Actual clockwork – the works that solved the problem of how to sail across an ocean safely by keeping proper time for navigation. And, these clocks from the 1700’s are still ticking!
I visited the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England this month. Been on my list since I first read “Longitude” by Dava Sobel, about the English crafstman and inventor John Harrison. I’ve written about it before, but now I’ve seen it.
“You have to see it to understand. Now I’ve seen it.”
The Dragon Queen, Game of Thrones
(I also saw the dragon motifs in Wales, and got some great drag swag, but that’s another story from the same trip.)
Harrison’s clocks revolutionized sea travel and have withstood the test of time. It took him most of his adult lifetime, partially because he was a self-sabotaging perfectionist, but he solved the problem of his time: how to determine longitude at sea. His timepieces were the first chronometers, or very accurate time pieces that would work for extended sea voyages without adjustment or maintenance. And, he won the incentive prize offered by Parliament: 20,000 pounds. That translates into roughly $7 million when adjusted to today’s value.
Why was this a problem to begin with?
To determine longitudinal position at sea (east/west), one needed to know the time at the home port of departure (now Greenwich, England, or GMT for all) and compare it to the local apparent noon (sun at its zenith).
To do that, one needed an accurate time piece.
They existed on land, but none of the day could keep time at sea due to the motion of the ocean, as well as changes in humidity and barometric pressure.
Until the problem was solved, vessels were constantly at risk of delayed or premature arrivals, getting lost, or worse, running aground. That last eventuality was the straw that broke the stiff upper lip of the land: a small armada was lost off the coat of England due to poor position reckoning.
The detailed history is best left to Dava Sobel, but suffice it to say it that this wasn’t an easy affair. Here’s a super-short summary.
In 1714, Parliament created the Board of Longitude and offered the prize.
In the 1720’s, Harrison created his first clock. It was huge, unwieldy, and elegant a/f – so much so that a fancy-lad clockmaker in England makes stunning replicas.
It worked well enough on a proper sea trial, and it was duly recognized by the Board, but there was room for improvement. A small sum was paid with the promise that another improved clock would be built.
It took three more iterations, decades of time, and some political jockeying to get it done…. but the fourth time was the charm. From a large machine, to a large pocket watch, Harrison created a consistently reliable chronometer and safe navigation was possible. Sadly, despite this accomplishment and also winning the king’s ransom of a prize, he died a bitter and broken man.
But, I was a happy fan at the Royal Observatory. I highly recommend anyone traveling to London take a side trip to Greenwich, which also has the Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark. Easy on tube + rail. Harrison’s clocks might be the best part about the Observatory but there’s plenty more, including the touristy thing: standing on the Prime Meridian!
Again: read Longitude by Dava Sobel. Get the illustrated version. Fascinating and revealing. There’s also a Nova episode about it, and despite being a little campy with reenactments, it’s great. Sobel is interviewed in it.
We teach the basics of latitude and longitude work in our Coastal Navigation course, Start Sailing (ASA 105), including how to use lat/lon coordinates from a GPS to plot position on a paper chart. Old school blended with new.
Dad and I both wrote textbooks for our sailing schools over the decades. What better way to help teach people how to sail or navigate a boat than to write your own rather than rent?
I followed in my father’s footsteps. He’d be like, “rolling over in my grave!” But, also, I’d like to think, proud all the same.
Above: his, not mine. Circa 1978, this was the text book students received when they signed up for The Master’s Course. This was the learn to sail/refresher course offered by New York Sailing School, which my dad founded in 1968 we believe. (It could have been ’70, but more likely ’68.) I was either 4 or 6 at the time!
The photo above was sent to me recently from a graduate of that program who is getting back into sailing after an absence. He learned to sail from my dad, and will continue on with me. We get this all the time; it’s one of the best feelings about being in the sport and the industry.
I can’t find a copy in our family’s stuff! I have the following cover from a slightly newer version of the same book…
Before I continue, I’m calling on anyone who has a copy of this text book, regardless of which cover is on it, to get in touch with us! I have a scan of the contents but I want to get an original hard copy for sentimental reasons.
