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Steam Flyer

Teaching High School Sailors to Navigate

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This afternoon we will have the final sailing class for the local Junior ROTC cadets. This fall, the class is smaller than usual but we still have half a dozen newbies and about that same number of "advanced" sailors who have passed the basic course.

A little background- the basic sailing course evolved over 2008~2010 for basic small boat sailing using FJs and whatever else we had handy. Over the years we built up a fleet of Oday Javelins which are robust little sloops, pretty good for this purpose. The cadets are responsible for getting the boats cleaned, rigged, and set p correctly. We coaches do fiberglass work and trailer the boats back & forth when needed. To pass the basic course, a cadet must learn about 40 basic sailing terms including parts of the boat, how to rig them correctly, how to both steer and handle the sails for all points of sail, how to tack as either skipper or crew, how to bring the boat to a stop at a designated spot, and how to keep themselves and their fellow cadets safe while on the water.

http://nbnjrotc-sail.blogspot.com/

The advanced cadets do all kinds of stuff, from racing to physics to navigating to communications (including seeing if they can put a radio back together (and have it work) after I've showed them what's inside). We've had practice emergency drills which we dropped on them out of the blue, they thought it was a real emergency (an accident with serious/fatal injuries) until about five minutes into it when they were well on the way to having it under control. These kids are awesome and it has been a great honor and pleasure to help run this class.

I have laid out a brief navigation test wherein they have to pick any of four local destinations, plot a course to it, navigate the boat along this course including making some corrections (such as noting the difference between compasses), take some bearings and plot a fix, solve time/speed/distance questions, and of course get back home safely.

Compliments gratefully accepted but I'm also interested in hearing what you all would put into such an exercise. This is the furthest I've ever taken one of these classes.

FB- Doug

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If they are doing conic sections in geometry, you might want to show them how Loran worked. Not that it's useful these days, but for a practical application of hyperbolas it might be interesting.

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58 minutes ago, Steam Flyer said:

I have laid out a brief navigation test wherein they have to pick any of four local destinations, plot a course to it, navigate the boat along this course including making some corrections (such as noting the difference between compasses), take some bearings and plot a fix, solve time/speed/distance questions, and of course get back home safely.

Compliments gratefully accepted but I'm also interested in hearing what you all would put into such an exercise. This is the furthest I've ever taken one of these classes.

FB- Doug

I did a similar exercise as a kid (UK Naval Cadet corps). Fun add ins could include

Measure the height of a mast/object using only the tools/equipment they have on the boat, preferably something that can't get closer than say 100ft to. (requires navigating to and from the object and then some basic geometry) For more fun add in estimating how accurate their measurement is.

Finding the fastest way to get round a set of 4 places making best use of tides. (i.e. both currents and depths if possible)

Calculating the tide at some known place and time. (and checking against chart)

These could all be 'bonus' points beyond the 'basic exercise'

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Some basic reading of charts, then teaching them how to shoot three fixes of known objects on the short, 5-10 minutes apart to establish their position on the water, course direction and speed using nothing but a handheld compass and the compass rose on the map (/spreaders?) would be pretty simple.  It takes a couple hours of classroom work and it's about a 30 minute lesson to demonstrate on the water.  NooBs are usually amazed and thrilled at being able to plot their fix on a piece of water that has no roads or signs on it...

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Interesting - and yes i learned ocean and star navigating in a ROTC type class. That being said, no one navigates like that anymore. Knowing how to use a GPS, read charts etc will be more useful.

 

To be safe, yes, having the ability to layout running DR plots it great, but only if the military flips the switch on GPS.

 

Good on you for taking it on.

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Thanks all, for the suggestions.

JohnMB, we don't have tides here, this is an estuary above a network of sounds & inlets that only have a couple feet of lunar tide anyway. Our "tide" is wind-driven. But you're right, that is certainly part of the curriculum. I have a chart with Loran lines and I showed them that in the last class (no idea how much of it they took in).

