One definition of responsibility for safe navigation; the person in charge of a underway vessel on the water should be able to quickly, and with reasonable accuracy, give their approximate location at all times without regard to navigation systems and other piloting methods. All part of the total equation of knowing your geographic location and in order to become proficient in the science of navigation you need to first estimate your position…a process called dead reckoning. We all do it each and every time we drive our vehicles on the roads. Familiar landmarks, intersections, and driving experience serving as our expert guide. The same holds true for boating. Some of you develop and master electronic navigation skills to deliver the desired information and keeping fate in mind; what do you do when the power goes out or the system fails? If the answer is “I don’t know” then you are just one moment away from an unwanted marine situation or incident. These problems can come in a very wide assortment of conditions; grounding, collision, and many others all stemming from one element…incorrect navigation or lack thereof.
As published by the Federal Government, NOAA ceased printing paper charts in April 2014. Most boaters don’t use this form of mapping but it is still mandated for license and one of the required back-ups for the newer Electronic Charting Display Information Systems ECDIS found on larger vessels. The charts you have on your GPS devices are lacking one important aspect, they are NOT updated. There is an advanced technology on the market that offers up to date, almost real time underwater charts through the use of the cloud and that is called Insight Genesis. Through a network of boaters that record and download the data you can pull the specific area you need and overlay it with your current charts depending on the system you are using. Extremely valuable for sport fishing and also has application to other safe navigation utilities, especially underwater cartography. The technology also provides a broad range of voyage planning services and local knowledge of charting routes and destinations.
Back in focus of proper navigation; you should never rely on just one source of information. Highly recommend practice using paper or booklet charts and get visually familiar with your surroundings, becoming more of a pilot than an operator. The very core of being an effective navigator is to know where you are going, what you will see along the way, and what time you will get there.
With practice and experience comes more precise estimation. The ability to perform that task well delivers many benefits to you, especially the aptitude to look ahead and predict what will happen as the result of your actions. This can only be achieved with utilizing multiple information sources and measuring the results. This comparison provides the confidence needed to make the correct decisions and become more aware of potential hazards well before they develop into risk.
Think of this question often when on the water “Where are you?” It will deliver a remarkable, positive difference in your navigation operations.