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    Re: Dependence on GPS
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2009 Nov 1, 18:10 +1100

    Frank writes:

    If you're going to claim that those waterproof bags are just another technology waiting to fail, then you have to apply that same standard to traditional methods of navigation. Do you store your chronometer in a waterproof bag? How about your spare chronometer?

    Sure.  These may be good ideas.  Over time the watches that are less waterproof fail to proceed and get replaced.  The aim is to have back-up systems, ideally ones that can perform the same useful functions as those being backed-up, but not vulnerable in the same ways.  So motors to augment sails, oars to function in the place of recalcitrant outboards, kerosene (paraffin) lamps in case the electricity supply goes (or just to preserve battery power), tinned food if the fish don't bite, and so on.  Traditional methods of nav for when the GPS has an issue.  Nah, forget that one.  Nav is a whole mindset, not just an alternative methodology.  Its about being aware, in a wide sense.

      So what to do... carry a cheaper handheld GPS that you can turn on when the main system fails.

    Frank, Frank.  Impractical in practice.  Those things take quite a while from cold to become functional, then continue to chew through those little AA or even worse AAA cells at a quite unsustainable rate.  You couldn't carry enough cells to cross an ocean with.  They are only for occasional use, assuming the nearest Wal Mart is always close-by.  Yes, you could use rechargeable cells, with a solar system to do that, and then you have another system to maintain while you wait for it to fail.  I'll say it again, sailboats provide terrible environments for even robust equipment.  Sailing involves a lot of fixing stuff or learning to do without it.
    Let me ask you this: if you met someone planning on doing some long-distance sailing, and they said to you, "I'm planning on taking a carefully stored handheld GPS for backup in case the main satnav system fails", would you advise AGAINST taking that backup GPS?? Do you not agree that the very great majority of the cases where the main satellite system fails can be answered simply by breaking out the spare and using it properly?

    I think this person would be much better advised to learn to navigate, and not be dependent on electronics to do it for him/her.  

    Let's remember that the basis of nav is a DR plot.  Knowing where you start from, then tracking movement over time.  Everything else is just ways of checking that plot.  This is the real reason why GPS is so potentially dangerous - when it fails, or the necessary supporting systems fail to allow it to do its miraculous stuff, then the poor silly sod has no idea at all, instead of having quite a useful idea that is regularly updated, albeit a derived position that can probably stand some refinement.  Dependence on GPS doesn't encourage people to look carefully at their environment on an ongoing basis and think constantly about how what they see can be useful information.  Traditional nav does this.

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