And, now, back to the Blog…
The textbook was low-tech and photocopied. It was either stapled together or 3-hole punched and bound. But, it worked: students found it simple, effective, fun, and a great resource. He wrote it because, well… he was a writer amongst other things. He did a lot of advertising copy-wrighting as part of his first career, becoming a Creative VP in several boutique firms from the Mad Men era (does the name Benton & Bowles ring a bell?). Eventually, his side hustle in sailing became all consuming and he launched New York Sailing School after more modest beginnings with rentals and what was perhaps the country’s earliest seasonal time-share/fractional sailing plan: Sail-A-Season.
He also wrote it as it was needed. The American Sailing Association (ASA) didn’t come around until 1983. That year, both my Glenn and I became ASA instructors: I’m # 830701, for those who get how those numbers work. US Sailing didn’t add a adult sailing school/instruction arm until 1993. So, there wasn’t an industry association text book series available. Yes, Colgate’s Basic Sailing Theory (Steve Colgate, Offshore Sailing School) existed. It was rather expensive and also written by the competition. And, I don’t think dad liked it on it’s merits, honestly.
Fast forward to 1986/87. Dad sold the school that winter while I was in college. He remained an advisor to them for a few years and I helped out with that. Gradually, they edited and changed the book until it wasn’t the Sh*t My Dad Wrote. End of era. Just after that, I wrote this, which I include not just to pat myself on the back but in the context of the geo-political climate of the times…
Dad passed of lung cancer in the summer of 1995.
Skip forward a few years to late summer of 1997. For various reasons, I started a new sailing school. I actually went into direct competition with the former family business. I had taken back management and operation of dad’s New York Sailing Center & Yacht Club the year before, which at the time was simply a small marina with mooring storage and launch service. When dad sold the sailing school, he didn’t see the marina. I simply added a sailing school to it. I started off by affiliating with US Sailing that year, and in the spring of ’98, also affiliated with ASA. New York Sailing Center & Yacht Club was one of only a handful of schools in the country to certify students through both organizations. Later, it came to be that no school could be an affiliate of both ASA and US Sailing for other boring reasons. (Schools can be affiliates of ASA and also organizational members of US Sailing, as we have been, but no school can offer both systems of certification.)
Early on in the new school’s development, we started offering Start Navigating,SM the ASA 105 Coastal Navigation course. We had a consistent volume year round, offering it typically once a week for a month, 1x monthly. While ASA’s original textbook was excellent in many ways, it was missing material covered on the exam and also badly out of date on tech (RDF/Loran versus GPS). So, Captain Card (a/k/a Me, Myself and I) wrote a few short supplements to fill in those gaps. It was fun, but more needed to be done.
So, headphones on to the tune of “I, me, my” by The Beatles, he set to work one winter. During trips to Vermont for Thanksgiving and Christmas, he started drafting a comprehensive book. It sort of flowed organically, and it was fun, and it was good. So, whether it would ultimately be completed and used or not didn’t matter at the time. Over time, it became clear that ASA’s book wasn’t going to be revised anytime soon, despite them saying they’d send a draft of it soon.
Long story short: I finished my book and have used it for our Coastal Navigation course, Start Navigating,SM ever since. It’s had some minor updates over the years, but is essentially as written back in 2002. One topic needed revision when I stumbled in stages on something no one else did. The conventional wisdom about applying magnetic variation when plotting courses is misunderstood. It assumes something that isn’t true. I updated my book accordingly.
ASA? Nah. I was working with another ASA school owner on revising the answer key for the 105 exam. We agreed on the true courses for all the plotting problems, with one exception. After we both revisited this one, he ultimately agreed with my solution for it. However, we didn’t agree on the variation and therefore the magnetic course to use. (We address all this in the Start Navigating course, of course.) Upshot: I updated my book and he swept it under the rug.
