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Steve Johnson's Boating Safety

Background on the U.S. Coast Guard Racing Stripe

 
This famous logo first came to life during the early 1960s when there was an urgent need to identify the rescue and law enforcement service to other boaters and military craft, air and sea. During WWII Coast Guard Cutters painted like other war ships but carried the letter “W” in front of their hull number to distinguish from the U.S. Navy. Ordered and adopted by President John F. Kennedy, the service has never looked back. The icon of the U.S. Coast Guard is emulated by other similar organizations and agencies around the globe in some related fashion, especially the diagonal design of the stripes.

A profound difference in the color scheme of the two logos, even including the additional wording, “Auxiliary.” With enthusiasm, I can assure the same mind-set and core mission values are identical. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary is an integral part of operations for the service, providing tremendous benefit to the public in boating safety, inspections, and training.
 
Where did the Auxiliary get its start? Congress passed a law on June 19, 1941 that restructured the Coast Guard Reserve. Now the service was directed to operate two reserve forces. The already existing civilian reserve organization was renamed the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The newly structured U.S. Coast Guard Reserve was to function on a military basis providing an important resource of wartime capabilities, very similar to the duties of the other armed services.
 
The next time you see one of these dedicated professionals at the boat show, your marina, on patrol, training seminars, or performing safety inspections please remember: without them, the waterways we enjoy for recreational boating would be much different and complex. 
 
Coupled with the Power Squadron, other boating safety organizations, and license training institutions they expertly provide essential, and sometimes under-appreciated assistance. Boating safety is not complete with a one-time educational event but is without doubt a fulltime endeavor. It’s a very valuable skill set to achieve and utilize to your benefit.  
 
Winter season is almost upon us, a perfect time to enhance boating knowledge through any form of training. Contact me if you want to know more and where to get this valuable information that will radically change the way you think about boating, improving your experience on the water. 
 
This article is dedicated to the memory of fellow Lakeside News columnist, Roy Crittenden, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, who passed away this year. His dedication of unwavering service to the public, the organization, and boating safety will be remembered.


Steve Johnson, US Coast Guard (ret). is with CPO Johnson, Inc. More info: Steve@CPOJohnson.com, www.cpojohnson.com.






October 2017 column

What is the 'sail effect' for power boaters

Description: Final approach to the dock at bare steerageway, lines ready, forward spring first, quickly followed by other leads securing the large High Endurance Coast Guard Cutter to the mooring. This can be a challenge depending on the powerful forces of wind and current. The same mindset applies to the task of safely stopping with anchor, paying out the necessary scope of anchor line or chain to secure and hold the boat in place.

The most important part of ship handling is to control the movement through the water using all available resources, both natural and engineered. Maneuvering at slow speeds presents all sorts of conditions that can redirect the watercraft and stand into danger. Different dynamics depending on the size and design contributes to the strength of the forces acting on the control of the vessel, one of which is known as “Sail Effect.”  You can learn more about wind influence on power boats at: www.boatdocking.com/other/wind.
 

Most military ships, both Navy and Coast Guard, stationed in the Atlantic and Caribbean regions, visit Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for intense training called REFTRA which stands for Refresher Training. It is absolutely the most effective and practical education there is available anywhere in the maritime world. Through tough, expertly designed and delivered exercises, the training hones skill sets that make the ship and crew ready for any contingency, in all conditions or threat levels.  
 
Each night vessels return from sea off the Southern Coast of Cuba following a long day filled with countless drills and preparation for things like navigation, Search and Rescue, and other duties. US Navy Port Control assigns a different berth depending on mission and schedule. It is a very busy place when it comes to ship traffic so dock space can be limited. In command of the ship’s navigation as the deck watch officer, my duty was to safely pilot the ship into port and dock safely at the pier. Port Control decided the outside berth between two large US Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyers would be the location. In addition to the very difficult position, the prevailing wind was strong, especially in the evening hours blowing off the dock. A mere 200 yards from that very same side of the pier was shoal; complete with jagged rocks jutting sharply out of the water. No room for error, everything was literally riding on this task performed correctly.

