Which North are you? North 1 or North 2?

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…

COASTAL NAVIGATION.

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!

ABOVE: blown-up crop of the compass rose from the same chart above. Variation: 13 degrees West as of 2016. Annual decrease: 2 minutes (2 out of 60, with each compass degree having 60!). Splitting hairs…

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.

And now, as promised, the link to the BBC piece…

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-52550973

Happy hunting!

Zoom. Boom. Learn nav live!

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?

  1. 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!)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Newton, Navigation, & the Plague

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?

Newton, with some social distance from an apparently alarmed observer, as he experiments with prisms to understand the composition of light. Image shamelessly copped from stock.)

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:

  1. He studied gravity. Yep; that apple crap. This led to his eventual creation of the laws of motion and his career-defining work, Principia.
  2. He started working on optics, proving that “white” light consisted of the complete color spectrum using a pair of prisms;
  3. 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!

Path; no math. No arithmetic or math used to plot this set & drift ‘triangle.’ The geometry is built in. This is our preferred method. Cuz, you know… trig sucks on a boat! 1210 Tr chart (training; not updated), Block Island to Martha’s Vineyard. This is the solution to a practice plot submitted to us to refresh a memory on this technique.

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…

People plotting in one of our Start NavigatingSM courses this past winter. Pre-Corona. He’s working with a triangular protractor, or plotting tool. She’s manipulating the world’s finest one-handed dividers. Yes; she’s using two hands. Sometimes that’s helpful to set one point quickly and accurately. Then one rocks ’em with one hand! All being done on a real chart, not a training chart frozen in time to the 1980’s with incorrect coloring and needless extra clutter.

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…

Remember the porrtait of Newton playing with prisms? No? It’s literally at the top of…
Nevermind. Here’s a hand-held compass that’s one of the most popular models in use. It uses a prism! The funny metal thing on the right is a fancy-lad pair of dividers. Elegant but not as practical as the ones shown above. We teach you how to use a hand-held compass like this in the course.

For a nice piece about one author’s current state of isolation in the context of annus mirabilis, or year of miracles (yup, that’s what they called Newton’s time), here you go… https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/20/newton-formulated-his-theory-gravity-time-plague-we-need-miracle-too/

For a bit more context and detail on Newton’s topics above, check out this one… https://www.biography.com/news/isaac-newton-quarantine-plague-discoveries

And, finally… for more about finding your path on the water, and our on-line navigation course, see our Coastal Nav page here…

Social Distancing? Yeah. We got that.

Sort of; kind of. A boat can be a small piece of real estate, but people certainly don’t have to be in each other’s laps. And, you can drive to us and avoid public transit. Which, we’re hearing, is often pretty empty. That alleviates the concern that it’s supposed to be a big petri-dish whirling cesspool of infectious spread. If we’re few and far between, we’re further from infectious.

Social distance: one knee and done! We had this beach side restaurant to ourselves that night (rare occurrence, as it’s popular and excellent). The ‘runway’ is a fixed pier for larger vessels and also dinghies. Our yacht is out there somewehre! Jost Van Dyke, BVI, from our March 2020 trip.

At least out on a boat with us, or on your own if you already know how to sail, you’re doing a relatively safe, healthy, outdoor activity in the scheme of all this. Brooklyn bier gardens and rave parties: they be gone. My GF and I pretty much closed down a kewl bar we discovered on Sunday night… Bier Wax. No one’s going in no time soon now. But you should check it out when things are stable. NY Sailing Center post-virus celebration? Yup.

The exterior of Bier Wax in Brooklyn. New York brews from Brooklyn to Upstate, all surrounded by shelves of vinyl that they play. First link on their front page? “Featured DJ’s”. Turntable spinning and taps spilling. Miguel Rivas, photo, with link on their site on the gallery page.

So, what to do with the spare time? Sailing does start soon. We hope it will start on Friday, with temps at or above 70! But the updated forecast spoke of rain, wind, and maybe some thunder. We’ll have to see.

The author is a fiend for snowboarding. All the mountains closed for coronavirus. So? He sold one his boards on eBay that had proven a little too large for him. It took three auctions, including one where the buyer basically blew off the purchase. But, on the third, people being home seemed to increase viewing, bidding, and in the end, the sale price. So, there’s that!

From the eye of the Orca! Lib Tech T.Rice Orca snowboard. Super popular board that can do almost “it all.” It’s an alternative freeride board that’s excellent in powder, but it also has magnetraction edges (wavy) for solid grip on hard pack and icy snow. Short/wide/surfy style board.

Right from home, people can learn navigation. We prefer to teach that as a classroom course with practice plots in between sessions as homework. But, we have one class in progress that might switch from classroom to video conference, and we will be doing that going forward on a super flexible schedule. Let us know if you want to discuss getting in on that stay-in option!