We did some of the suggested items, including taking bearings of objects on the chart and ploting a fix. I explained LOPs, we shot bearing LOPs and transit LOPs (a range) and ony distance LOP. We discussed what a "fix" is, and I have a brief on how the GPS system produces a fix. I had two charts so they divided into teams and did a fair amount of basic course work, plotting a course thru a bridge opening and seeing/translating all the chart symbology and nav aids along the way.

Dark, it's true that this is not particularly relevant to the way people navigate today, BUT I think it's important to plant the seed that we can in fact know what we're doing, not just follow a magic box. That was part of the discussion, my boat has radar & depthsounder, so we can get information that is not apparent to the naked eye. "How do we know what we know?"

They're smart kids. They're handicapped from not being familiar with basic math, they stumbled a LOT with time/speed/distance. But given the opportunity and a little motivation, they can do a heck of a lot.

FB- Doug

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Students should be prepared to pursue  STCW 2010 basic safety, GMDSS radio operator and the standard Coast Guard base  liscensing regime .

 

 These qualifications are very expensive and time consuming to acquire in real life.  

 

Any of  these qualifications will give your students  a leg up on others when seeking maritime employment .

 

in the US many community colleges offer maritime courses....this course work literature should be available cheaply  .  Much is online 

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4 minutes ago, slug zitski said:

Students should be prepared to pursue  STCW 2010 basic safety, GMDSS radio operator and the standard Coast Guard base  liscensing regime .

 

 These qualifications are very expensive and time consuming to acquire in real life.  

 

Any of  these qualifications will give your students  a leg up on others when seeking maritime employment .

 

in the US many community colleges offer maritime courses....this course work literature should be available cheaply  .  Much is online 

I can point them in that direction, but starting out with kids that have literally never even seen a boat, live & in-person, and having a two-hour class once a week for 12 weeks per semester, I cannot teach to any of those goals. I can (and have) used inputs from all of them in the curriculum; especially for the continuing course past the basic level. We have some "advanced sailors" who could get a radio license if they choose to; we've had students in the past who took & passed the USCG OUPV (6-pack) test.

Thanks for the references. Here's one of the better ones I found specifically about navigation & chart-reading

http://noaa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=fe2d889c35794f0999811b66cd5ffbe7

FB- Doug

 

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I have a hell of a time with teaching navigation for pilots now.

I'll look at the GPS

It blew a fuse

I'll look at my phone

It went dead

I'll look at my iPad

It overheated

I'll look at my other phone

It got stolen

I'll get a phone from a passenger

The solar flares burned out the GPS satellites

:rolleyes:

 

EDIT - A fun thing for boats or airplanes is to start off with DR. Absent hitting things, you do speed, course, and time. No corrections except for safety. Then you see where you ended up vs. where you planned to end up. I start with that and add pilotage next.

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Maybe a small section reviewing the gps course track after they sail a reasonably long close hauled leg (carefully steering to wind, not compass). So the kids can see how much the wind direction oscillates, showing it is easier to work wind than fighting against the wind. Newbies seem to struggle a bit with leeway, lifts and knocks, and end up not quite where they think they are. 

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Very basic and maybe you've already got this covered - plotting a given lat & long on a paper chart using a compass. And instruction in using the latitude scale to measure distance.

Even if you're using GPS, DR is an important skill to plot out where you're going to be (or at least where you expect to be) in the future and comparing DR against a fix is necessary to calculate current, set, drift, etc.

Might add in using a radar plot or paper maneuvering board to do relative motion plots and calculate CPAs.

And if it's primarily a sailing class it might also be interesting to use the maneuvering board to calculate true and relative wind. A good exercise might include: 1) We're on this course and speed and observe relative wind angle and speed - what is true wind direction and speed? 2) We've calculated true wind direction and speed. If we change course to that and our speed changes thusly, what will the new relative wind be? At that relative wind, what point of sail will we be on and what sails should we have up?

If night sailing is in the picture, maybe using charts to identify navigation aids by light characteristic, and calculating how far away they should be visible. Another good night drill would be identifying other vessels (type and aspect angle) from their running lights.