In the meantime, ASA didn’t revise the first book. They introduced an entirely new one, to much self-generated fanfare. Later, they did in fact add a revised version of their first book. For awhile at least they continued to sell both. I never looked back. Neither did one of the authors, who didn’t update his book with the mathematical truth concerning magnetic variation. Not my problem; not my students’ either.
My book hasn’t been formally published. It did get its foot in the door at a major publishing house awhile ago: one of our former students was a literary agent and pitched it to an acquisition editor there. He caught it and re-pitched at an editorial meeting. They thought the book was worthy but not the sales projections and passed on it. So it goes…
But, Dad’s will be resurrected. I’m going to add things he didn’t include that now need to be there, and use it from that point forward for our Start Sailing course (ASA 101, learn-to-sail/Basic Keelboat).
They’re clever at Killington! They’re copying our swagger: the longest sailing season in the northeast where you can learn how to sail a boat or do a rental year round. Almost.
Killington Resort, in Rutland Vermont, has the longest ski/ride season in the Eastern US. The place is pretty large… they call it The Beast (of the East). Lots of acres; lots of lodges & lifts; lots of trails. Decent amount of snow (most in the lower half of Vermont, anyway). And, they throw snow. Big time. As recently as… ? Late March, this time!
And, they just announced that they’re going for a 52-week ski/ride season. Sure, if they want to build one of those indoor snow sliding contraptions. They’re talking about a multi-sport facility at the base of their Superstar lift, which is where the guns don’t stop blowing in the spring until it’s just too warm to make snow. This trail is one of the earliest to get snow blown in the fall, and always the last in the spring. Skiing and riding go on into May in most years, and on rare occasions, into June.
How about sailing, then? Well, we don’t operate much up here in the winter. Too temperamental. But, we often have one or two boats in the water all winter and it’s occasionally available to members. We’re not into frostbiting, or racing once a week in the winter unless it’s just too freaking cold or windy. Or, frozen over. Been there; done that. A long time ago. When I moved next door to a yacht club in Connecticut at one point that did frostbiting, I almost pulled the trigger on getting back into it. Before I could, I decided to take a snowboarding lesson. BAM. Done. I knew I’d never have time to do frostbiting. I snowboard in the winter and I sail in the other seasons. And I’ve been back in the Big Apple for awhile now.
As for Killington, here’s a link to their YouTube clip with the announcement…
As we get ready for the season, we paint bottoms, replace washers and flange bushing bearings, dry out bilges, wax topsides, check engine fluids and impellers, etc, etc. If you want some experience with that sort of thing, hit us up! Start Bareboating (ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising) kicks off the season, followed by Start Sailing (learn to sail/ASA 101) and Start Cruising (ASA 103, Basic Coastal Cruising). Live 105 Coastal navigation continues on Zoom.
And, of course, Killington is still open with over 100 trails for skiing and snowboarding. Truth.
“Shots and masks, masks and shots, and shots and masks!”
what George Carlin might have said about the state of things. I’m sure he’d have referenced those shots being in asses, too, but who knows.
Two of our most prolific instructors have gotten their first shots now, and it’s all on the near term horizon for those who haven’t, so there’s that. Masks have become readily available, and it’s easier to find something that fits you. As warmer weather approaches, we soon transition from actually liking the masks on cold days to probably wishing they could come off on the warmer ones.
We’re still offering our “Live 105” coastal navigation courses on Zoom, but it’s transitioning soon to Sailing Club and courses.
Last season, we went through this with the masks. We started sailing in March! True, it was a private client here and there and group lessons began later this season. But, we had the whole spring-through-fall experience with them so can offer some thoughts.
Buffs and competing products are not so good for this. True, they offer good sun protection. But, they don’t work as well at filtering air, and they don’t shape around the nose. That means COVID in, COVID out. But, they can still be used as a neck gaitor. Just keep them down and put a proper mask on in their place, or put the buff over a proper mask if it’s not too tight.