The initial course to the starboard side berth – “port side to” – placed me below or to the left of the entrance at the beginning of the pier which would provide for the wind striking on the port side of the ship blowing me safely through the narrow gap. It’s a technique not for the faint of heart, as it relied on the force of the wind providing lateral movement. Once in the shadow of the first Navy destroyer the wind ceased to have an effect on control and I could now maneuver more effectively with engines and rudder. Preparing for the upcoming wind blowing me off the dock again as I breached the open and narrow space in between the ships, my objective was to decrease the surface volume of the superstructure of my vessel, lessening the adverse pushing effects of the wind. Retracting the helicopter hanger gave me the needed reduction of exposed side structure. Shortly thereafter, final reach. We are safely docked alongside, with all lines made fast. It could have gone wrong if not for continual training. 
 
It’s something all boaters should consider. Understanding the pros and cons of side forces can make you a better pilot in every aspect.  Each vessel has a unique character when operating in the wind. Knowing and understanding how  “Sail Effect” can be harnessed and controlled for your benefit and is one factor to boat handling success. Next time the wind starts to blow brisk take advantage of the situation and practice. You’ll be glad you did.

 


September 2017 column

An explanation of LORAN (Long Range Navigation)

LORAN is an acronym for Long Range Navigation. It is currently an obsolete terrestrial radio navigation system which enabled ships and aircraft to precisely determine their position and speed from low frequency radio signals transmitted by fixed land based radio beacons, using a dedicated receiver unit. 
 
The final version of LORAN in North America was LORAN-C, which operated in the low frequency level of the radio spectrum from 90 to 110 kHz. Russia used a nearly identical system in the same frequency range, called CHAYKA. LORAN was in steep decline in the ’90s and early part of the 21st century with the satellite-based Global Positioning System being the preferred technology that eventually replaced it. 
 
However, there have been attempts to enhance and re-popularize LORAN, mainly to serve as a backup and land-based alternative to GPS and other satellite navigation systems. The current program has been phased out in the United States and Canada. The United States Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard ceased transmitting LORAN-C signals in early 2010. The other updated version of the navigation tool was E-Loran, primarily used in other parts of the globe. It was discontinued December 31, 2015 with international authorities leaving a few stations operating in the European sector ... just in case.
 
Instruction of this type of navigation skill was a requirement until a few years ago and to this day the training charts used in USCG license examinations are full of these remnant lines. 
 
Through the use of a Loran Linear Interpolator scale (upper right hand corner on the navigational paper chart graphic) you could very accurately determine your position. Even on some of the GPS Multi-Function Displays there is evidence of E-LORAN input in the operating systems. 
 
Why return to an old way of navigation? Maybe because it is terrestrial, not dependent on the premium cost and crowded space of satellites that orbit the Earth. Back-up systems are always critical to ensure accuracy regardless of the type vessel, aircraft, or vehicle you are operating. Are you absolutely sure your GPS is providing correct information all the time? Navigation is a vast arena of technology and utility. 
 
The return of LORAN can certainly help maintain a consistent environment and help reduce incidents that can develop with too little or inaccurate  sensor input.


 

August 2017 column

Safe boating is no accident

That headline can be interpreted in a few different ways as in: preparation, education, and the positive results of these types of measures. Compared to other modes of transportation, boating is unique. You’re not required to have a complicated license unless you are taking passengers for hire or for commercial application. Driving your vehicle is demanding enough. Now factor in boating which most enthusiasts do at part-time intervals. Remember the road driving test? The final driving exam with actual demonstration of the newly acquired skills and abilities for complicated maneuvering.
 
In the maritime world of schooling and assessment, that’s where simulation now comes into play complementing actual experience and lecture based instruction.  Virtual immersion of the student into various scenarios, some hazardous, provides the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom.

It’s a perfect platform for a vital training element called Error Trapping; learning from mistakes and isolating the behavior to reduce further incidence in the future. There are maritime simulators around the country at various institutions and academies. The U.S. Power Squadron has a portable one at the Atlanta Boat Show each year and I would highly recommend you visit the booth to see the technology in action. 
 
The real question is: How does boating safety education correlate to a better experience on the water? The answer comes in many different forms: classroom, online, simulation, an especially hands-on, real time practice. If you encounter an incident or close call while on the lake you should go over the event’s time line, if that’s possible. Far too many emergencies occurred last year due to excessive speed with improper navigation, something that can be greatly reduced if boaters would learn and apply the basics.
 
