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Toaster
08-25-2013, 15:08
I'm sure that there are people who do offshore fishing or spend time in large bodies of water that may benefit from this. I realized my lack of skill in maritime navigation very quickly. Does anyone have any pointers in navigating on the water, or just how not to get lost?

Had a great adventure this weekend, and figured someone could learn from it.

Went out jet skiing in a party of 14 with 1 pontoon boat and 2 jet skis on Lake Norman NC. This wonderful lake has 600 miles of shore line and is 18 miles long, you really do need to see a map to appreciate it...

Took one of the jet skis out with another fellow in our group, whom I had just met, away from the shoal where everyone was out just to take a cruise and see how fast they would go. Left the cove that we were in into the main part of the lake. Noting that there were power lines and taking a rough bearing with my compass, of a smoke stack that we could see when we got out. After gallivanting about we decide to head back and realize we are disoriented, taking his direction we ride away.

30 minutes later I realize we're hopelessly lost and he hasn't come to that conclusion yet. We stop and take inventory of what we had on hand, an Iphone that we did not have the password to and no map, stop at a random boat and find we're 5-6 miles away from where we started. While I am on this boat he answers a phone call on the phone for someone looking for the owner, and then hangs up... Which I find out about later. Let him drive and go 5-6 miles past where we wanted to go... Eventually stopping at a total of 6 random compassionate people, some of whom had gotten lost on this lake before.

Finally we make it back to our group and our safety is ensured. At this point I learn that he lost his glasses and couldn't really see, but somehow wouldn't mention that while we were lost. One thing that was done right was not getting into a fight on a jet ski in the middle of a lake when lost. I am also thankful that it did not turn into a survival situation.

Lessons I have learned,

1. My wrist compass has become demagnetized.
2. Ensure that you have a map/GPS in a waterproof container.
3. Ensure possession of a phone/radio in a waterproof case
4. Beware/be aware of your company

CSB
08-25-2013, 20:51
Only two suggestions in case comms go out and GPS isn't working:

1- Panic Azimuth or Catching Feature:

If I get totally lost, I'll travel [East, setting sun at my back] [West, towards setting sun]

... until I ...

[come to the bridge]
[see the lighthouse]
[see the landing lights at XXX airport]

2 - Rally Point: "If all else fails, I'll meet you at [5:00 pm] [sunset] at ...
[the bridge]
[the beach across from the lighthouse]
[the beach across from the landing lights at XXX airport].

Old Dog New Trick
08-25-2013, 21:19
Does anyone have any pointers in navigating on the water, or just how not to get lost?

Hmm. Always know where you've been and are now, before proceeding further into trouble.

Stop, turn off everything that makes noise and listen intently for human sounds or machinery (or surf). Sometimes that may take several minutes.

From your starting point, note the position of the sun (as noted above) or the moon (although less dependable) and able to find "Polaris" (North Star) if you are out after dusk.

Without a very good understanding of Over the Horizon navigation it's best to have a good GPS and a waypoint that shows how to return to start point.

mark46th
08-25-2013, 21:40
When I got my first ocean boat, the closest thing to GPS was LORAN, which I couldn't afford. I used a chart, a compass, my speedometer and a watch to navigate out to 60 miles off-shore. I also had an RDF(Radio Direction Finder) in my radio. Always made it back.

PSM
08-25-2013, 23:14
I also had an RDF(Radio Direction Finder) in my radio.

Yep. Carry an old analog transistor radio. Tune it to a known local AM station and turn it (the internal antenna) until you find the null (silent) direction. That points TO and FROM the transmitter. It's up to you to know "roughly" where you are in relation to that station so you can figure out which is which. If you still have no clue, at least you can listen to music and reports of your disappearance while you pray for help. Proper Pre-Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. ;)

ETA: Use analog because, if the station is close or too powerful, you need to be able to de-tune it to find the null.

Pat

fng13
08-25-2013, 23:35
Can't help much with navigation on the water, but something that might have helped you in this situation is to know that you can make calls on an Iphone without knowing the password.

