six equal sections. That will give our daily progress again. From Barbados it is about two and a half days of sailing to St Maarten. However, St Maarten is so small that it does not appear on a map of the world. You need a smaller scale map to see it. In fact, if you have a small map, you will not see Barbados either.
As an aside, remember that charts show depths of the water under sea level, whereas maps show heights of land above sea level. Important to know this when you talk about navigation.
For open ocean navigation it is a different story. I made it my hobby to use non-electronic means to find our position on a chart. This Activity provides a means of keeping the mind alive, as well as adding to nyour situational awareness at sea. It also exercises the backup navigation system for the vessel, thereby removing one more stressor in the event that things go wrong.
At present I am struggling with the problem of having more variation in my plots than feels comfortable. As part of understanding the problem I am studying the book emergency Navigation by David Burch. The book is a veritable treasure chest of non-instrument methods of finding out where you are and keeping direction. Both in daytime and at night. It makes quite interesting reading. And a large part of the message is about planning, preparation and about exercising the emergency navigation system continuously. Even when the normal navigation is working properly.
Having read this in more than one publication, I realise just how far the responsibilities of a sea captain stretches. Most of the yachties I know will immediately jump to having more electronic means as backup navigation. Which translates to another handheld GPS and spare batteries. More of the same. And, from my perspective, they stand a bigger chance of losing the plot of determining where they are due to their increased reliance on electronic support and associated diminished reliance on different means of navigation.
This is not counting the fact that the electronic means of navigation often provides a pinpoint indication only, with no indication of your position in relation to the rest of the earth. Exactly like the difference between a watch with a clock face versus a watch with a digital display. There is a graphic part that is missing.
Granted, the non-electronic means of navigation also provides only a pinpoint indication or a fix. Sometimes not even that, just a line of postion. But what it does force you to do is understand the relationships of your position relative to the celstial bodies and their movements. Perhaps thereby giving a more physcal understanding to navigation.
To me, the biggest danger of using electronic navigation only lies in losing contact with the earth around us.
Today we caught our first edible fish of the voyage. A dorado from the warm waters around the Bazilian coast. The chicken of the sea. We got three meals out of it, of which we had the first tonight for dinner. Fresh dorado and fresh potato salad. Wonderful fare.
And welcome too. We were beginning to plan for rationing the remaining meat. Yet another of the captain's tasks in managing the ship.
I am beginning to see why people jump at the chance of commanding a vessel. It is a complete and whole job, as described in Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
Not a specialized, split-up desk job in a bureaucracy.
Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2013-10-20
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