Above all other factors of maritime awareness, the highest priority is familiarization with your vessel and having an additional person qualified to handle the craft properly, in case the primary operator is incapacitated. 
 
I’m not suggesting that everyone should attend some type of formal license education, unless required by law, but each operator should be proficient in all aspects of safe boating when underway and prepare for any and all contingencies. This can be accomplished with routine briefings and practice drills to hone the necessary skills.
 
Here’s three general guidance categories needed for safe boating for your consideration:
  • Maneuvering
  • Basic Safety Training
  • Vessel Knowledge
     
That’s all you need to begin your journey to a better, on the water, understanding. It does take time but these items are achievable with the proper system or training plan in place. Imagine the improvement of safety for you, fellow passengers, and other boaters that share the lake with you. 
 
Please contact me to discover how to develop and personally design your own approach for safer boating, ultimately providing an improved experience on your vessel for everyone. 
It is absolutely true ... Safe Boating Is No Accident.


July 2017 column

What the colored boat lights mean

July is a significant month full of celebration and patriotic events. Boaters have the opportunity to enjoy the fireworks show from unique position, out on the lake. It’s certainly an excellent vantage point, with clear, calm weather and surface. There are also many other vessels in your vicinity doing the same thing and that can pose a collision hazard once they begin moving.
 
Red, white and blue always takes center stage during July festivities, the proud colors of our flag ... but that’s not what I am referring to. There’s a different combination of shade: red, white and green. They are the colors of running lights found on watercraft of all sizes, even the wings of aircraft. Their sole mission is to provide the observer the direction of travel, also known as aspect and or target angle, for those with military experience.
 
The following example of this genius system with light demarcation lines provides the very core – extremely important information – for collision avoidance. As stated in the Navigation Rules of the Road, lights should be displayed during periods of darkness or restricted visibility. Actually most vessels equipped will exhibit them any time they are underway, especially commercial vessels. Lines that separate the colors into sectors have meaning beginning with;
 
Side Lights
• Red is left (port)
• Green is right (starboard)
Stern Light
• White
Masthead Light
• White
• Yellow (used for commercial towing and public service vessels, flashing).
 
When you see these lights it provides the most important part of visualization of the approaching water craft. For instance, if you see a red light then you are looking at the other boat’s left side and you are obligated to turn right, slow down, or both to avoid an incident. In a head-on situation you would see both red and green, and the white masthead light. White light only would indicate you were observing from astern. There are only three types of situations described in the Rules of the Road.

This one graphic, with the distinct colors and division of sectors with lines of demarcation speaks volumes of quick, easy to interpret, information.
 
Propose this idea to enhance safe boating and proper action to operating rules of collision avoidance. Place this small decal in the helm area to provide immediate visual reference. Graphics are universal in nature crossing the boundary of spoken language. Small, seemingly insignificant, pictures, displayed where they can best be seen at all times while operating underway both day and night, will deliver outstanding results and can help moderate risk when navigating a vessel. 
 
Contact me if you want to learn more about and apply this technique to enhance your safety on the water.


June 2017 column

'Use it or lose it' applies to boating as well


How many times have you heard that saying? It’s so true regardless how it is applied. Proficiency in boating is no exception. The concept is the very reason why US Coast Guard licenses or the International Standards are renewed every five years. Think of the amount of time spent on your boat if you are a weekend and holiday enthusiast. How does it compare in terms of time to other parts of your daily routine? 
 
Time is marching on ... so should your learning curve. Actual experience is the absolute best teacher of all. Boating safety training should be part of your mariner experience. There are a few different opinions in the professional maritime instructor community about the frequency regarding renewal of license and knowledge. 
 
My belief and witness tells me loud and clear that initially, know-how in planning and preparation are the introductory elements to safer boating. License renewal does little to solve that need but there are ways to always be ready.  
 
Best practices often come in smaller portions, the trade secret to boating safety education. Look back and remember how it felt to “cram” for an exam after many hours of class! Now ask yourself ... did I learn anything in the process? Lesser units of training deliver the greatest success: both in duration of the seminar and the mastery of the content. 
 
