Navigation Mac

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About alignments and sextant

This holiday season, during which we will gladly return for a few days to traditions, inspires me to rethink the traditions of an activity that is dear to us : navigation.
Not one of our illustrious predecessors, royal marine, discoverers of distant lands, privateers, pirates or honest merchants, isn't it. I want to mention one that concerns us for over half a century : yachting. Especially to the attention of our friends who are sailors born in 70-80, who discovered the navigation from the years 90, period of the emergence of GPS on board our yachts.
I, who is constantly adding a website and a blog on the intricacies of computing onboard, all these tools that bring us our position a few meters, the weather in eight days, the depth of water under the keel, the time that it will tack to take advantage of favorable wind shift, and how much additional information is available in three mouse clicks, I never forget how I learned to navigate.

This holiday season, during which we will gladly return for a few days to traditions, inspires me to rethink the traditions of an activity that is dear to us : navigation.

Not one of our illustrious predecessors, royal marine, discoverers of distant lands, privateers, pirates or honest merchants, isn't it. I want to mention one that concerns us for over half a century : yachting. Especially to the attention of our friends who are sailors born in 1970-80, who discovered the navigation from the years 1990, period of the emergence of GPS on board our yachts.

I, who is constantly adding a website and a blog on the intricacies of computing onboard, all these tools that bring us our position a few meters, the weather in eight days, the depth of water under the keel, the time that it will tack to take advantage of favorable wind shift, and how much other information available in three clicks or three taps on a tablet, I never forget how I learned to navigate.

Les instruments traditionnels

The basics of navigation.

I was lucky to be born in the years 50, and then to discover boating in the 70, with a sail thread in hand (whipping twine) and a rigid chart on my knees. I spent weeks learning to find myself on the chart and the landscape around me by practicing this nautical basic : on steering by alignment.

Good trainee and highly motivated, I assumed the cruise, crossed my beginner's "Cape Horn", Passage of the Teignouse, Raz de Sein, Raz Blanchard, practicing a rustic but effective navigation, this other basic the dead reckoning. It is understood that, regarding the number of hours spent at the chart table, better not be seasick, or provide a bucket nearby post !

Yachtsman more informed, I traveled to sail without an engine, with any kind of boats our beautiful Atlantic coasts, with a sounding line, a log line, and weather forecastss from France Inter and BBC Radio4. Even in the thick fog in the Channel, I do not recall ever having to ask anyone's help to land or take a boyage. Anyway, even though I was equipped with a VHF – what luxury – I had not learned to use it, can you imagine !

Became a professional yachtman, I had no other choice, to perform offshore cruising, than learning how to use a sextant. Ah, the celestial navigation ! This final basic religiously addressed, sure access to an elite, the circle of Moitessier, Tabarly, the “Damien”… The only instrument for cruising 4000 nautical miles and land battery in the space provided, despite beautiful anxieties in the previous hours, and a great surprise to discover the location in question in Bow, not another one. It was the time when the landing point was not called yet "waypoint".

Electronic era

I ended up learning how to use all the beautiful toys that I met during my sailings : GPS, Radar, ChartPlotters, SSB… Later, become chandlery, I sold, I installed, I trained users. Finally, more recently computers have boarded our boats : laptops, light, inexpensive used, with software developed to facilitate our navigator's life. The rest you know that…

I fear that today many "young" browsers can not do without. Traditional sailing schools, essential in my day, do hardly recipe, or disguised as the sailing school charter "From Zero to Level Astro Navigation" in a week ! Who would still be able to port entrance only sailing, in engine failure, without calling a tow by VHF ? Which can still cross the Channel with dead reckoning, batteries went flat, and landing to Falmouth steering the right side of the Lizard ?

Far from me to want to criticize, denigrate, still less to preach. I simply do the finding for more than twenty years since the advent of the electronic equipment has prompted many apprentices browsers to make them extreme confidence, and forget the basics of navigation that I had, for my own, chance to gain.

The homecoming

So in this holiday season or traditions is to offer gifts, indulge yourself with a book that tells you these famous fundamental, i.e. : Glenans Sailing Manual, or Navigation on the high seas, by Olivier Stern-Veyrin, exhausted but still found the net looking good. Visit navastro.fr or immerse yourself in the “fundamental formula of celestial navigation” from this page Francis Lonchamp. Then at Spring, try to turn your first GPS navigation computer off. You will see, this will be a homecoming for saving, before turning your iPad and open your favorite applications.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year, see you next year !
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Author : Francis

Since 2009 independent IT trainer and consultant for boating. Translator of many navigation applications on iOS and MacOS. Professional in boating for over 25 years, I provide training for applications and consulting and assistance for the integration of mobile devices (tablets, smartphones) on pleasure boats.

A comment

  1. At roughly the same route as yours initiatory. Even literary references. I always OSV and glénan in an old box. Blue, I think, glénan of the 73 or 74… I will add the card and also blue sh1!
    I soon ended a long career in the National Weather Weather, and MF (soon 40 year box), and I teach weather module captains 200. Francis thank you for all your educational site. Your video helped me understand the teaching of Navimail the right end.