Everglades Exploration Network

'  If you still navigate by chart and compass and if the Navigator says we don't seem to be making our  usual speed and if the compass direction Compass Boy reports the river goes means we aren't where we think we are ( if Compass Boy can be trusted)   and  if the Navigator has expressed doubt about exactly where we are on the chart and if you still have miles to go,  the Navigator, if it is after 2 o'clock, 2:30 at the latest,  should not look down at the chart and say "Hunh"..... Just sayin'. Makes the crew panic.

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I am with you on not wanting to get lost or freaked out on the water.     Dead Reckoning, the art of knowing where you are based on the last known position without the effects of wind and current.  As a leader, I have often gotten a charge out of telling the crew that our position is not certain. :-)..."WHAT, OMG *&^&^" are some quick responses from the crew.  It quickly reveals who has been keeping a dead reckoning log of their own and who is of no use in navigating. Best part, is people start to  pay attention more and asking questions on their position. As a follower, I always ask the leader where I am on the chart, and to track points, creeks, flats along the way on my own chart to have a basic dead reckoning position in my head.  Two compass boys in the bow of two canoes are a plus as well, arm them with charts and tell them to navigate all the way.  They will tune in and take charge. Then I just track it on my GPS to be sure.

A bit off topic - but since we are talking about Navigation and Nav Confidence - you might like this story from my Navy days.

@ 30 years ago - me a young Navy Pilot on a C130 - flight from Naval Air Station Barbers Point Hawaii to Moffett Field, San Jose, California.  We were tasked to fly over to California, pick up some VIP's and bring them back to Hawaii the next day. On these flights, we had 4 navigators - A navigator evaluator - he was giving an navigator instructor checkride to a new instructor who was in turn giving final navigator checkrides to one very senior navigator who was re-qualifying as well as a new navigator on his first tour of duty. The aircraft had a portable inertial navigation system (INS), doppler drift calculator and a sextant - it was a night flight with good weather forecast for celestial navigation which was a primary training objective.  The instructors would use the inertial navigation position to cross check the accuracy of the celestial computed position.

About an hour after takeoff we left the radar environment of Honolulu Center and began our 7.5 hour transit over the Pacific on the published airway.  Not long after our coast out, I heard a commotion from the navigation station.  Lots of cursing and accusations.  I asked what was up?  The nav evaluator said that he had accidentally moved the rotary control switch on the portable INS one spot too far and turned it off.  An INS has to be aligned while stationary and once it loses alignment - it is done for the trip.  So I asked "what's the plan?"  Their plan was to navigate across the pond using the sextant and doppler.  Considering we had no scheduled turns on the airway and the weather was forecast to be good we decided to press on.

So the procedure was to take celestial shots every 30 minutes.  Calculate an position and make corrections to track if needed based on that position.  Shortly after the top of the hour, I received this call from the Navigator - "Pilot this is Nav - position check - 12 miles north of track - maintain heading."  OK - I replied - why maintain heading?  "The forecast wind will blow us back to track."....OK.  Next hour - "Pilot this is Nav - position check - 18 miles south of track - maintain heading."  Nav this is pilot - how did we swing 30 miles north to south in the last hour?  Pilot this is Nav - winds were stronger than forecast.

This went on for the next 5 hours - each estimated position swinging in a wider window north and south of track.  About 200 miles off the coast of San Francisco, we were scheduled to re-enter the radar environment with Oakland Center. This process begins with a radio call on a designated frequency and the assignment of a transponder code so they can identify us on radar.  Because the C130 flies lower than commercial airliners, and the radar systems range is effected by the altitude of the radar target, it was not completely unusual for us to not be identified immediately after entering their airspace.