Consider a safety class offered by the USCG Auxiliary, Power Squadron, or other institutions credentialed to offer this service. That’s only the beginning. Something I recommend: dedicate time out of each trip to go over certain items with your passengers and crew. Such short briefings deliver benefits in numerous ways.
 
Here’s a sample list of topics to cover or design your own based on your specific boating needs:
  • Life jackets
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fueling Operations
  • Person Overboard
  • Basic Weather Forecast 
  • Steering and Throttle
  • Anchoring
  • Line Handling

Take a few moments to go over these items each time you venture out on the water. Not only will it enrich the knowledge and protection of others, you will also garner added expertise of your skill sets as a safe boat operator. Additional information about this process can be found on the internet or contact me for more details.
 
Always keep in mind, “Use it or lose it!”



May 2017 column

The basics of navigation

“Navigation General,” is a vital part of knowledge for every type of deck officer seeking a professional license. It covers a wide range of topics, including weather, buoys, markers, and other aids to navigation. This science is one of the most valuable foundations in safe boating and developing good navigation skills. 
 
Weather plays a huge role in everything. The ability to recognize a threat and take the proper actions to avoid or mitigate, is significant to your overall success. Many different forms of media provide that data: satellite and other sophisticated technologies deliver near real time information. This is where training, and the preparation to become proficient in the operation of advanced electronics, pays huge dividends in your boating experience. Coupled with the latest high def multi-function displays, your vessel becomes connected, more efficient, and safer to operate.
 
Buoys and markers are referenced on GPS systems and charts ranging in technology from advanced satellite generated systems to paper charts and booklets produced by a variety of vendors. Without these locations and depth soundings, safe navigation would be near impossible. Like signs on the highway, these visual aids to navigation define safe paths to travel depending on the size and design of your vessel. Other markers denote obstructions such as sunken wrecks, shoal and objects that could cause harm by collision.
 
Probably the most violated markers on the lake would be the no wake zones. Sometimes misinterpreted, a conflict of opinion between these two basic maneuvers.
   • Slow to no wake speed before you reach the demarcation line
   • Decrease speed rapidly at the boundary
 
There is a problem with the second method, as slowing down rapidly, changing the center of gravity abruptly forward, causing the bow to dip down, creating a much higher wave than produced by the vessel’s normal wake pattern. Initial swell, the largest, then diminishing as the energy moves throughout the area. This is the type of surface action that can cause damage to boats and other nearby structures. 
 
Compared to any other portion of boating education, Navigation General covers the most diverse and important lessons. It is partially covered in Boating Safety classes given by many organizations and professionals. There is room for more of this type of training given its importance and relevance.
 
More thorough understanding can also be found in US Coast Guard approved license courses of instruction offered both, in class and online. The most valuable part of this syllabus of training is actually not the license, it is the additional knowledge how things work in all aspects of boating and shipping. Contact me if you want to know more how Navigation General can improve your total awareness of  boating and provide a excellent base to all things Boating Safety.



April 2017 column

An explanation of 'Rubber Docking'

Final Approach. It’s a term commonly used in aviation denoting the aircraft’s descent on the last course for landing. Boats also have their own version of Final Approach. For those of you with handling experience, you already know the unique feeling as your vessel edges toward the dock.

Sometimes the overall maneuver is complicated, with a lot of factors to consider: Wind, water depth, current, your speed, other nearby craft  and obstructions the highest concerns in the few moments before coming to all stop, safely without incident, alongside the berth. That may sound like a simple thing to accomplish, but I can assure you that’s not always the case. 
 
Safe boat handling presents a requirement for competency to the task. I’ve witnessed my fair share of mishaps over many years. You can look at You Tube for countless examples of all types of marine accidents, both big ship and small vessel. Competency is only achieved in a very direct fashion: by simulated or actual experience. There are local professionals in your area that can help you gain the confidence and experience needed. Some training groups and institutions also have boating simulators to assist in developing these specific skill sets. That’s one of my favorites while serving as a trainer. 
 
In a simulated environment you can make mistakes, learn from the process, and become superior in the skill of boat handling, without the actual incident or associated risk occurring. It’s working through a process called Error Trapping to improve performance. 
 