Iphone's allow you to use call features like a regular phone even if its locked you just can't see the phones contacts.

Golf1echo
08-26-2013, 00:52
Time and speed is a good way to keep track of distance on water or an alternate method on land. When speed varies you can keep track ( similar to azimuth changes ) or average with practice. Bracket your navigation with landmarks and boundaries rather than pin point location ie. miss left or right, West or East, North or South, etc... That way you will know which way to head once you get to a boundary instead of having to guess which way to go ( if you are off your mark ). Know terrain before you operate in it (map or experienced knowledge). Elevation and contour is some times more effective than compass in dense terrain. Tips from Adventure Racing...

craigepo
08-26-2013, 13:24
Good thing we don't have to use the old sextants any more. Kind of amazing how those guys did so much without our modern technology

Toaster
08-29-2013, 11:28
http://www.freelakenormanforeclosures.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/lake-norman-map.jpg

Thank you everyone for the input. Proper prior planning is what I will ensure that I do henceforth.

FNG13 - I am not sure you are correct on that. I could have called 911 or some other emergency call, but regular phone numbers I haven't been able to make. I could have called the police, but my ego :( prevented me from doing that.

Craigpo - Due to my ignorance, I am finding it difficult to fathom ye olde schoole celestial navigation.

There is a system on the lake, in the main channel, towards the shore every mile there is a number, red on one side and green on the other to help with people from getting lost.... Proper prior planning yet again.

I am thankful that it was a beautiful day giving me a sunburn, rather than a cold stormy one placing me in a survival situation.

fng13
08-29-2013, 18:59
You are correct only emergency numbers.

PSM
08-29-2013, 23:21
http://www.freelakenormanforeclosures.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/lake-norman-map.jpg

Thank you everyone for the input. Proper prior planning is what I will ensure that I do henceforth.

FNG13 - I am not sure you are correct on that. I could have called 911 or some other emergency call, but regular phone numbers I haven't been able to make. I could have called the police, but my ego :( prevented me from doing that.

Craigpo - Due to my ignorance, I am finding it difficult to fathom ye olde schoole celestial navigation.

There is a system on the lake, in the main channel, towards the shore every mile there is a number, red on one side and green on the other to help with people from getting lost.... Proper prior planning yet again.

I am thankful that it was a beautiful day giving me a sunburn, rather than a cold stormy one placing me in a survival situation.

I have to say that I've never navigated anything nearly that complicated! :eek: I'm used to open ocean, so I could use some tips on water nav too, it seems.

Pat

Golf1echo
08-30-2013, 08:16
http://www.kfmaps.com/
These are the lake maps of That area I prefer. With lake levels changing throughout the season you can almost use them as contour maps. They are available at many bait shops near the lakes. They also helped support our adventure race for SOWF.

craigepo
08-30-2013, 09:33
We fish some pretty big lakes here in the southern Missouri/northern Arkansas area, i.e. 700 miles of shoreline. During the day, it isn't too hard to find your way back, especially with the Corps-installed mile markers. At night, it's almost impossible.

I have a compass mounted on my boat, and try to keep a map of every lake I fish. However, a few years ago, I broke down and bought a fishing graph with a GPS unit built in. For a few extra dollars, you can buy an SD card with maps of 1/2 of the United States, and so when you turn the unit on, it automatically plots your spot on the map. Might be a little tough to do on a jet ski.

My old team medic was into obscure stuff. When he started sailing, he wanted to learn how to really navigate on open water. So, he went and learned how to use the sextant. I have to say, the damned things are accurate, but you need to be really capable with them before trusting your life to one.

BryanK
01-30-2015, 08:45
I'm about to acquire my first boat, and have just started studying small craft operations, water navigation, etc. Has much changed in technological advancement as far as marine GPS' or any advice on a good spotlight for use during night operation?

craigepo
01-30-2015, 10:33
You can get some pretty good gps/fish finders for not a lot of money. The downloadable maps on SD cards are really cheap insurance, and many have underwater topography on them that is super helpful for a lot of fishing, diving, etc.