We made radio contact with Oakland Center, they assigned us the code and told us to report a designated airway point.  We had all of our radio navigation equipment tuned up - but for some reason, it was not picking up the coastal navigation transmission stations....strange.  Our navigator indicated that we were at the required reporting point and we reported that to Oakland Center.  He reported no-radar contact and told us to proceed directly to Oakland.  Since our radio navigation systems were not picking up the Oakland radio beacon (VOR), the Nav gave us a heading.  About 15 minutes later, Oakland contacted us - "Navy TC-890 - contact Seattle Center on frequency...xxx.xxx.  By the way, tune up the Mendocino VOR - you are 80 miles west - good day."  130 miles north of track!!!!  Crap!   We declared unreliable navigation and were not violated.

One day later. Day flight - heading back to the islands.  About an hour after takeoff, more cursing from the Navigation station - you guessed it - they did it again.  I told them - "you have 1 hour".   Sure enough we started hearing the same unconvincing position updates.  At the two hour point, the other pilot and I decided that we had had enough.  "We have the Nav". We were on a published airway with a steady stream of commercial airliners with beautiful contrails heading to Hawaii.  We tuned up an AM radio station for Honolulu on our ADF and followed contrails for the next 6 hours until we got to radio contact with Honolulu Center and we made it home. 

So the moral to the story is have a plan, and a back-up to the plan.  Last weekend, my wife and I did EC-Crooked Creek-down the Huston to Pavilion and then Back to EC loop.  On day one we were scheduled to share Crooked Creek.  We had taken the ditch to the Bay and then went up the Turner to Hurdles and took the bays to come into Crooked from the North.  We left EC @1130 and arrived at Crooked @3pm.  The Chickee was empty.  We got set up and @5pm started wondering where our Chickee-mates were. About 15 minutes before sunset, a couple approached in a rental, they were pretty fit - but looked tired.  Turns out they left Choko @9am and went up the Turner.....thinking it was the Lopez, made a left at the Left Hand Turner thinking they would find the Crooked Creek Chickee and then spent most of the day wandering around the lake and back to the turner before the women finally thought of turning on her IPhone.  They navigated to CC using her IPhone.  Yikes.

The were scheduled to go out to Rabbit the next day.  Talked them into waiting until noonish to avoid the tide.  I am sure it was an adventure.

Anyway - some fun Navigation stories.

Growing up here amid a bunch of offshore commercial fishermen ded reckoning, for me, was a given. Back then radio navigation was high tech and too expensive and LORAN was not even known yet at least to me. We took a bearing, guessed boat speed and Gulf Stream speed, and timed our run. That was how you got to a particular reef, wreck or location. High points on shore were used as triangulation markers too.

So when I started poking around in the mangroves I did the same... plotting bearings to and fro, drawing on the quads with a pencil, and writing the degrees next to the lines. Distance was determined by rolling a wheel that was calibrated to the legend on the chart. It was a blast and I never really got lost... maybe just confused a few times. The saving grace was the slow speed of paddling. It was simple to pick landmarks and watch your progress against the chart.

When I started fishing with buddies on their boats that all changed. Speed was the killer. I simply could not switch from looking down at the quad to looking up at landmarks fast enough. I was spoiled by slow speed. And I started to rely on those new fangled GPS things.

I now realize how much fun has been stolen by technology. And I'm sad to admit I seldom take a paper map with me anymore, which will probably bite me in the ass some day, almost definitely. I still can't go out without redundant compasses though.

Just watch out for the sucker hole, on the North side of the Joe river. On our last trip we got a later start for the South Joe river chickee. Of course the tides and afternoon winds were against us. So, about 8 PM we were paddling along looking for the North turn of the river. We ended up in the little creek about a half mile short. I told everyone to put on the brakes, for a check of the charts. Of course the GPS had timed out, so I had to wait for it to restart. The guys were a little bit nervous when they got a "Not sure" reply to the question, "Where are we?" I had pretty much figured out where we were by the time the GPS came up and said that we were 1.5 miles from the chickee. It still took a little encouragement to get everyone to go South, when we were supposed to be turning North. We pulled up to the chickee just after 9 PM, hungry and tired.

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