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    Re: lifeboat navigation
    From: Jared Sherman
    Date: 2002 Oct 24, 11:14 -0400

    Dr. Kolbe, I was very intentionally ignoring that issue  and did 
    suggest that the satphone is only one among the tools to be included. Some of 
    the newer models include position finding ability, so that when the user 
    places a call their position may be transmitted automatically with it. Others 
    do not. Absent that ability to automatically locate the user, they still 
    allow the user to communicate their position once it has been found by other 
    The position of a commercial ship's life boat which may carry 140 survivors 
    including training crew/officers is very different from that of a yacht's 
    life raft, where instruments like a sextant will probably be of little use 
    unless one can be sure that everyone on the yacht knows how to use the 
    sextant, the atlas, and the various tables required for it. And then somehow 
    keep the atlas dry enough to use. And then hope that if only one person knows 
    how to use it, they are unharmed and on board.
    I do not argue those points either either. I merely suggest that we are in an 
    age where "an" appropriate tool may simply be the one that can contact a 
    higher power, which is capable of *rescuing* the raft regardless of the skill 
    level or the number of the survivors, in most parts of the world. Given a 
    spare battery, a vinyl "EWA" type use pouch, and a Pelican case to protect 
    the contents and keep them dry, long-term reliable storage of these devices 
    is not difficult either.
    Incidentally, if you are going to carry Casio watches, I may suggest their 
    nice newer models--which allow for some 600 GPS fixes on the one battery 
    included with the watch. Coincidentally, again, cheaper than many sextants 
    and requiring less training for use. But worn on your wrist, it can give you 
    daily time *and* a reserve GPS that will make it to the life raft or boat 
    *if* you do.
    While a sextant in a lifeboat may be useful, absent both a means of propulsion 
    and a means of communication it may make for only a meager supply of fishing 
    parts. Then we have the case of the two men recently found off the coasts of 
    the US in their sailboats: The one man off North Carolina (?) who had drifted 
    up from the Florida Keys, the other man off South America (!) who had drifted 
    down from California, originally 26 miles from the US coast. Would these men 
    have made any use of a sextant? Could they have gained any aid from it? Or 
    could they have gained more substantial aid from some other device?
    I have great doubt that an art form (the art of navigation) is what life boats 
    really need, when there are so many modern tools that can accomplish so much 
    more for the untrained user. That does not diminish the purposes of the art.

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