I think I purchased my small Hummingbird for $500-ish, but you can pay as much as you want. Some friends have them with screens the size of a computer monitor, and these units come with options like side-imaging radar. If you're fishing deep, they work really well. Plus, navigating with the big screen is much easier than the 4" X 5" on my little model.

What kind of boat are you getting?

JJ_BPK
01-30-2015, 10:42
BK

Spot Lights, any good brand is OK. You need at least two, maybe 3. One to plug into the boats power and back-ups on battery. If you lose the boat batteries for any reason, you need a back-up to flag down other boats, sea-tow or USCG..

I've been off the water for a couple yrs, but I can give you some pointers on night nav in the waters of the Keys & Florida Straights that should apply anywhere.

1)most people think their gps is accurate within a couple feet. I think most are good for 10ft, these days. This is good if you are on land nav walking..


Not so on boats. The default to most gps machines is to take a position every 3-10 seconds, then update the screen plot. Sometimes it's longer, so you can backtrack, say 3 hrs of trolling data. I remember old gps that only recorded on one(1) minute intervals, so you could backtrack a complete days voyage to get home that nite. Sounds good, the plot looks like a straight line, BUT...

Calculate the distance you cover in 10 sec running you boat at say 35 mph?? It works out to be around 100 ft.

This means that if you are in a channel that is 100 ft wide and you are very good captain, 10 seconds of error will put you in the dry spot.

If the gps does not do full time recalc, it is not good for moving at any speed, even during the day. It is not useless, just not to be considered the prime tool for night nav.

2)Even with the best gps,, you need a spotter for the garbage floating in the water.

So,, you have the best gps to be purchased, it has the latest maps and all nav points,, BUT

In the Keys, we have crab & lobster traps most of the year. The rope used on the floats will do big damage in your prop & possibly trash the lower. Sea Tow is a very expensive back-up.

Offshore in the Florida Straights you can find garbage as big as shipping containers, but most of it is light weight plastics, buckets, plywood, telephone poles, & lumber like 8ft 2x4's. None of which is good for props. At one time Sea-Two had a limit for offshore recovery, after xx miles it was a USCG problem.

Another reason for a full time spotter is the reaction time and the captains time studying the gps or maps. Look away for 10 sec,, another 100ft off course.

GPS's are good, but they have limits..

Someone might say use radar, it's also good,, with limits.. A 8ft 2x4 floating 1/4inch out of the water is not going to be seen..

One last point,, make sure your spotter has good night vision. I do, but I have friends that can't fine their willy in the john with the lights off...

Good luck.. :munchin

JimP
01-30-2015, 10:47
Guys - when I was down at Key West I took a Maritime navigation course from the Coast Guard Auxiliary. VERY professional and informative. I used to routinely run my boat off the Marqueses and all over the Keys. The instruction and techniches were essential. NEVER felt that I didn't know where I was or where I needed to go. Multiple tracking mechanisms and accurate route plotting - key. I got good maps, prepped them as we would an operational tactical map (without the security issues) and had all sorts of alternatives if things went to shit.

Trailored the boat up north and ran it off Cape Cod and around nantucket without a worry. I highly recommend taking the course. Those guys were VERY good teaching the course. It was challenging.

Giuseppe
01-30-2015, 19:25
A good tool for learning maritime navigation is, “Boat Navigation for the Rest of Us: Finding Your Way By Eye and Electronics,” by Bill Brogdon. I used it to prep for a MAROPS course, and it was a great aid in learning the basics of over-the-horizon navigation.

Best part; you can find a used copy on Amazon for $0.01 plus shipping.

BryanK
01-31-2015, 10:02
Thank you all for the tips. I'll be boating primarily at the mouth of the Potomac River and some parts of the Chesapeake Bay. I've grown up around these waters, but we never navigated too far away from the dock (<1 mile) in these areas before. Mainly just smaller river fishing.


...What kind of boat are you getting?

Just a little 17' Aries bass boat with a 70hp Mercury. Nothing with a cabin unfortunately.