Finding Your Way Essay, Research Paper
FINDING YOUR WAY. Andrew Smith I couldn’t agree more with Kenneth Grahame’s Water Rat in “Wind in the Willows” : “There is nothing-absolutely nothing-half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ‘em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not.” (7) Whether it’s spent fishing, sailing, or simply cruising, a day out on the ocean is a lot of fun. That day of fun can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t know exactly where you are, there are all kinds of hazards that need to be avoided. Many people taking to the water rely solely on electronic methods of navigation such as radar or the Global Positioning System to find their way around. People going to sea must learn how to navigate manually without electronic aids. The most popular means of electronic navigation, the Global Positioning System is not always guaranteed to be in operation. People can and do make serious errors when interpreting electronic navigation information without verifying their position by other means. Mishaps such as lightning strikes and engine failures can render a boat without electricity disabling electronic navigation systems. GLOBAL POSTIONING SYSTEM. There is no guarantee that the Global Positioning System (GPS) will always be in operation. GPS is a satellite-based radio-navigation system developed and operated by the U.S. Department of Defense. While in operation, it permits land, sea, and airborne users to determine their three-dimensional position, velocity, and time twenty four hours a day, in all weather, anywhere in the world with a precision and accuracy far better than other radionavigation systems available today or in the foreseeable future (”GPS frequently”). However, there are some issues that need to be considered. One of these is the year two thousand computer problem. It stems from the fact that many computer programs are using a two-digit date field and assume the year is nineteen hundred and something. When the year two thousand arrives, a two-digit date becomes ‘zero zero’ and could be interpreted as an invalid date. All generations of GPS satellites are unaffected by the year two thousand computer problem. However, it is vital that GPS users verify that their receivers and applications will work properly through these events. (”GPS Year Y2K”). What this basically means is that not all manufacturers of GPS receivers were aware of this issue. Anyone at sea on that day had better have some other means of navigation to fall back on as their receiver could stop functioning. There is another problem that is not as well known as the year two thousand problem and that is the End of Week Rollover problem. The End of Week Rollover problem is a problem that occurs every twenty years in the GPS system. GPS system time, which counts weeks, started counting on midnight of the fifth of January nineteen eighty. It uses a system that counts up to one thousand and twenty four weeks and then goes back to zero. At midnight on the 21st and 22nd of August 1999, the GPS week will rollover from week one thousand and twenty three back to zero. This could be interpreted as an invalid date by affected GPS receivers rendering them inoperable.Imagine if you were sailing overnight on August 21st and you were not aware of the End of Week Rollover issue. Suddenly you find yourself at sea at night with no means of navigation. If you do not have coastal navigation skills you will find yourself in serious trouble. These are only the problems that we are currently aware of, who knows what is waiting around the corner? Whether its problems with the GPS system itself, or with your receiver, it should not be taken for granted that GPS will always be operable. HUMAN ERROR People can and do make mistakes. Eighty five percent of all accidents in the marine industry occur through human error. (”Safety: we are”) One area of navigation where mistakes are easily made is with operating radar, a favorite electronic navigation aid in fog. The Boat Owners Association of the United States has documented this fact with incidents claimed on their insurance pollicies. Consider the Member and his wife who were coping with a thick fog by following a commercial fishing vessel down a river in Maine. They continued past the mouth of the river , to a navigational buoy about a mile offshore. They then headed their cruiser toward another marker on the chart, but never found it. Setting a course from his estimated position, the boat owner adjusted the radar to show his destination, directly ahead. Proceeding in very limited visibility at approximately five knots, the vessel shortly went hard aground on an underwater ledge. Trapped by a dropping tide, the cruiser had to be abandoned; it later went ashore and broke up – a total loss (Claim #902517) (”Coping with”).There are several lessons here; one of them being that using radar to locate navigational aids in the fog takes practice. Then, too, the radar may not be aligned to the boat’s heading, which means the target on the screen will be skewed. If you find yourself in thick fog and decide to proceed (at slow speed, of course), safe navigational practice is to manually plot your compass course and speed with your lowly compass, paper charts, pencil and ruler. The more obvious lesson is that no radar, regardless of its quality, will identify underwater hazards like rock ledges or sandbars. In a situation like this it is wise to frequently check your depth either manually, with a weight attached to a line or by depth sounder. Another incident documented by the U.S. Coastguard where a Baltic passenger ferry carrying over a thousand passengers on board was severely damaged and nearly sank in a grounding incident off of the coast of Helsinki due to the crew’s lack of familiarity with a new radar mapping system. The vessel owners put a new radar mapping system on the ferry without adequately training the crew in the use of the radar mapping system (”Lessons). If the officer of the watch had been confirming his position manually, there would have been less chance of such an accident. These two incidents alone clearly illustrate how people can make mistakes when they do not verify information from electronic navigation systems.
