Thursday, July 29, 2010

Got the grey matter?

By grey matter I don't mean the unused part of a mans body between his ears, I mean FOG.  Since there seem to be a current theme on the other blogs of "sailing in darkness", I might as well share an embarrassing story of my early days of sailing.

Being top of my class in sailing school and really loving navigation, I got a position on a 36ft yacht as navigator and "jack-of-all-sails".  This was a recreational yacht, so no serious racing, etc , just the Wednesday night regatta and occasional weekend offshore cruising.  

On the first off shore cruise, it was also my first encounter with navigation blindly and relying only on instruments.  We were approaching a small bay, where we would anchor for the evening, and visibility was down to 2 meters.  So  the seasoned skipper decided to reef down the iron sail to a near idle.  

All of a sudden none of the headings on the compass, GPS or chart plotter were the same.  We could here the waves break over on our port side  and to our right I knew were unsafe waters too.  What to do?  One thing we could trust was the traditional compass so we used that for our heading.  The GPS and chart plotter had the same way points, so we used that to track our progress on a old fashioned chart.  Every 2 minutes I would track our progress on the chart and shout to the Skipper 5 degrees to port or 10 degrees to starboard or keep her steady. 

my Picasso inspired art work - "navigation in the grey" 
We eventually made it to our anchoring spot, even thou it felt like forever. It was one on the most stressful sailing times of my life and as one would have it, as soon as we anchored, the fog lifted an we were in a beautiful bay drinking sherry.

Lesson learned:  
If you go to slow, your electronic nav systems can't pin point your exact course/heading. So go faster.

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