Surgical masks: in our humble opinion, they suck! They are ill fitting and only good for blocking direct spray. They usually leave gaps on the cheeks and around the nose.
N-95 and K-95: depends on the fit. At least they’re white, so they don’t get as hot as anything dark. Obviously, the material has proper filtration. So, if they fit, and don’t leave gaps at the nose, you’re golden.
Cloth masks: good if they conform to the bridge of the nose. That requires a metal fitting that can pinch over the bridge. No got? No use.
Cloth or other fabric with an inner pocket for disposable filters: these are the ultimate in our opinion, as long as the filter used is good in filtration and fit. I found a style from Ski The East that have more breathable fabric – tighter weave on the outside, and the inside layer is a little too breathable. But, there’s a large inner pocket for a filter, and a large seam that goes around the edge of the chin and jaw. The filter area starts there and goes up to the nose clip. Strangely, they supply a filter that doesnt’ fill the space and is too small. But, if you get packs of filters from another source that fit the area, you get comfortable masks that can fit properly and balance breathability with protection.
They come with elastic ear pieces that are adjustable, and one can tighten the top and bottom independently or together to customize the fit.
I liked my first pair so much I bought two more. I even used it snowboarding: I put it on, then put my balaclava helmet liner on around it and keep the face part down. I now need to re-order filters. I found ones at REI that are for an Outdoor Research mask product that I do not recommend (Adrenaline Sports Face Mask), having tried it as well as observing another masker’s successes and failures with it, but the filters will fit the Ski the East masks and probably many others of similar style. See links below.
Why worry about this when outdoors? Well, remember the Rose Garden super spreader event? remember there’s this thing called wind? It’s when the air blows – sometimes your way? Yeah. Being outdoors is better.. until it isn’t. Indoors, with proper ventilation and filtration, can be better (although it usually isn’t). One of our clients is a Delta pilot and says he feels far safer in the confines of a plane than in any other indoor scenario, given the turnaround time on filtering air: every 3 to 4 minutes!
And more about air travel, versus driving: some experts are going out on a wing and saying it’s MUCH safer. And, we’re talking Covid context. Here you go…
Pandemic living has some interesting scenarios for learning how to navigate or sail on Zoom.
“The Cat ate my homework” starts to sound reasonable! While I haven’t heard that (or by dog) from a student in our “Live 105” Coastal Navigation courses on Zoom, I’ve seen some strange stuff. Strange is purely subjective and relative, of course.
First: what’s this course? It’s our Start Navigating course, ASA 105 Coastal Navigation. It has no prerequisites, and no prior navigation experience or training is necessary. (It is helpful to have done some boating or sailing for better perspective, but we assume none of that when we teach you.)
PC (Pre COVID), we taught this in small group settings both in Manhattan and New Rochelle. Last March, we switched to Zoom: the first school doing it, and the only one I can actually verify as doing so. It’s gone quite well! It’s almost as if we’re all in the same room together, and allows people in different locations and time zones to navigate together and make new friends and potential sailing buddies.
Anywho, as most people are doing this from home, we get a glimpse of what home looks, sounds and feels like. That includes critters.
So far, we haven’t seen the proverbial pirate parrot perched on anyone’s shoulder, or carrying off plotting tools as a prank, but a number of cats and dogs have scored some screen shots.
I host and teach all our Zoom sessions. It comes naturally to me, and is fitting as I wrote the book we use for the course. Why not use the ASA book? That’s a loooong story, but short version: got tired of waiting for them to revise and professionally print their very good old book. Had to write supplements for it for topics covered on exam but not in book, for example. Started drafting my own. Almost done; needed a few final copies for first course of a winter season. They gone went and published an entirely new book by another author rather than revise the old one, and instead of the expensive price going down, it actually went UP further. But wait – there’s more! They also had a separate companion book that wasn’t just practice problems or resources, but also part of the text.