However ... there is another way you can gain this knowledge: part simulation, part actual experience and best of all, not having to hire someone or purchase equipment. The combination produces outstanding results. This time of year, when the lake is not crowded, is a perfect time for you to hone your capability in boat handling. I highly recommend practicing a method called “Rubber Docking” by throwing something in the water that floats near your vessel, and practice maneuvering up to it, using small amounts of rudder and or just the engine. 
 
This little – seemingly insignificant – exercise will get you accustomed to how your boat handles in slow speed, and sometimes in elements such as wind, current, and rough water. It’s a great environment to learn safer boating techniques. There’s no need to be close to other boats or make risky maneuvers when you can accomplish the basics out in open waters, away from the crowds.

Mastering these methods will improve:
  • Retrieving a person from the water quickly and safely
  • Collision avoidance
  • Maneuvering next to a dock
  • Anchoring
 
There is much value in this know-how and numerous outlets where you can obtain the information. Contact me if you want to know more.
 


March 2017 column

Always know where you are while boating

One definition of responsible navigation involves the fact that a person in charge of an underway vessel 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. It’s all part of the total equation of knowing your geographic location and in order to become proficient with 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 guide. 
 
The same holds true for boating.  Some of you develop and master electronic navigation skills to deliver the desired information. But 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 incident. Such problems can come in an assortment of conditions: grounding, collision, and many others all stemming from one element – incorrect navigation or lack thereof.
 
Once 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.  It’s extremely valuable for sport fishing and also has application for other safe navigation utilities, especially underwater cartography. The technology also provides a broad range of voyage planning services as well as local knowledge of charting routes and destinations. 
 
Back to the focus of proper navigation: you should never rely on just one source of information. I highly recommend practice using paper or booklet charts. Also, 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 do that task well delivers many benefits to you, especially the aptitude to look ahead and predict what will happen. This comparison provides the confidence needed to make the correct decisions and become more aware of potential hazards before they develop into risk.
 
Think of this question often when on the water “Where am I?” It will deliver a positive difference in your boating experience and to others that enjoy the lake.



February 2017 column

Three turns to rescue 'man overboard'

On many advanced marine electronics systems there is a button normally labeled MOB, specifically designed to give the exact position of someone that has fallen into the water so the boat operator can make a speedy recovery, especially in cold water conditions.  Hypothermia is dangerous and threatens survival. Required by maritime rules, commercial licensed and military mariners practice this scenario in any weather or sea condition. There are three different maneuvers or “turns” to accomplish that objective.
 
For those of you that have taken boating and license courses the “Williamson Turn” is introduced as a maneuver to return to the exact place where the person and retrace the path of the vessel on reciprocal course.Its chief advantage is to return to that position accurately in any condition of visibility or sea state.

In calmer waters, especially the lake, making a round turn or “Anderson Turn” would enable you to return to the position quicker.  The advantage of this recovery method is a reduction in time to position. As a boat operator you should always employ situational awareness and if this event occurs you would immediately know safe turning areas to get you there.  Approaching from this method would also allow you to maneuver up-wind to the person, which is the best and safest way to recover. 

A sometimes even quicker maneuver to return to the MOB position is to execute a “Scharnow Turn.” As you will see from the website graphic it is a quick turn of 240 degrees and also absolutely requires having the person in the water in sight at all times. During the turn there is sometimes the tendency to lose geographical orientation. The datum mark on the GPS chart will help guide if you are equipped but visual contact is even more important and crucial to quick rescue.
 
These three turns are just a few examples of the process to assist in MOB. More importantly, you have a plan and practice it enough for it to become second nature. 
 
Think about taking a boating safety class this year from the USCG Auxiliary or the Atlanta Sail & Power Squadron. Other local venues of boating education and professional license can also effectively assist you to develop your skills as a mariner. Please contact me to learn more.
 
Lake waters are hypothermia hazards and will remain so for a few months to come. Cold water boating brings a different set of considerations and awareness to your experience and with proper preparation and training can make for a great time on the water.


