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    Re: sextant without paper charts
    From: Bruce Hamilton
    Date: 2008 Oct 31, 18:13 -0700

    Navigation without paper charts probably contributed the the sinking of
    The Queen of the North here in British Columbia. It ran aground because
    the bridge crew did not know where they were, and they were in
    restricted waters in a 3 mile channel.  Can any of you even imagine
    being so out of touch!  I doubt it.  I have seen very drunk Captains
    with much more sense than that.
    Without having to plot fixes every 15 minutes there is a tendency for
    bridge crew to rely solely on the information on the screen and not be
    aware of where they actually are.  I have a friend who is a merchant
    captain who still has standing orders for the mates plot a position on
    the paper chart every 15 minutes by some method other than GPS.   If you
    are in within a few miles of land, then then this is really essential in
    a big ship. Our eyes and brains are the best navigational tools that we
    possess, and the they don't even require electricity.
     I spent 2 years on 730 foot freighters going through the great lakes.
    If any of you have ever been through the St. Lawrence Seaway on a boat,
    just try to imagine what it is like on a ship. The mates and masters who
    do the piloting just know where they are by looking out the windows.
    One comany pilot I worked with used to show me how to do the river
    without the buoys using only natural landmarks. Quite impressive. There
    is no doubt that GPS is a great aid and saves countless hours on the
    hook waiting for the fog to clear out of such places as the American
    Narrows.  I had a captain who ran a ship around there in the pre-GPS
    days.  He was half way through and the fog came in. The new short range
    radar had too much clutter to see properly so he had to guess about when
    to make a turn. He had been trying to get the radar fixed for several
    weeks, but the office thought it was OK to run without it. There is
    never any bad weather or fog in the office  is there! :-)  In that case,
    the GPS would have prevented the accident.
    Keep a good watch.
    Bruce Hamilton
    Vancouver, BC.
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