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    Re: Some navigational news stories
    From: Hewitt Schlereth
    Date: 2008 Nov 16, 10:56 -0400

    Hi Frank -
    Peter Muilenburg''s story in All at Sea is one of many in his book
    Adrift on a Sea of Blue Light. Since I moved here to St. John, USVI,
    in January I've read his book and met Peter and been sailing on his
    boat, Breath. The book is stories of life at sea and ashore on his 47'
    Colin Archer-type gaff ketch which he built on a beach here in St.
    John.  Although the title evokes the Caribbean, a lot of the book
    covers his (and wife and kids and dog) adventures in Spain and Africa.
    It's not a travel diary but an odyssey whose main focus is on the
    enormous stream of characters they meet and live with on the aquatic
    fringes of our world.  It's affecting, hilarious and suspenseful by
    On 11/16/08, frankreed@historicalatlas.net
    >  These are some news items I noticed this week through Google News.
    >  1)
    >  There's a nice little article at allatsea.net by Peter Muilenberg about a
    >  visit years ago to Aves Island. He has a lament for the lost days of
    >  celestial:
    >  "This was in the days before GPS, back when  navigation required a sextant
    >  and tables and art and judgment to determine where you were on the ocean. It
    >  was called celestial navigation and it was not something that anybody's dog
    >  could be trained to do.
    >  Something dear has been lost, like so much else in the  modern world which
    >  has stripped life of its subtleties and its mysteries by doing everything
    >  for us and rendering the art of navigation a matter of pressing a button on
    >  a plastic  magic card which also functions as a camera, a wristwatch, a
    >  computer and a washer/dryer.
    >  It certainly added to the mystique of the Captain's authority when he
    >  brought out the precious instrument, 'sextant,' like something whose
    >  mysterious power one had to handle gingerly lest it burn him, then peered
    >  through a tube to discern the future, then consulted with his numerologies
    >  and ciphers, then plotted lines and angles and arcane  arithmetics - all of
    >  which so baffled the uninitiated that they kept themselves well in check and
    >  particularly looked to the welfare of the Captain, at least well out of
    >  sight of land."
    >  The rest of the story is charming (nothing else about navigation). Read it
    >  here:
    >  http://www.allatsea.net/specificissueeditorial.php?featureid=2011
    >  2)
    >  Here's an article from New Delhi on dhows:
    >  http://www.business-standard.com/india/storypage.php?autono=340174
    >  There is apparently still some trade in the Indian Ocean carried by dhows,
    >  traditional wooden boats, formerly sailing vessels, now mostly
    >  diesel-powered. As the article notes with some surprise, much of this trade
    >  is with Somalia these days since no other merchant vessels will visit there.
    >  As for navigation,
    >  "Sailing in these boats is inherently risky. The two seafarers associations
    >  say on average five to six boats are lost every year. But crew safety has
    >  improved due to the now-mandatory Global Positioning System (GPS) along with
    >  such safety gear as distress radios, life preservers and fire suppression
    >  equipment."
    >  But there are traditionalists, albeit retired, even in the Indian Ocean.
    >  "It is a special trip to meet 76-year-old Shivji Bhuda Fofindi at Mandvi, as
    >  he is a rarity for two reasons. First, he is a Hindu sailor and second, he
    >  is among the last of a generation who used to pilot purely wind powered
    >  ships. Shivji, since retiring, has set up his own makeshift simulator to
    >  train young ship pilots.
    >  He says that a pilot is most crucial as the wooden hull doesn't take kindly
    >  to scraping against the sea bottom. He recalls that the challenge was
    >  tougher when they had to dock in a headwind, testing the nerves of even the
    >  most experienced pilot. A stickler for the basics, he says there is one
    >  thing he enjoys drilling into his pupils � using the sextant. 'It is easy to
    >  use the compass. But navigators today are lost if the GPS battery dies. They
    >  are finished for good,' he laughs."
    >  3)
    >  Here's an odd place to find the phrase "celestial navigation":
    >  http://www.metalunderground.com/news/details.cfm?newsid=39976
    >  It's a brief account of a visit by "metal" musician Steve Morse to the
    >  cockpit and navigator's station aboard an old Tu-134, a sixties era Russian
    >  airliner which had a bomber-like glass nose for the navigator. One thing
    >  caught my eye. He speaks of "deduced reckoning ('ded' reckoning...not dead
    >  reckoning)". Of course, I've heard this "corrective" etymology before, and
    >  it may or may not be a real etymology, but what's interesting is that this
    >  story is much more popular among people who learned air navigation before
    >  marine navigation. It's an actual cultural difference between these two
    >  schools of navigation. Does anyone know who made "ded" popular among flying
    >  navigators? Given the strong influence of Weems on early air navigation, was
    >  it him again?
    >   -FER
    >  PS: I know I have some posts to answer from last week. I will try to get to
    >  them tomorrow.
    >  >
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