How Did We Manage Before GPS? - Ships Nostalgia
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How Did We Manage Before GPS?

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  #1  
Old 6th November 2005, 18:56
John Cassels John Cassels is offline  
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How Did We Manage Before GPS?

Couple of weeks ago, bought one of these compact flash receivers for 68 euro and only the size of a fag packet
for use with the laptop. After seeing my position given to three decimal
points after the minute, got to thinking how it used to be ....
in the days when "Board of Trade"was still stamped on your ticket
Anyone reading who was 2nd.mate at the beginning of the 70's will
remember...............

You did the 12-4 and crashed around 0530 after a few beers with the
3rd.engineer. Called 3 hours later and up to bridge clutching bacon
butty. Made cup if tea,finished butty,wound cronometer,grabbed sextant
(assuming the various errors hadn't changed since the last time you checked in spite of being bounced in and out of box) ,went to bridge wing hoping you would be able to see the sun and horizon and preferably both at the same time. Took your 3 sights while trying to
keep your balance on a bridge wing rolling and pitching all over the place. Then surrounded by bits of paper and a well worn dog eared
copy of Norie's Tables using a height of eye correction which bore no resemblance whatsoever to high the bridge wing was when you took the sights. Got your p/l ,ran it up to noon, couple of G and T's , had lunch,then back up for noon sights. Got latitude, ran it to noon,adjusted
morning p/l and bingo , position where the ship was at noon. Secretly,you knew the ship was no where near the position but you hoped that she was at least within a couple of miles of it.

Now,yesterday,35 years further on , I plugged a piece of black plastic
into the PC, pressed a few buttons, had a fag, and meantime a position
accurate to about 5 meters appeared.................

Don't really need a GPS , but for me it's pure , shameless facination
especially when you think how it used to be.

--------------------
expat
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  #2  
Old 6th November 2005, 19:32
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R798780 R798780 is offline  
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Yes, memories.

And in the quiet of the afternoon watch took Venus on the meridian, crossed it with the sun and, on occasions, with a complimentary moon. Then we knew where we were.

The mate had taken stars one morning, timed himself with a stopwatch, I just counted the way back to the chronom. Got to noon, got a position, The old man Sam B. liked it. He "didn't believe we were where the mate put us". Not the best loved mate in the company!

Mid '80s we got sat nav. A pass every hour and a half if we were lucky and if the machine didn't reject the pass on "too many iterations" or some other excuse. Then when you really needed a fix there wasn't a hit for maybe ten - fifteen hours. Out with the sextant, it didn't run out of batteries either. But it was interesting to see how close we got with sun sights and stars when we did get a good pass on the electric job.
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  #3  
Old 6th November 2005, 20:37
John Cassels John Cassels is offline  
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Sorry all, should have titled the post
"How did we manage before GPS"
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Old 11th November 2007, 09:45
John Cassels John Cassels is offline  
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Now , more than two years later , laptop has thrown a wobbler so have just
bought one of the latest generation GPS handheld recievers. No maps or
anything , just the basic course , speed and position to within 3 - 5 meters.

As in my first post , the facination still remains remembering what we used to
have to do to get the same info 40 years ago.
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  #5  
Old 11th November 2007, 10:34
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All that and now you ex-mates and engineers can even talk to people the other side of the world without learning morse - ah technology!

Steve.
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Old 11th November 2007, 11:04
trotterdotpom trotterdotpom is online now  
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At least you could have a couple of beers at 4 AM and a couple of gins before lunch and no-one gave a fig. Wonder what they do with all the spare time gained from having a GPS?

John T.
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Old 11th November 2007, 11:22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trotterdotpom View Post
At least you could have a couple of beers at 4 AM and a couple of gins before lunch and no-one gave a fig. Wonder what they do with all the spare time gained from having a GPS?

John T.
Drink more beer!

Steve.

Last edited by Moulder : 12th November 2007 at 10:28.
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Old 11th November 2007, 12:30
K urgess K urgess is offline
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Not allowed.
They probably get breathalysed before going on watch today.
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Old 11th November 2007, 12:53
johnalderman johnalderman is offline  
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Isn't it funny how some mates managed to get six star sights to cross perfectly on the spot!!!!!!!!!!!Almost impossible I would say, but some managed it nearly every morning.
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  #10  
Old 11th November 2007, 13:08
K urgess K urgess is offline
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Creative navigation is an art form just as is creative accounting!
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Old 11th November 2007, 13:10
Steve Woodward Steve Woodward is offline  
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Still have my sextant ( Heath MC1) and will never part with it, last used it two years ago taking stars crossing the north sea, came out with a good position but it was for old times sake to see if I could rember how, moving round the boat was a pain with sails or rigging joining in!.
Give me a GPS anyday, reliable in all weathers or cloud types, nostalgia is great - but knowing were you are at any time is better.
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Old 11th November 2007, 13:14
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LOL John. With me it was normally a case of it being completely overcast at twilight, then once the sun was up the sky would clear to a brilliant blue - just in time for the Old Man to appear for his morning cuppa.