January 2017 column

How to experience smooth sailing

So just what is smooth sailing ... a distant outline of land on the horizon, the turquoise ocean, flat and glassy in appearance. The haze grey of mountains as they cast a faint, dim shadow over the surface of the water and sky, clouds billowing over top of the warmer land surface. It’s an extraordinary but familiar sight for officers and crew of the US Coast Guard Mohawk, a 270’ Medium Endurance Cutter on patrol in the Caribbean. One that I had the honor of serving with, when it was one of the newest ships in the fleet. Not always a smooth ride, especially in the Florida Straits. In an instant the wind can shift, backing or veering, coming from the Northeast, opposing the flow of the Gulf Stream, creating something just short of “Hell on Water.” Waves rapidly rising as short period, large troughs, cresting over the top of some of the tallest ships that ply this sea. It’s also the birthplace of some of the strongest storms and tropical systems on the planet. Migrant rescue is a frequent mission in this area, foul weather always complicating the situation, and exponentially increasing the risk.
 
Crossing the Straits is a true adventure all to itself. Imagine cruising to Cuba by boat, visiting ports of call that have been hidden in plain sight for more than 50 years. That is permitted now and the area is beginning to come to life with activity and commerce. The destination may be close to many ports in the United States and for those boaters that want to travel to this historic tropical paradise, the primary thing you need to safely transit is: Experience. That is available in a variety of forms:  hire a skilled, certified Captain with a USCG License or attend the training yourself and learn from professional mariners and instructors. It makes a huge difference in every aspect of navigation and delivers an incredibly positive and safe voyage.
 
As you visit the Atlanta Boat Show this year please keep “learning: in mind as you see amazing advancements in technology, and watercraft. Innovations are developing at record speed, sometimes the latest becomes the last in the rapidly evolving world of improvements, within a very short span of time.
 
Winter season is upon us, now a great time to invest in training, the kind that will benefit you the most. The spectrum of this type of education spans from advanced electronics, boating safety basics, license, to hands-on events. Online and in-class resources also abound in the surrounding area delivered by some of the best experts and organizations in the business. Contact me if you want to discover how this class of education can greatly benefit your on the water experience and increase boating safety for everyone. You can find me at the vendor display booths for Sea School, SIMRAD, and the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. Hope to see you there!
 
Take time to learn and become proficient. In other words, make your next journey smooth sailing.



December 2016 column

The most important 'Thing' in safe boating

Safe Speed, Rule 6, is one of the best written laws in the entire navigation Rules of the Road document, and certainly one of the most crucial. Other directives come after it. All rules are important, yet contingent on this one very important factor about a moving vessel on the water. Increase in speed dynamically changes everything about your ability to handle your vessel ... in any condition.

How quickly you assess and process the critical data, especially in a maneuver, will determine your outcome in any navigation situation. Slowing things down can be a much needed action in times of increased hazards and situational awareness. Here is the actual key to reducing your risk on the water, increasing your boating safety, maximizing your enjoyment of boating, taken right out of the Navigation Rules of the Road:
 
RULE 6 Safe Speed 
Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions. 
 
In determining a safe speed the following factors shall be among those taken into account: 
 
  (a) By all vessels: 
  (i) the state of visibility; 
  (ii) the traffic density including concentrations of fishing vessels or any other vessels; 
  (iii) the maneuverability of the vessel with special reference to stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions; 
  (iv) at night, the presence of background light such as from shore lights or from back scatter of her own lights; 
  (v) the state of wind, sea and current, and the proximity of navigational hazards; 
  (vi) the draft in relation to the available depth of water. 
 
  (b) Additionally, by vessels with operational radar: 
  (i) the characteristics, efficiency and limitations of the radar equipment; 
  (ii) any constraints imposed by the radar range scale in use; 
  (iii) the effect on radar detection of the sea state, weather and other sources of interference; 
  (iv) the possibility that small vessels, ice and other floating objects may not be detected by radar at an adequate range; 
  (v) the number, location and movement of vessels detected by radar; 
  (vi) the more exact assessment of the visibility that may be possible when radar is used to determine the range of vessels or other objects in the vicinity. 
 
That about says it all, covers every point of view and interpretation. It is the one crucial point of each scenario, and is directly connected to the final outcome. The next time you venture out on the water keep Rule 6 in mind and always consider an option to allow more time by slowing down. It makes an incredibly positive difference to all things safe boating.



November 2016 column

Is LORAN making a comeback?