Also could add in some quick shiphandlers math like 3 and 6 minute rules, radian rule, etc.

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3 hours ago, Steam Flyer said:

I can point them in that direction, but starting out with kids that have literally never even seen a boat, live & in-person, and having a two-hour class once a week for 12 weeks per semester, I cannot teach to any of those goals. I can (and have) used inputs from all of them in the curriculum; especially for the continuing course past the basic level. We have some "advanced sailors" who could get a radio license if they choose to; we've had students in the past who took & passed the USCG OUPV (6-pack) test.

Thanks for the references. Here's one of the better ones I found specifically about navigation & chart-reading

http://noaa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=fe2d889c35794f0999811b66cd5ffbe7

FB- Doug

 

I understand that they are just kids.  No need for them to sit for licensing.

It is important that they are exposed to appropriate maritime knowledge that wiil be useful in future.

when i was a kid my maritime knowledge came via the US Power Squadron 

https://www.usps.org/

 

you might contact the power sqaudron and ask if they have an resources that you can use with the kids .  For instance Flashcards. .https://www.amnautical.com/products/rules-of-the-road-colregs-cards#.Wh2pXNEo-f0

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, kent_island_sailor said:

I have a hell of a time with teaching navigation for pilots now.

I'll look at the GPS

It blew a fuse

I'll look at my phone

It went dead

I'll look at my iPad

It overheated

I'll look at my other phone

It got stolen

I'll get a phone from a passenger

The solar flares burned out the GPS satellites

:rolleyes:

 

EDIT - A fun thing for boats or airplanes is to start off with DR. Absent hitting things, you do speed, course, and time. No corrections except for safety. Then you see where you ended up vs. where you planned to end up. I start with that and add pilotage next.

It's amazing to me how many people are just content to look at a magic box and let it solve all their problems, untill suddenly they have problems it can't help with.

We actually discussed this after running out a plotted course from a fix..... looked at the GPS / chartplotter, matched it to our plotted course, and I said something to the effect that it's a wonderful tool, but  a hammer and saw can't build houses. If you trust it to tell you where to go, and you have no idea how it arrives at the answers, you can't tell if something goes haywire. Even 12 year olds understand that all this wonderful technology doesn't work perfectly 100% of the time.

One of them said, "If you just go where it tells you, and the boat hits a rock or something, it's still your fault."

FB- Doug

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8 hours ago, slug zitski said:

I understand that they are just kids.  No need for them to sit for licensing.

It is important that they are exposed to appropriate maritime knowledge that wiil be useful in future.

when i was a kid my maritime knowledge came via the US Power Squadron 

https://www.usps.org/

 

you might contact the power sqaudron and ask if they have an resources that you can use with the kids .  For instance Flashcards. .https://www.amnautical.com/products/rules-of-the-road-colregs-cards#.Wh2pXNEo-f0

 

 

 

I like the flashcards, I downloaded some similar ones for lights & signals as well as for rules of the road somewhere a few years ago. THen I made up some as well.

When I've got a class on the water, and they are familiar enough with basic sailing to be able to control their boats (mostly), I am always grilling them on right-of-way: "Who has right-of-way between you and Red?" Signal one boat to stop and then ask the boats behind them, "Who has right-of-way? Have you already got a plan to avoid collision?" The brain never stops.

The USPS is a great resource, we used to have a more active chapter here but I think they're falling back to regroup these days.

BTW everybody,I really appreciate the feedback BUT this program is something we should all be participating in! It's fun, it really helps the kids grow up to become smarter more capable people, and it's the future!

FB- Doug

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I never liked the ridgid approach that the US uses for maritime qualifications.

the  structure of the British system is very worthwhile .  http://www.rya.org.uk/courses-training/exams/Pages/yachtmaster-coastal.aspx

you might review the RYA method....for instance thier course levels,  literature and syllabus.  