But wait – there’s MORE!!! There was also a companion DVD . Took a look at that for about 30 seconds, couldn’t take it any more. Tossed it like a frisbee for the cat who pounced on it. Never saw it again. (Ultimately, after breaking their own arm patting themselves on the back for this rollout, they gone went and did what they said they were originally: revised the OLD one. And, they published that as well, offering both texts. At that point, I’d been using my own for a few years, and have simply tweaked that and never looked back.)
So, cats, and dogs. Here’s one pic in an Instagram post from a live class, PC of course. The pic is a link…
My cat attends each Zoom session. He interferes while lounging across the chart, or gets annoyed if he senses I’m paying him no mind and talking to a computer screen that is talking back. Then, he gets very intrusive and has to be escorted out.
Just before our most recent session, I had the chart spread out to review one of the practice plots. Buddy jumped up on it, but it was draped over the side of the coffee table, and he didn’t land cleanly on the table. So, the slash-n-scramble routine ensued. End result: I needed oxygen and the chart looked like this:
BUT WAIT – there’s MORE!… It’s like an actual cartoon, where the Warner Bros’ Looney Tune tears ass through a wall leaving the outline…
Pets are optional, of course, for this course. But if you’re managing work, family/kids, or those perpetual 2 year-olds… pets… bring it! It’s all manageable on Zoom.
For more about our “Live 105” sessions on Zoom for Start Navigating, here you go…
Women just steer better, but 3rd time’s the charm for Joe Biden.
…where are we going with this? Well, the obvious announcement as called by all news outlets on Saturday is, well – obvious. Assuming no legal challenges affect anything (and so far, they appear to be non-starters), Biden will be the next President and Harris the next VP – and first woman in the role.
This post came about initially as I searched for a ‘skipper’ reference. “Hey, Skip!” “You got it, Skip.” Whatever. But nothing like that came up. Instead, when searching on Biden & ‘Skipper,’ I found this:
Magdalena Skipper, the Editor at Nature, did that post. Guess what? She’s the first woman to head up the journal! Took the helm in 2018. So, there’s that.
All this reminded me of a time-proven fact: women learn to steer better. They just do. I’ve been teaching sailing since 1981, and observed it before then. Women take naturally to learning to steer a boat than men do. Not every woman, but the overwhelming majority. Why ? Probably because…
They don’t try to force things when they should be finessed.
Here’s a clip from our Instagram of a woman solo-tacking. She’d never tried it before…
Look through our Insta for more pics and clips of women steering and sailing in general.
One of the world’s premier watch manufactures, Ulysse Nardin, has an artist’s series that are largely on the provocative side (shown in a previous Blog Rant of ours about timepieces and the history of determining longitude at sea). Here’s one apropos to the topic at hand…
To any women who wonder whether they can learn to sail, and might be feeling any apprehension about it – DON’T! You got this. And when you come to us, we got you. You’ll be a skipper in a few days, and we’ll prove it to you by letting you out to solo on your own.
Scientists struggle to model the movement of the magnetic north pole. In our live, online ASA 105 coastal navigation course, a real instructor teaches you about this, and why you can basically ignore it.
We’re having a lot of fun with our “Live 105” classes on Zoom! Real instructor, real time, real students – in the same, small manageable class sizes we have for in-person courses. One of our current students sent a link to a BBC article related to the content of a 105 course, which is of course all about…
The link Cristina sent? A BBC piece about the movement, or wandering, of the magnetic north pole. We link to the piece at the end of this Rant. For now…
In that pic: the thin aqua line traces the approximate motion of the magnetic north pole from 1840 to 2019. It’s accelerated recently, creating a scientific buzz. (Pic is a still frame from a video in the BBC piece we link to below.)
THE IDEA: the magnetism of earth is both consistent and inconsistent. Compasses point to the same place on earth with minor wiggles. This is close to the geographic north pole, or the rotational axis of earth. If Atlas stopped shrugging, and spun earth on the tip of his finger like a Harlem Globetrotter, it would be on the South Pole, with the North Pole exactly at the other end – or “top.” But, “top” is arbitrary, ain’t it? Space has no direction. We’re floating in space. And, what’s more…
It might flip! Yup. Magnetic North and South have reversed from time to time. Maybe every few hundred thousand years. The question is whether this could happen within our lifetimes. And, partially due to accelerated movement of the Mag North Pole, scientists suspect it might.