Plot the distance… recent Start NavigatingSM course (ASA 105, Coastal Nav). Two men. Current course? Two women. We always have low class density; helps with social distancing now in the age of coronavirus. And now, we’re going remote!

Most of us are at least a little concerned about the COVID-19 coronavirus thing. Some are very stressed and panicked. We’ll get through it as a communities and countries. Some thoughts to share on prevention efforts:

  • Put straight isopropyl alcohol into a simple spray bottle. Boom. You have a very efficient surface and object sanitizer. The broad mist spray gets a little of it all over. In my (not so often) humble opinion, that’s all that’s needed. No need to wipe down and rub around. My GF and I came up with that; no doubt others did as well.
  • Re-think all brick and mortar and in-person transactions, especially paying with cash in person. I love a coffee n bagel break in my hood, but had decided to cut this out of my routine. Today, I was sorely tempted in the late afternoon. I walked over, and there was only one other customer. The staff were using gloves. I paid with singles and said to keep the change. I disinfected. I felt safe.
  • Be prepared to walk away from any environment when you see careless behavior or lack of adherence to suggested safe practices. See someone touching their face in the store when they’re ahead of you, or the hired help doing that (especially without gloves)? Walk away. Leave. And disinfect.
  • Don’t just wash your hands “for 20 seconds” and use sanitizer. Consider how thoroughly your’re actually doing it, and the order in which you’ve touched things. We wash our hands to get rid of stuff on them. So, once we’ve touched a faucet or container of liquid soap, it’s contaminated! Wash those as well. Then, wash your hands with more soap. THEN turn off the faucet. Apply that “last touch” mentality to every relevant scenario.
  • Exercise, eat well, and take some supplements. It can’t possibly hurt. It will boost your immune system and may well be the deciding factor as to whether you get this virus, and if so, how severely. For example, I’m taking vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea. I’ve been advised that the echinacea ought to be one week on and one off so I’m putting that into play. I’ve also ordered some bio-active silver hydrosol by Sovereign Silver based on a recco from a trusted health care professional. The list could go on as far as reccos; do what you’re comfortable with. No point in stressing over it and defeating the purpose.
Keep your social distance – stroll alone on a deserted beach. Two other people you don’t see: me, the fotog, and Kalindi. We had a very bowl of a beach to our selves for the price of a fun bike ride. From our March 2020 BVI trip. This is on the north shore of Anegada in the late afternoon.

So… about that sailing. We got back from our March BVI trip (Virgin Islands) on the 7th as we previously wrote about. Advanced courses start in late April, and learn-to-sail in early May. Sailing Club sessions could start as early as… Friday? We shall see. But it’s coming soon!

If you join the Club, and you haven’t yet learned how to sail, we’ll find ways to get you out with us or other Club members. If you can sail, then you know how it goes.

The author, our Director and HBIC (Head Bozo in Charge) often drives out from the Upper West Side, and sometimes from Park Slope, Brooklyn. If that sounds better than public transit, he might be able to give you a ride. Of course, you’ll be asymptomatic and will have taken your temperature regularly for a few days leading up to that (and again that morning). Fever is by far the most common symptom, in the upper 80’s percentile wise. That’s why the White House had started taking temps of reporters and turning away those with spiked numbers. The second most common, in the 60’s, is a dry cough. Duane Reade was due to get more thermometers in. Find or order where you can.

Social distancing: boats spread out (except for the harmless dinghy). People spread out. Plenty of room to breathe and roam. Quick lunch/snorkel/swim stop, first day of our March 2020 Virgin Islands (BVI) trip.

We’re all put out by this as well as freaked out. I’m a silver-lining kind of guy. I deal with the harsh reality of some things. I accept what I can’t influence or change. And, I look on the bright side. What can I do with the time I have, in the place that I am, that’s productive and maybe even makes me happy? What can I appreciate that’s different about my surroundings or microcosm of existence? There’s usually something.

Welcome to the Irish Riviera! Dog took a walk with its human apparently. Back side of Breezy Point, Queens – the exact opposite of Montauk: The End. This is the Beginning. Great place to walk off the beaten path. The ocean side beaches had a fair amount of peeps that day, but social distancing was superb. This beach ends in a long jetty. If you go there, only walk on the dry parts. Once you see any sign of slime, DO NOT GO FURTHER. Unless you’re wearing cleats you’ll go down. Author used to rock hop out to the end wearing cleats and sporting his fly rod to catch striped bass and false albacore. It’s not for the casual caster.

If you’re not finding enough of that… come out sailing! We’ll be open soon. And we’ll keep our distance.

More on navigation courses, from your own private isolation situation, or in small groups: https://newyorksailing.club/start-navigating-asa-105/

More on all that we do, including private and small group sailing courses and club experiences: https://newyorksailing.club/what-we-do/