 

also consider that today, if you wantd to charter a 30 footer in Greece, you would need some kind of paperwork  that proves you are competent  .  These British certificates are easy to aquire and its recognized worldwide.  

 

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On 11/27/2017 at 12:58 PM, Steam Flyer said:

This afternoon we will have the final sailing class for the local Junior ROTC cadets. This fall, the class is smaller than usual but we still have half a dozen newbies and about that same number of "advanced" sailors who have passed the basic course.

A little background- the basic sailing course evolved over 2008~2010 for basic small boat sailing using FJs and whatever else we had handy. Over the years we built up a fleet of Oday Javelins which are robust little sloops, pretty good for this purpose. The cadets are responsible for getting the boats cleaned, rigged, and set p correctly. We coaches do fiberglass work and trailer the boats back & forth when needed. To pass the basic course, a cadet must learn about 40 basic sailing terms including parts of the boat, how to rig them correctly, how to both steer and handle the sails for all points of sail, how to tack as either skipper or crew, how to bring the boat to a stop at a designated spot, and how to keep themselves and their fellow cadets safe while on the water.

http://nbnjrotc-sail.blogspot.com/

The advanced cadets do all kinds of stuff, from racing to physics to navigating to communications (including seeing if they can put a radio back together (and have it work) after I've showed them what's inside). We've had practice emergency drills which we dropped on them out of the blue, they thought it was a real emergency (an accident with serious/fatal injuries) until about five minutes into it when they were well on the way to having it under control. These kids are awesome and it has been a great honor and pleasure to help run this class.

I have laid out a brief navigation test wherein they have to pick any of four local destinations, plot a course to it, navigate the boat along this course including making some corrections (such as noting the difference between compasses), take some bearings and plot a fix, solve time/speed/distance questions, and of course get back home safely.

Compliments gratefully accepted but I'm also interested in hearing what you all would put into such an exercise. This is the furthest I've ever taken one of these classes.

FB- Doug

In the navigational instruction that's been provided, have they done wind/water current corrections w/an E6B? 

I'd also make sure they knew some of the "shortcuts" for measuring/estimating distance ( like how much distance a minute of latitude on the charts represents, using geometry and the height of a known object like a point on their mast to estimate distance to some other point, etc).

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make them use an E6B. Not reason to - i just think everyone should suffer enjoy learning how to use one... 

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The rotating plastic part on the E6B is an easy and fast way to visualize current effects.

Here is an interesting exercise. Give the navigator access to a GPS that *only* reads lat and lon. While this would have been considered a miracle of miracles back in the RDF and Loran days, I bet a good number of modern "navigators" would be helpless even with a current accurate lat-lon right in front of them.

Another good exercise is a review of all the things the GPS cannot do. Kent Narrows is tight enough to be extremely hard at best to run by GPS alone and the markers get moved as the shoals move. Many inlets have mobile markers that can change by the day.  Zoomed out plotters will make things like small islands disappear. Some charts, especially in the third world, can be miles off. The surveyors in the 19th century were not using GPS. AIS only shows people who have the gear and have it on. Etc etc..............

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1 hour ago, kent_island_sailor said:

The rotating plastic part on the E6B is an easy and fast way to visualize current effects.

Here is an interesting exercise. Give the navigator access to a GPS that *only* reads lat and lon. While this would have been considered a miracle of miracles back in the RDF and Loran days, I bet a good number of modern "navigators" would be helpless even with a current accurate lat-lon right in front of them.

Another good exercise is a review of all the things the GPS cannot do. Kent Narrows is tight enough to be extremely hard at best to run by GPS alone and the markers get moved as the shoals move. Many inlets have mobile markers that can change by the day.  Zoomed out plotters will make things like small islands disappear. Some charts, especially in the third world, can be miles off. The surveyors in the 19th century were not using GPS. AIS only shows people who have the gear and have it on. Etc etc..............

Yup - learn finger on the map first, then how the electronics help you keep the finger where it's supposed to be. 