1, 2, 3… SWITCH! Oops…
THE ARTICLE’S PATH: Scientists studying this have noted the acceleration of the drift of the Mag North Pole recently, and have updated the global model used for that as it relates to GPS, which is critical to precise navigation. That’s not always super critical itself; as we teach in Start Navigating ( ASA 105), it’s almost more important to check progress in real time than plan the path perfectly to begin with. Basically, they think they’ve identified two molten “hot spots” in the earth’s outer core that are having a tug of war over the magnetic north pole. Kewl! Or, very hot…
That gets into some chart nitty-gritty: the compass rose. It’s a tool to measure direction, and it looks pretty kewl too. Check it…
In that pic: a section of the 12363 chart of Western Long Island Sound, with City Island (“City I”) on the right, which is home to the Sailing Center. It’s about half the length of Manhattan away from it; northern MannyHanny is on the bottom left of the chart. It has a nice, large compass rose, or rings that measure direction. The outer ring is for true, or geographic, north – with a star at the top for Polaris, the actual North Star. The inner ring is for magnetic north, which is where compasses point more or less. In navigation classes, we teach how to use these to plot out a course to steer a boat.
THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: look at the annual increase/decrease in the variation as listed in rose (the pic below blows it up for you). It’s usually a few “minutes” a year. Each minute = ..? It’s a measly 1/60th of 1 degree of the compass. Yup; slicing hairs with razor blades. Anywho… if your chart is out of date, the idea is to multiply the number of years of ‘stale’ by the number of minutes of change, and add or subtract accordingly. And, get the +/- right!
NYSC knows better… our Director and HBIC (Head Bozo in Charge), Captain Card, had a suspicion about something years ago. He compared every training chart the government produced, which are all frozen in time going back a far as the early 1980’s, to the updated, real-life versions of those charts. The conclusion? It’s silly to try to project any annual increase or decrease into the future. We expand on that and reveal the goods in class, and in our own in-house text book that we supply to students (and sell on the side). Despite what other books say, just skip this step. Much smarter move: get a current chart, for all the more obvious reasons.
Maybe we’ll be lucky (?) enough to see the poles flip in our lifetimes! Will planes drop from the sky, and cars run off the roads? Well, if they can’t figure that their GPS and compasses are basically pointing backward, we can’t help them.
Your takeaway? Use updated charts to plot courses to your destinations, and casually follow along with the progress of Mag North Pole’s wanderings across cold areas most of us will never visit.
We’re rolling live with Zoom! Our interactive on-line Start Navigating courses (ASA 105, Coastal Navigation) are officially a hit. They have 100% social distance, are fun, and as if we’re right there with you.
(…but, of course, we’re NOT.) IN THAT PIC: Two tools! Err… instruments. ‘North:’ a pelorus we recently scored on eBay. They’re antiquated to obsolescent, but still critical to understanding radar. ‘South:’ hand-bearing compass, or “hockey puck.” Critical to taking bearings for proof of position on the water… and dealing with deviation on the boat’s steering compass! Yup. We teach you how to use both.
Students have been tending to sign up in groups for some reason. No problem! One group and done, and always room for singles and pairs. Some people are arranging social study-sessions in between classes to do some of the practice plotting together.
How does it work?
You sign up. Imagine the Bobble Head version of Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas,” when he’s describing all the excuses people give when his character would go on his collection rounds. Any excuse… his answer’s the same: “F&%$ YOU PAY ME! F#@$ YOU PAY ME! F%*$ YOU PAY ME!” (Parenthetical aside, our Director and HBIC, Captain Card, who runs the Zooms sessions by the way, went to College with someone who was an extra in the movie and got listed in the cast. “Bar Patron.” If you have enough time on your hands, and send us his name, you get $25 off the course!)
