Please select your home edition
Edition
SailX 728x90

'When the GPS Falls into the Bilge...'

by Nancy Knudsen on 6 Nov 2008
Off Northern Vancouver Island, Canada - radar doesn’t help for underwater dangers .. .
The instructor who taught me celestial navigation many years ago started every class by saying 'When the GPS has fallen into the bilge...' thus justifying his insistence that every sailor who adventures into an ocean needs a knowledge of classical celestial navigation.

Now Coastguards are warning sailors again of the danger of relying on satellite navigation alone, after a rescue helicopter winched the crew of a yacht to safety off the Essex coast in the UK this week.

'A vessel's position and track should be regularly plotted on a chart and a backup navigation system employed during an offshore passage.' said the Thames Coastguard Watch Manager Mark Baker.

Rescuers said a 25 ft yacht - called Nelly - ran around off Bradwell-on-Sea in bad weather late on Saturday after their single GPS failed.

Three crew members were winched to safety by the RAF after lifeboatmen were unable to reach the boat, said coastguards.

'The yacht's GPS navigation equipment had failed and the crew could only make a very rough estimate of their position,' said a spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

'Due to the severe weather conditions and breaking surf battering the yacht, the three occupants of the yacht were winched from the vessel and evacuated ashore.'

Mark Baker added: 'This incident highlights the risk of relying solely on a single GPS navigation unit.'

Certainly anything that will avert the need for rescue crews to risk, potentially, their own lives unnecessarily is very desirable.

Mastering the art of celestial navigation is not the easiest task, and many hundreds of cruising sailors now set forth with only a GPS system as navigational support.

Multiple GPS systems are of course a help, but even these have been known to fail with a direct lightning strike, with or without the best lightning protectors, and with or without the GPS being connected directly to the yacht.

A microwave oven has been often suggested as a suitable receptacle for your spare GPS.. If there is any sailor reading this who can report having actually preserved a GPS in this way, we at Sail-World would like to hear your story.

................................................................

Letter from Reader:

Sender: Clint Collier
>
> Message: Oh, and what happens when the sextant is dropped overboard? Go
> back to the astrolabe? When the radio gets wet start practicing your
> Morse code... oh, wait, the CG doesn't speak Morse code any more!
>
> Celestial navigation is a nice art to be familiar with and, play with but
> if you are concerned with dropping your GPS into the bilge the first thing
> you should do is run out and buy a backup GPS, not take a celestial
> navigation course.
Southern Spars - 100Bakewell-White Yacht DesignNaiad/Oracle Supplier

Related Articles

Clipper Race – Constant trimming and little sleep in the North Sea
There is little opportunity for tactical moves and the timings of tacks are crucial if teams want to make vital gains. After a downwind start with spinnakers trimmed in light airs against the tide off Den Helder on the Dutch coast yesterday, the fleet has been match racing across the North Sea towards the Thames Estuary.
Posted on 29 Jul
Debriefing the 2015-16 Clipper Round The World Race with Huw Fernie
Sail-World talked with Huw Fernie of Visit Seattle to learn more about a Clipper Round The World Race skipper’s life. Skipper Huw Fernie and his Visit Seattle crew took top honors in the Den Helder Northern Seas Challenge, marking their second podium finish during the 2015/16 Clipper Round The World Race. I recently caught up with Fernie to learn more about Visit Seattle’s success in the Den Helder Northern Seas Challenge, and to learn more about the life of a Clipper Round The World Race skipper.
Posted on 28 Jul
Finale of Clipper Race global series starts in The Netherlands
The 198nm race to London is going to be one of the most nail-biting yet with just six points separating the top teams After a Departure Ceremony from Willemsoord Marina and a Parade of Sail in the presence of Dutch Royal Navy ship ZrMs Luymes, the fleet started the final short sprint to London off the Dutch coast.
Posted on 28 Jul
Thousands of spectators expected to welcome home Clipper Race fleet
Hurricane winds, giant waves, freezing conditions, battered boats and tragedy fail to quell fighting spirit of the crew. The tenth edition of the famous biennial race for novice sailors led by professional skippers is regarded as the most challenging on record after the event endured the most extreme conditions it has ever faced in its 20-year history.
Posted on 28 Jul
America's Cup World Series - Ian Roman's images of Pompey
Ian Roman was in Portsmouth for the America's Cup World Series capturing the Royal visitors Top international photographer, Ian Roman was in Portsmouth for the America's Cup World Series and provided this second of two galleries of the racing across the three days of the regatta, taking in the Royal visitors.
Posted on 26 Jul
America’s Cup World Series – More final day images by Ingrid Abery
Ingrid Abery has provided this gallery of images from final day Ingrid Abery has provided this gallery of images from final day
Posted on 25 Jul
America’s Cup World Series – Final race day images by Ingrid Abery
Ingrid Abery provided this gallery of images from final day Ingrid Abery provided this gallery of images from final day
Posted on 25 Jul
LV America’s Cup World Series - Up and down for Groupama Team France
The new leader is none other than the local team lead by Sir Ben Ainslie, who was rallied along throughout the six races 2016 America’s Cup World Series - This weekend the overall ranking for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series has been turned on its head and with the Portsmouth act complete, the new leader is none other than the local team lead by Sir Ben Ainslie, who was rallied along throughout the six races by strong support from a home crowd.
Posted on 25 Jul
LV America's Cup World Series - Land Rover BAR take two from two
While Oracle Team USA did all but everything they could to take the win with a two, one, one scorecard today 2016 Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series - While Oracle Team USA did all but everything they could to take the win with a two, one, one scorecard today, it wasn't enough to topple the fast and furious tenacity of a Ben Ainslie led Land Rover BAR on the final day of racing at the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series in Portsmouth.
Posted on 25 Jul
2016 LV America’s Cup World Series - More images by Carlo Borlenghi
Carlo Borlenghi provided this gallery of images from America’s Cup World Series - Race Day 2 and Prize-giving ceremony. 2016 America’s Cup World Series - Carlo Borlenghi provided this gallery of images from 2016 Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series - Race Day 2 and Prize-giving ceremony.
Posted on 25 Jul