"Didn't you get stars this morning?"
"eh, no Capn it was overcast"
(Old Man looks out the window)
"Hmm"

It could happen to anyone, but it always seemed to happen to me.
LOL
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Old 11th November 2007, 13:16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnalderman View Post
Isn't it funny how some mates managed to get six star sights to cross perfectly on the spot!!!!!!!!!!!Almost impossible I would say, but some managed it nearly every morning.
Jack

It was always down the the thickness of your pencil point
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Old 11th November 2007, 15:29
randcmackenzie randcmackenzie is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trotterdotpom View Post
At least you could have a couple of beers at 4 AM and a couple of gins before lunch and no-one gave a fig. Wonder what they do with all the spare time gained from having a GPS?

John T.

They fill in forms and check lists.
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Old 11th November 2007, 15:40
johnalderman johnalderman is offline  
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I always got the old cocked hat, then closed my eyes and stabbed with the old 2B and Bobs your uncle.
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Old 11th November 2007, 19:22
John Cassels John Cassels is offline  
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Rather unfortunate that my thread has not generated any rational input so
far.
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Old 11th November 2007, 19:51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Cassels View Post
Rather unfortunate that my thread has not generated any rational input so
far.
One should bear in mind at all times, that to assume that one will recieve an intellectually uplifting response to ones mundane daily pontifications; is to assume that others share the depth and clarity of mind and purpose so plainly exhibited by the omnipotence of our original statement
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Old 11th November 2007, 20:04
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Geoff_E Geoff_E is offline  
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That's a bit unfair John. It's mostly been rational, if fairly light-hearted. I think, deep down, most would admit to a great sense of satisfaction. It was, and where still practised, is still, an art form. It was also something one grew into as there was never any real teaching at college about the use of a sextant. (By that I mean the accurate manipulation to sit the lower limb of the sun, or a star just on the horizon.)

Yes GPS is here to stay but I'm afraid that those who have never known any other are much the poorer for it.

I inspect quite a few vessels for our "Clients", most of whom wouldn't know a good ship from a bad one if it ran them down! All too often, when I ask if they actually have a sextant on board (after the blank looks!) I'm shown one, immaculate, straight out of the box. If I'm in a bad mood I've been known to ask if they've ever checked for errors. (Grumpy old man!) Mostly it's not worth the effort.

I would also refer readers to a recent thread touching on the quality of officers/insurance premiums on vessels, etc.

Now, what is the time of "Noon"?
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Old 11th November 2007, 20:43
Dick S Dick S is offline  
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Times change,
Was at sea when SATNAV was just in, never had the pleasue of GPS to help me out. There was a great satisfaction of getting sights right and picking up a good landfall after a long passage. (North Atlantic winter on 25kt container boats with only loran or decca makes you wish GPS was there then!) with the reduction of manning levels and the new regulations and subsequent form filling I wonder if there really is time for sights these days.

But that was my time - I like many people - lived it and enjoyed it. I hope that present seafarers can say the same 20 years after they 'swallow the pick'

Dick
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Old 12th November 2007, 07:55
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A couple of years ago I decided to come accross the Pacific from Panama to Tang Gu the old fashioned way. I gave the mates a month to brush up their techniques, which involved a lot of lessons by me! The second mate (Filipino lad) actually told me that navigating with a sextant was very dangerous! We set off with both GPS's taped over so no one could cheat, and after a couple of days of doubting and slightly insolent stares things started to change as they got used to the old ways. Our first landfall on Hawaii was closely watched by all, and when we got a fix from radar we were pretty close to our DR. By the time we got to a landfall on the islands south of Japan the whole atmosphere had changed - I had converts who really felt they had achieved something. The question is, of course, what would we do if both GPS sets go on the blink?
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  #21  
Old 12th November 2007, 07:58
John Cassels John Cassels is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Cassels View Post
Rather unfortunate that my thread has not generated any rational input so
far.

You're right guys , sorry. Can't expect everyone to share my point of view.

Will gladly retract my above statement.
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Old 12th November 2007, 11:32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Cassels View Post
Secretly,you knew the ship was no where near the position but you hoped that she was at least within a couple of miles of it.

--------------------
expat
I did pre sea training at Blythe Street in Belfast in '66 where navigation was taught by Capt. 'Kit' Carson a tremendous wee character who taught me a great deal. Following the final exams Kit called me in and told me that I had failed my navigation by 1% but he would give me the requisite pass mark if I took 'O' level navigation the next month. I thanked Kit and told him I would pass it for him.

"I know you will lad", said he, "navigation's not an exact science - it's an art"!
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Old 12th November 2007, 12:37
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There was a time around 1981 when SatNav was installed on the ship. The old man insisted it would change nothing. Astro sights had to be taken as normal, dawn, noon and dusk........to check the satnav was working!
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  #24  
Old 12th November 2007, 15:18
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The approximate art of finding out where you've been.
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Old 12th November 2007, 15:21
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The approximate art of finding out where you've been
The approximate art of finding out where you THINK you MIGHT have been
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