We send you the materials: chart, plotting tool, and dividers (nautical drafting compass). We also email the text book in advance as a PDF, although there’s no reading or other prep required. You might want to, however: our Director wrote it. It’s fun, easy to read, well illustrated with photos, color, and step-by-step diagrams. And, it’s effective.
You log on with the invitation before class starts, and BOOM. ZOOM!! You’re learning live, and laughing too.
IN THAT PIC: Real-life, real-time. And, it was recent! From our Feb/March trip in the BVI (Virgin Islands). We were heading back to the main island chain from Anegada, barely visible top right. Anegada is barely above sea level, and can’t be seen from the rest of the BVI – not until almost half way across the passage to it! Critical to get it right… it’s surrounded by coral reefs except for a very small approach that must be made at the one safe angle. Or… boom. Aground and unhappy. We often use the example of plotting the passage to Anegada in our Start Navigating course.
“What exactly is this course, anyway? “ It’s all about how to navigate a boat for day trips, overnights, and even extended cruises along a coast. You can even lose sight of land for awhile. Soup to nuts: you’ll be able to navigate in pea-soup fog once you’ve practiced on the water for awhile in more sane conditions.
“Who can take it?” Anyone who wants to learn. It’s great for getting stoked / psyched about going boating and sailing. No, there’s no experience or prior study or training required. It’s helpful to have done some boating for perspective but that’s about it.
“Who SHOULD take it?” Anyone who’s intrigued about boating and sailing, and wants to get a flavor of things to come right NOW. Even if you don’t yet sail. If taking this course now doesn’t compete with time or funds for more important things, just do it. If you plan to eventually do longer day sails, and/or overnight trips, especially chartering for a week abroad, then DEF do it. If you already sail, but have no short or mid-term plans to do anything more involved than you already do, then you’re fine skipping this course for now or maybe forever (unless you’re currently having trouble finding your way around). But, it’s fun… and might jump start the next phase of your sailing career.
“What’s covered in this course?” Everything from… “this is a chart. We call it a chart, not a map. That’s for landlubbers!” to… proving position underway, compass deviation, proving what the current did to push you off course and fixing that going forward.
Very importantly even for day sailors, we break down the misleading oversimplification that is called “Red, Right, Returning” and prove what that’s “wRong!” Yup. We just said that; you just read that. It’s total BS, and we’ll prove it to you.
IN THAT PIC:From less socially distant times… early winter 2019, Manhattan: Start Navigating course. Of course, we had a surplus of hockey-puck compasses to play with that day as one sailor brought one from home! Yup – even with the on-line course, we can teach you how to handle the hockey puck.
“How is the scheduling done?” If you’re a group of two or more, THAT’S a schedule (unless of course it conflicts with one in progress). Joining alone? No problem. We’ll discuss what’s in the queue now, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll create another schedule. We don’t have to set the entire schedule in advance either.
The course takes 3-5 sessions to complete depending on how long each one is, and how quickly people pick up what we’re putting down. Sessions are typically between 2.5 and 3 hours with a break. We can do them any time of the day or evening, any day of the week, subject to existing obligations. (We are, of course, readying our fleet, with two boats in the water so far, and doing very limited on-water activities.)
“What does it cost? What’s included?”$275, which is $120 less than our normal full tuition for in-person courses. It’s all-inclusive: materials, tools, and certification.
“How do I pull the trigger?” Here are some links: one for the Start Navigating 105 page to learn more about the course, and one for just signing up. Feel free to call or write with any questions first; here’s how to hit us up.
What would Newton do? (In a modern day pandemic.) Well, he actually did it, if one considers London’s Great Plague of 1665-66 modern enough. He did several things in fact.
Isaac Newton, eventually Sir Isaac, basically quarantined himself during this catastrophe, having recently completed undergraduate studies at the ripe old age of 23. He, like all privileged Londoners at the time, fled the city. At his family’s countryside retreat, he was a busy boy! What did he do that was relevant to navigation?
