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    Re: News Item on Over-reliance on GPS
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2008 Nov 06, 01:30 -0500

    I wrote previously:
    "But the loss of all GPS capability aboard a vessel strikes me as
    bad planning."
    And Peter, you replied:
    "Nah.  Stuff happens.  Particularly on small boats.  Terrible place for
    First, may I ask, just for the sake of comparison, is your chronometer
    electronic? I have often found people extolling the virtues of celestial
    navigation because it is immune to electrical outages who nonetheless carry
    only battery-powered watches. You've mentioned previously that you do a
    survey of the timepieces of everyone on board at the beginning of a passage,
    and that's a great idea. But do you consider yourself at risk if all
    timepieces are battery-powered?
    As for 'stuff happens', yes, I agree. That's why it would be prudent to
    carry a well-guarded backup GPS unit. Keep it in a waterproof metal case.
    Surely, you can envision SOME way to keep a backup GPS unit safe from the
    things that affect electronics at sea. You will note that a sextant would
    have done those folks in the Nelly no good. It's fine to keep traditional
    celestial navigation alive, and that's why we're all here, but it's nowhere
    near as effective as GPS. If you want to carry a sextant as a backup for the
    backup to the backup, then of course, you're very well prepared.
    Considering the case of the Nelly again, it's one thing to say 'it's my life
    to risk' but it's another when you've called on your local coast guard to
    rescue you in bad weather. Those folks are putting their lives at risk, and
    if they can't find a vessel because its owners and/or captain can't be
    bothered to carry a cheap backup GPS unit in a secure case, then something
    is very wrong. And again, a sextant would not have helped in this incident.
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