by Don Greene
I pulled into a marina to offer my services when a young lady walked over to me and asked if I knew how to operate a GPS. I said, “Yes.” She asked if I could teach her. I asked her to get her local charts; she said she didn’t have any. She said she didn’t need one because the GPS would help her to get where she needed to go. Someone told her that paper charts were the old way to navigate.
The tools of navigation are first a chart of the area you are going to boat in. The difference between a street map and a chart is that the street map offers you a safe choice of roads to travel on. A chart offers you an unlimited choice of travel lanes. You make the decision which course you will take. Also, it’s important to keep your paper charts on hand in case your GPS fails in giving the correct course or if the signal is bad. If it is a handheld GPS, and you forget to charge the battery, it could die during your trip, and if you did not plot your course on the paper chart, you might have some trouble finding your way.
To make this decision you have to find out where you are now. You also want to know where you want to end up, or, what your destination will be.
Let’s say for example you are passing the R-2 buoy at Watch Hill Passage. (R2 signifies that it is the beginning of Watch Hill Passage.) You can tell your GPS to capture that buoy for use when coming back. I want you to learn some basics of the GPS, but also how to use the chart. You would now get out your chart pick a course to steer towards the R-2 bell at the entrance to Block Island’s Great Salt Pond.
I chose a leg that I new was clear of under water danger. Once you reach the bell at Block Island, capture the Way Point listed on the chart as R2 Bell at 41 degrees 12.1 North and 71degrees 35.6 West.
Once you learn to do basic plotting, I will give you a problem to solve in each Resident. I also plan to introduce different uses for the Navigation tools that are available. We are lucky enough to boat in this area. There are always new places to go on Long Island, Newport and going down the MA shoreline to Nantucket. Long trips require some charting skills and knowledge of tides.