Well, truth be told, that’s a stretch – but we do need to stretch our imaginations to keep ourselves occupied during our social distancing and quarantining. We’ll try to get there. First, here is what Newton did with his time:
He studied gravity. Yep; that apple crap. This led to his eventual creation of the laws of motion and his career-defining work, Principia.
He started working on optics, proving that “white” light consisted of the complete color spectrum using a pair of prisms;
He picked up where Descartes and de Fermat left off with universal equations of fluctuating quantities, solving that dilemma with a series of papers and formalizing what we now call Calculus!
That was Newton. And that was then. And now, we have to find things to do and learn while keeping social distance and isolating. One option: Start Navigating SM: ASA Coastal Navigation (105). But we have to do it with social distance. So, we have to do it from home via Zoom, FaceTime, etc. That’s the Staples part (where we get some of our 105 supplies); that’s easy.
But what about the math? Newton did some complex math during his tenure away from town. How much math is involved with Coastal Navigation? That depends on who you learn it from. It can be fairly complicated – or, you can do it our way:
Plot the path without the math!
We use as little math as possible when doing – and teaching – navigation. We teach the little bit of algebra needed for deduced, or ‘dead,’ reckoning, and we make it easy with a visual aid that’s intuitive to use. We refresh peeps on their long-hand division when they forget how. Can’t rely on a calculator on the water. But for the serious stuff? Set and drift of current while underway with no current tables to consult?
That’s where we plot the path without the math. Not even basic arithmetic. Just draw lines based on the concept, representing what the boat and the current do, and measure the final answer: course to steer! We even give you some toys to play with in the process…
Here’s how it works – think of it as a sample of the 105 Nav course. Yes, it’s an advanced topic; no, there will be no quiz to you as the reader afterward, and I’m sure you can follow along!..
Step 1: Draw a line from “point A” to “point B.” That’s the path you want to sail. It’s like drawing your own road on a map; your only job after that is to stay on it. In the chart pic above, it’s the top line labeled “DR Course” (not A to B, but think of it that way).
Step 2: Now, draw a line from point A showing the path the current will flow. How do you know? Let’s just assume you knew how to look it up and find its speed and direction. (Yes, we teach you all that in the course.) Draw it in that direction, for the distance it moves in one hour. Tool used? Any straight edge such as a ruler, or the nautical plotting tool we send you in advance! Distance? Use the dividers, or nautical drafting compass, to mark this. (No math – we promise!) In the chart pic, it’s the bottom right line labeled “Set/Drift.” So, for example, if the current is 2 knots, set the dividers to 2 nautical miles – the distance it flows in one hour.
That shows were your boat will be if you just let it drift helplessly from point A for one hour. We don’t want that, do we? Of course not! So, we have to figure out how much to offset our course to fight the current and stay on our intended track. How?
Step 3: Figure out the boat’s speed in knots (nautical mph). Then, we set the dividers to that speed. How? Same as with the current in step 2 above. It’s all based on one hour: an hour of the current’s motion, and an hour of sailing (or motoring) while in that current.
Step 4: Now, set one point of the compass/divider on the spot where the current line ends. Swing the other end over to the DR, or nautical road map line, you drew from A to B. Set the point down; draw in that line. In the pic, that’s the third leg of the triangle formed, labeled “heading” and “boat speed.”
Step 5:Boom. That line is also the angle to steer by the boat’s compass to fight the current! Measure that with your plotting tool. Steer that when you sail, and you’re on track to point B.
Is it slightly more complicated than that in real life? No… but you do need to work up to it by starting with more basic info and practice, and then the steps above are very straightforward… just like your boat’s trajectory over ground in real life/real time to arrive at your point B!
And, yes – we can teach this to you live and interactively. We’ll do that for now; eventually, we’ll be cleared for takeoff on taking off the masks, cutting the social distance, and resuming life as normal as it gets post-pandemic. In the meantime, if Newton played with prisms, here is a prism for you to ponder navigationally…