MISHAPS. An aluminum mast on a sailboat presents a very tempting target for a bolt of lightning. Sailboat masts are generally bristling with antennas sending all of that much needed information back to various receivers, GPS and radar to name a couple. It can happen anywhere at anytime. One such documented case from Freshwater Seas magazine actually sank a boat: – On September 19, 1997, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, Bill and Lynn Damson of Kalamazoo got one of those phone calls you hope never to get. “Your boat’s been struck by lightning.” It takes about fifty five minutes to get from the Damson’s home in Kalamazoo, Michigan to the marina in South Haven where they keep their 1984 Catalina 27, Sea Tryst. It only took forty minutes for Sea Tryst to sink in her slip from the damage caused by a tremendous lightning blast. When Bill Damson arrived, his boat was already resting on her keel. Not the way anyone wants to find out how deep their slip really is. “The strangest thing,” Damson says, “is that we have the shortest mast in the area. Our mast height is 27 feet, and we’re near several other boats with 30 and 32 foot masts.” Those who witnessed the strike say that the top of Sea Tryst’s mast sprayed electricity like a sparkler, then glowed like a fireball. “It really makes you wonder, ” Damson mused. “What if we had been out on the lake instead of at the marina? We could have been injured. All of our electronics were destroyed, we would have had no radio, no way to call for help. Unless we could have somehow found the hole and plugged it, the boat would have sunk under us in such a short time ( Bethene, 1). Most people with a will to survive would have plugged the hole and kept the boat afloat. But if this kind of thing happens and you don’t posses the skills to navigate the boat manually you may find yourself plugging a bigger hole, when you have lost your way and ran aground. Keeping any boat in good working order whether it is large or small requires a lot of dedication and hard work. I can say this from personal experience having spent twenty years at sea as a Marine Engineer. One common cause of total electrical failure at sea is dirty fuel filters. Once the filters get clogged, the engine stops. The less experienced operator will not recognize the symptoms and repeatedly start the engine deadening the battery. The U.S. Coastguard in Hawaii analyzed all of their data over a period of three years (Mahony, Coulson). They found that of the casualties to diesel engines, forty one per cent could have been prevented if hoses and filters had been maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Because the engine charges the battery and maintains the boat’s electricity supply, This would render the boat without electronic navigation systems. There are a whole host of other mishaps waiting to happen; water in the fuel, leaking pipes and mechanical failures to name a few. All of these things will leave you literally powerless to navigate electronically. CONCLUSION. GPS is a wonderful thing, its accuracy is unsurpassed by any other form of electronic navigation but it cannot be blindly relied upon to be in constant operation. People do make mistakes and they are more easily made when relying solely on electronic means of navigation. You never know when you are going to have that mishap on the water that leads to a power failure, especially in the case of a lightning strike. Anyone taking a boat to sea that values their life should definitely learn how to navigate manually without electronic aids.
. Bethene, Robert “Sunk By Lightning” September 1998, Freshwaterseas.com23 May 1999. http://www.freshwaterseas.com/V01N11Nov98/Story2.asp> “Coping with Sudden Fog” 17 October 1997, Boat Owners Association of The United States Home Page, 21 May, 1999.http://www.boatus.com/news/swfog.htm> Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows Oxford: Simon and Schuster 1989. “GPS Frequently Asked Questions” 10 Feb 1999, United States Coast Guard Navigation Center. 22 May 1999.http://www.navcen.uscg.mil/faq/gpsfaq1.htm#What> “GPS Year Y2K” 10 Feb 1999, United States Coast Guard Navigation Center. 22 May 1999.http://www.navcen.uscg.mil/gps/geninfo/y2k/default.htm> “Lessons Learned” 3 June 1996, United States Coast Guard , Office Of Investigations and Analysis. 24 May 1999.http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g%2Dm/moa/docs/ll0196.htm> Mahony, Jon Coulson, Sandy “Passenger Vessel Casualty Statistics” 15 October 1997, United States Coast Guard Hawaii Home Page. 23 May 1999.http://www.aloha.net/ msohono/passenger/pax.htm#_Toc408405216> “Safety: we are the enemy” 3 June 1996, United States Coast Guard Home Page. 23 May 1999.http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/moa/docs/sa0998.htm> “Lessons Learned” 3 June 1996, United States Coast Guard , Office Of Investigations and Analysis. 24 May 1999.http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g%2Dm/moa/docs/ll0196.htm> Mahony, Jon Coulson, Sandy “Passenger Vessel Casualty Statistics” 15 October 1997, United States Coast Guard Hawaii Home Page. 23 May 1999.http://www.aloha.net/ msohono/passenger/pax.htm#_Toc408405216>