Preparing For the Worst

How to Approach Boat Navigation Without a GPS

Not everyone likes GPS systems. While some of these Global Positioning Systems are affordable, not every boater relishes the idea of letting a GPS system guide them to every single point. Some boaters simply enjoy the primal thrill that comes from exploring the sea without manmade technology. After all, boat navigation is how we used to do it back in the day, relying on only our wits and oars.

Yes, it is relatively easy to find your way around the ocean or the sea using boat navigation, even if you don’t have a GPS system. However, you must have other boat navigation tools at your disposal so that you don’t get lost at sea! Rest assured, winging it without any sense of where you are going is the path to disaster. Out on the open water, it’s lonely, scary and unfortunately, you’re on borrowed time.

Let’s start by discussing the most valuable boat navigation tools you will bring with you on your boating expedition. While some purists don’t want to bring along a compass or an altimeter (a tool that measures altitude above a fixed level) it might be a shrewd idea in case you get totally lost. Furthermore, even if you do use a GPS system to get around, it’s a smart idea to bring along all of your boat navigation tools just in case you lose battery power. There’s nothing scarier than realizing you’re out at sea with no idea of where you are, and no idea on how to get home…unless of course, you have a boat navigation backup plan.

Another important tool in boat navigation is the map. As long as you have a map and compass (and lots of patience, and anti-panic medication) you will be all right. To make it easier, buy yourself a topographic map. This type of map also shows the terrain as well as major roads, towns and bodies of water. Regular maps do not have this information, and thus they are not as helpful. Reading a topographic map does require some practice, since you have to learn how to interpret contour lines and symbols.

In boating, you should also memorize baselines and handrails. The baseline refers to a feature that lies across your route. This could be any identifiable feature like a river, a road or some manmade object. Baselines are especially useful when you are traveling across large water bodies made up of creeks, rivers and streams. Try to find two baselines that intersect for the easiest results. Handrails refer to features along the route that you can travel next to and keep an eye on as you move. This is a boat navigation feature that you follow and it should coincide with your map.

Bring along a paper chart so you can mark major points on paper. Nautical charts are another option in boat navigation tools, and these are graphic portrayals of the marine environment. These can simultaneously be used as a map and a worksheet. Before the miracle of fast and easy finding through GPS, boaters relied on boat navigation tools. Boaters laid out courses and navigated ships according to their understanding of the water body, the coast, the depths and the general configuration of the sea bottom.

Source by Ron Amir

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