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Do Sailors Still Do Nonelectronic Navigation?

By Sailingguide

When NOAA announced in October that they would soon stop printing paper charts, many traditional sailors were shocked - despite the fact that most boaters these days rely on electronic chartplotters and GPS navigation devices like tablets or smartphones. A plethora of inexpensive GPS navigation apps are available for Apple and Android devices and seem almost ubiquitous on the water, and there are many arguments for and against dependence on electronic charts, which I won't go into here. The most compelling argument for still having paper charts onboard is that electronics can go down, and in an extreme circumstance like a lightning strike, even backup handheld devices not connected to the boat's electrical system can fail. In any case, regardless of the NOAA action, paper charts will still be available from third-party producers (as they always have been: those chart kits and waterproof chart booklets), and many boaters will still carry them. More important than the charts themselves, however, are the basic navigational skills for using them to determine where you are on the chart. While many do not practice dead reckoning any more, all sailors should at least be able to determine their location when in sight of coastal landmarks. Taking two or preferably three bearings to known landmarks and then drawing the bearing lines on the chart to locate yourself where the lines intersect is a simple skill not to be forgotten. Still, many boaters do not carry a hand bearing compass anymore, and it can be difficult to use the boat's fixed compass. One solution, at least as long as your smartphone is still working, is the new Magnetic Bearing app that makes it easy to take bearings. Why not practice this basic navigational skill from time to time on your boat? Bearings are also the best way to determine whether you are on a collision course with another vessel.


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