Maritime Mystery

Poor seamanship. Relying on a system rather than observation and experience.

1 Like

‘Observation and experience’

What do expect them to use ?

Seamen for centuries have used compasses to navigate but how can they do so if the poles are affecting the systems ? What can be observed when land is too far away ?

If you had read the article, you would know that magnetic compasses have not been used for decades.

How about the position of the sun, for example?

My point exactly Mike. What use is a manetic compass if the poles are all to cock ?
Navigating by the sun and stars is fine but what happens when the weather is dull ? I spent a lot of time crossing the North Sea and the weather was dodgy rather than good for most of the time.
I recall on one voyage we sailed from Rangoon destination Durban across the Indian Ocean. The weather was dull for three days and the ship drifted south by about 100 miles or so with the sea conditions. No sights were possible with the sextant. I took whatever readings from d/f beacons which helped.
The old ways are not always possible, in fact I wonder if the modern navigators are trained to use a sextant !


Great when the weather is favourable Graham.

But still possible Peter…

Many years ago a colleague was shipwrecked in the North Sea.
They were 18 hours in a rubber raft near to shipping lanes. Even firing flares right in front of passing ships got no response. They were finally picked up by some French fishermen, the only people who still bother to look at the surface of the ocean.

If thy were tankers, they can take up a considerable distance before being able to stop and turn about and then there is the security issue - are they terrorists? best leave them where they are and keep on trucking…

Not many terrorists in rubber rafts in the North Sea!
Even if they can’t stop they can notify the coastguard.
A lot of these ships have rag-tag crews with dubious qualifications and often don’t even share the same language. They are totally dependent on satellite navigation systems.

i seem to recall reading somewhere that modern supertankers are only expected to last three years before their spines break; a reason why only desperate se asian crews are employed - with zero knowledge (qm mark) much more happening on the high seas than we apparently know about;
personally i blame trump - there’s nothing i wouldn’t believe about him!

1 Like

I do wonder how they cope with freak wave situations when the bow and stern are lifted at the same moment, leaving the mid section unsupported.

British registered ships have always employed foreign crews, the main reason being to save huge amounts of money.

Surely not always? And are there any still British registered?

There’s still a couple of thousand I believe.

Just checked. 1306 according to DfT. But Panama still leads by a mile!

It’s true that the obligatory watch on the bridge at all times for all vessels is frequently absent on these commercial vessels. The rule of thumb when in the vicinity of them when sailing is that there is nobody watching and one had better shape a course on that basis.

The great sailor, Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail single-handedly around the world, is believed to have been lost by being run down. The same goes for the explorer and mountaineer, H.W. Tilman. Many have been and lived to tell the tale.

Navigational devices are classed as ‘aids to navigation’. When working well, they are marvellous. But a vessel must be able to navigate, at the last resort, by dead reckoning. A vessel’s log is a legal document and the skipper is obliged to keep it up-to-date. But is anyone keeping a log on these vessels? The same person who’se supposed to be on watch but he’s probably playing a video game down in the bowls somewhere.

One of the silliest ‘navigational aids’ in this era of electronic navigation, be it DECCA, RDF, RADAR, GPS, are chart-books of way-points. This has lead to the amusingly termed but serious event - the RADAR-assisted collision, when two vessels happen to meet at the way-point both have dialed in.


Which often occurs in general aviation without radar surveillance in uncontrolled airspace at VORs and NDBs.

I can I can only speak for my time in the British MN but there was always a presence on the bridge when at sea.