LORAN is an acronym and stands for Long Range Navigation. LORAN “A” was introduced in 1957 and first used by military ships an aircraft.  LORAN “C” was the last main series update of this navigation system in the early 1970s. Countries around the world used LORAN C, even Russia having a similar system called CHAYKA. All LORAN Stations operating under US Coast Guard were shut down in February 2010. The paper charts used for the USCG License training still include these lines for navigation all over the surface.

Operators don’t see the lines on their chart display as modern boating relies primarily on GPS for that purpose. Most students in my license training and tutorial classes see all the lines covering the chart. It can sometimes be overwhelming to the visual senses with crowded shades of magenta, green, and gray. Continual plotting practice is really the only way to work this art form, using the right combination of proper instruction and syllabus.
 
Other maritime regions continued using LORAN although in a different format called eLORAN. The end of 2015 also has brought about closing almost all these stations in Europe, Asia, and other Continents.
 
Based on a news report from the Royal Institute of Navigation all European Loran-C stations – except the UK’s Anthorn – ceased transmitting at 1100 UTC on Dec. 31, 2015. “This decision to continue by the UK Government follows closely on the heels of the decision in September by the US National Executive Committee for Space Based PNT (EXCOM) that eLORAN ‘could be a viable nationwide complementary for GPS applications in US critical infrastructure.’ ”
 
There are a few interpretations that can be made from this specific paragraph. Could LORAN return as an auxiliary navigation system in the future, a back-up to GPS?
 
My experience tells me yes, in some fashion, as an alternate to the reliance on GPS. There is a reason why conventional technique is required for license. The basic premise is to not rely on one source of data in order to make decisions. Bringing eLORAN would add another alternative sensor to the mix. When using LORAN in the past, it afforded extremely accurate geographic position information in all types of operations. There was even a trend on over reliance in that system as well, but as time progressed GPS has taken over the task of advanced navigation, while at the same time creating a perception that the information is always flawless. 
 
I’m not sure what a return of LORAN would look like in the modern world of vessel electronics. But I know that it would serve to improve boating safety through additional reliable sensor resource included on multi-function displays.
 
Another benefit would be the ability to revert to conventional charting using LORAN, if the procedure was needed. It may be considered an ancient process by some but I can assure you if it was working now, you would be amazed with its accuracy. 
 
Sometimes the return of older technology, concepts can deliver benefits and improvements to the maritime world in general. Just ask someone who has used LORAN before and they will tell you.



October 2016 column

The many ways of learning modern marine navigation

The years of serving as navigator, instructor, and maritime course developer, has provided the opportunity of witnessing a rapid progression in advanced electronics, vessel design, and boating safety technology. The progression is partially due to the migration of these systems from defense to the general public. With that development comes the responsibility of operating the sensors properly and interpreting the information correctly. That’s some of what is the premise behind license, certification, and general knowledge training syllabus. Safety is the primary consideration, your voyage proceeding with greater efficiency, avoiding risk scenarios, all are a portion of the benefit for modern marine navigation. This accelerated barrage of innovations does however present a few concerns, and if not addressed properly with knowledge, understanding, proficiency could lead to a more risk prone boating environment.
 
Visit any large boating supply store and you will see the array of multifunction displays, communications, and sensors in the electronics section. Each manufacturer showcases their advantages, options, and other attributes. Having these choices should direct the focus on learning how to use them to their maximum potential. There are a multitude of problems that can arise from improper application, lack of understanding, and misinterpretation of data.
 
The real question is ... Where do you go to find expert guidance on operation of these advanced technologies?
 
There is an answer! I recently attended a USCG Auxiliary meeting at the lake and was introduced to some of the best developed and constructed series of instruction for boating that I have ever seen. It can be delivered online, presented in-class, or offered in a blended presentation. It covers a wide and critical range of subjects including GPS, voyage planning, emergency scenarios, communications, weather, and much more. There is nothing wrong with mastering conventional methods of navigation, but utilizing the newer forms and function of this science is exceptionally important to boating safety in these modern times. 
 
Operational knowledge of the advancements and their attributes is power. You can better control your overall boating environment, ultimately your safety, and that of others you meet on the water.
 