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They will get plenty of opportunity to push buttons on a GPS. I would school them hard in basic piloting and dead reckoning. Taking bearings from objects to get a fix, bearings on a moving object to check for collision course, plotting a course to account for beamish current, etc. Those skills go a long way, and celestial and GPS are just icing on the cake.

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calculating cpa's and intercepts of other vessels is useful and fun too.

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46 minutes ago, ryley said:

calculating cpa's and intercepts of other vessels is useful and fun too.

 

48 minutes ago, RKoch said:

They will get plenty of opportunity to push buttons on a GPS. I would school them hard in basic piloting and dead reckoning. Taking bearings from objects to get a fix, bearings on a moving object to check for collision course, plotting a course to account for beamish current, etc. Those skills go a long way, and celestial and GPS are just icing on the cake.

I fear this all will become a lost art because you don't have to do it (usually). The skill of the navigator was in integrating various inputs into a probable position. DR says I am here, the RDF line crosses the depth contour here, the Loran LOP is here, the lighthouse we think is X is about this bearing over there, etc. etc.

None of it was 100% trustworthy, you had to weigh a lot of factors to get a good answer. My best MacGyver-nav was finding Walker's Cay by looking at fishing boats and going where the one with the gear in was pointed. Their radio beacon had gone off the air some time previous and it was not reported.

I wonder if anyone remembers missing on purpose. You did not want to run up on the reefs west of Bermuda, so one strategy was to run east on a latitude line north of the island and then follow the RDF or lighthouse if you could see it straight south.

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It's not going to become a lost art, if I have anything to say about it! I did not have the benefit of all the comments, but here is the exercise. Intended to go 2 hours of riding around on the river.

 

2nd Navigation Exercise: Sailing Practice                     NBHS NJROTC 2017

 

Before getting underway, orient yourself to the vessel. What are it’s characteristics that you need to know about before operating safely? What are it’s characteristics that are important for navigating?

Take a look around the surrounding area and then at the chart, to become oriented. What landmarks can you see, that are charted? What is the general course of the river at this point? How wide is it?

Use the dock from which you started as a “Departure” and plot your current position using the vessels course & speed.

Why might this not be perfectly accurate?

What is the compass direction to Union Pt? Check it by steering your vessel on that course. Using the distance from the chart and the speed of your vessel, determine how long it will take your vessel to sail to New Bern (Union Pt).

Can your vessel sail straight along this course all the way there?

 

Check a possible course north thru the railroad bridge. Can your vessel safely go there?

 

Take a round of bearings and plot your position. Use whatever means available to check this for accuracy.

Object 1                                         Bearing                                              Time

Object 2                                         Bearing                                              Time

Object 3                                         Bearing                                              Time

 

Determine a safe course to a nearby dock (pick one of several) and determine which Nav Aids will guide you.

Find N 35° 06.12’  W 077° 0.88’ What is there? Could we go there?

Determine a safe course to our home dock and determine which Nav Aids will guide you. How long will it take us to get there?

 

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Most of the above.  But, in no particular order:

1. Observation and awareness.  All the time.

2. Continuous DR,  logging it regularly, and chart plotting skills.  Tidal diamonds?  Have to start here.

3. Identifying lights.  All of them.  Fixed and moving.

4. See #1.  Applies to everything ON the boat also.  Chafe?  Bad lead?  Seasick hand?  Water in bilge?

5. See #1

 

 

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2 minutes ago, P_Wop said:

Most of the above.  But, in no particular order:

1. Observation and awareness.  All the time.

2. Continuous DR,  logging it regularly, and chart plotting skills.  Tidal diamonds?  Have to start here.

3. Identifying lights.  All of them.  Fixed and moving.

4. See #1.  Applies to everything ON the boat also.  Chafe?  Bad lead?  Seasick hand?  Water in bilge?

5. See #1

 

 

Our NJROTC C.O. is a retired Marine pilot, situational awareness is one of his biggies. He supports the sailing program because it very much fosters the attitude of paying attention to what you're doing, and building the skill of keeping situational awareness.

FB- Doug

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