The United States Power Squadron along with professional maritime organizations such as US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Boat US, and more, present a much needed solution to improved boating safety. 
Visit the following websites for examples of these courses and see for yourself:
 
Modern Marine Navigation is here to stay, and getting more complex by the day. Be on the front line of proficiency and learn from some of the best resources offered and produced by experts. It can make a difference.



September 2016 column

Boating basics begin with 'Bowditch, Chapter 25'

Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), is often considered the father of modern navigation. He provided the foundation for the duties and responsibilities of a ship navigator in a book entitled, “The American Practical Navigator.” You can see his history online by searching his name on Wikipedia, then checking out the book name. It’s required reading for all military and professional mariners that serve as a navigation officer, pilot, or Captain. 
 
Chapter 25 comprises only 10 pages of very specific, direct to the point, processes and tasks involved to control the movement of a ship, manage the bridge team, and deliver error free performance in all duties. New editions of the book have been produced throughout the years since the first publication, and it can be found on the web in full detail. Celestial, Terrestrial, and many other facets of navigation is based on this text along with numerous mathematical tables in both Volumes I and II.
 
Boating safety information and training comes from this basic origin, of course in much different format and content presentation. Each and every time you go out on the water you should organize, voyage plan, check weather forecast, prepare ample provisions, make safety checks, and brief passengers and crew. There are many types of preparation apps, advanced electronic multi function display tools to help you accomplish these meaningful tasks.
 
Preparation is the absolute best method to assure an incident free, good time on the water. It all stems from good boating information and training, delivered in such a fashion to produce a positive change. Increase in confidence, the destination, all serving effectively your time on the water.  
 
The boating life has its numerous benefits and sometimes challenges. There is no specific answer to all the types of maritime risks except ... Knowledge, Understanding, and Proficiency. This can only be accomplished by the boater and is at very best, a continual process. This is what the famous Chapter 25 is all about. Proven methods, and ideas to always offer a positive navigation environment, at all times, in any condition. It’s not the same as pleasure boating but does present some exceptional ideas as to directly controlling your boating safety environment. 
 
The original design of the book and Chapter 25 was intended for large ocean going ships. However, its application actually covers all types of vessels that operate on the water. Modern day boating safety training is the best format to help you discover the knowledge you need to make you a better and safer boat operator.
 
There are plenty of training outlets and organizations here at the lake. Contact me if you want to find out more about any type of  training seminars and courses you might want. It all begins with “American Practical Navigator,” Bowditch, Chapter 25.



August 2016 column

The big three...

Known as the big three, knowledge, understanding, and proficiency,  are the pillars of boating safety and education. In addition, these three core values are the international law governing training standards on commercial vessels: Standards of Training and Certified Watch Standing, STCW 95.

Professional licensed Masters and Mates must successfully complete this program and certification to work in foreign waters. These courses of instruction, either online or in class, are designed to provide the necessary elements to become more “Knowledgeable.” This is the normal progression that leads into the hands-on segment of the training or assessment, also known as “Proficiency.” It helps clear the way for good decision making when operating your vessel. The best part ... the big three can lead to a great event on the water and more apt to be free from incidents. There is however the opportunity to gather experience and understanding from making mistakes. This all reminds me of a quote by a brilliant lyricist and author: “A mistake repeated more than once is a decision,” – Paulo Coelho.
 
Take each and every close call, “almost ran aground” incident that you face on the water and learn from it. Identify the cause and resolution, preparing for the next time it happens, sometimes even preventing it from occurring. That’s the premise of boating education, learning from other examples and decision models. Have you thought about expanding your boating knowledge and safety?

Everyone has a different reason to learn, the common connection ... all need to be familiar with the basics. It all depends on your boating style, very much diverse with a wide variety of vessels and watercraft. 
 
One of the most important aspects of safe boating is knowing how to respond and recognize risk when operating underway or even at the dock. We are required to perform the very same tasks when we drive our vehicles, boating is not different in that regard.
 
Most of the people you meet on the water do not fully comprehend the rules of conduct and sometimes find themselves in less than desirable situations when interacting with other vessels. Reasons are extensive but mainly limited to one chief element of time on the water which can only be cured with practice.  
 
Why not make a commitment to learn more about boating through marine safety education programs offered by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, Sail and Power Squadron, 
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