Thursday, August 12, 2010
CURRENT STATE OF THE ART
During the last decade of actual sea-going NAUTICAL LOG became concerned with the skill level of Junior Officers in Celestial Navigation. It most likely started when a Swedish 'Third Mate' joined with his guitar and hair dryer but no sextant. As it happened he had no OOW knowledge anyway and left as soon as NAUTICAL LOG could activate his open return ticket. So it was greatly interesting to read in OCEAN NAVIGATOR-online today an article by Mr. Gary LaPook of a passage made aboard the SV Royal Clipper as ad hoc celestial navigation teacher.
Having been trained in the methods of the British Merchant Navy NAUTICAL LOG worked out sights using Nories Nautical Tables and the full formula. This was because at that time, 1953-1966, the UK Board of Trade required the full calculation method in their 'Certificate of Competency' examinations and only Nories or Burtons Tables were permitted in the examination room. Once one was comfortable and confident we switched to the Sight Reduction Tables for Marine Navigation while at sea for our 'Days Work'. There were several sets of Tables published by both the UK Admiralty and in the US Hydrographic Office, Pub. 229 Volumes 1 to 6, NP 401 Volumes 1 to 6, H.O. 249 Volumes 1,2, Stars and H.O. 216. Until the advent and eventual take over of the various electronics we got around the world quite safely and accurately by the 'Intercept Method' and 'Marc St. Hilaire Method'.
Clearly however the Officers joining later in my career did not have the same level of comfort with these methods, they were electronic navigation officers. Even more disturbing to NAUTICAL LOG they did not use the time at sea to practice and develop a level of skill in celestial navigation.
Aboard the SV Royal Clipper passengers had an opportunity to learn and practice some basic celestial navigation skills. As Mr. LaPook points out at least one of the Ukrainian officers needed some training as well, something NAUTICAL LOG found considerably disturbing. To our mutual surprise, indeed amazement he had no idea what the H.O. 249 Sight Reduction Tables was used for even though the volumes were sitting on the Bridge bookshelf. Later in the voyage another officer at least had the foresight to ask Gary LaPook to teach him celestial navigation.
The SV Royal Clipper, SV Star Clipper and SV Star Flyer of the Star Clipper fleet do not call at any United States mainland, USVI or Puerto Rican port at present thus they never come under Port State status of the USCG. They have some of the most expensive rates for cruises in the industry. So NAUTICAL LOG believes there might be justifiable reason for passenger concern judging from the remarks of Gary LaPook's article in OCEAN NAVIGATOR-online. When one OOW does not know the use for H.O. 249 Sight Reduction Tables and another asks a passenger, which was the status aboard of Mr. LaPook, for instruction in celestial navigation and the Master has dead batteries in the calculator he says he uses for navigation there is clearly something seriously amiss.
As a former cruise ship officer NAUTICAL LOG would strongly suggest that this company, Star Clippers, 760 NW 107th. Ave. Suite 100, Miami FL 33172 email@example.com or their Head Office at Star Clippers, Clipper Palace, 4 rue de la Turbie, 98000 Monaco firstname.lastname@example.org who operate the SV Royal Clipper and the other two vessels, would be well advised, in accordance with IMO-STCW 95 to review and re-examine the training, competence and skill levels of their Masters and Deck Officers as OOW/Navigators. There is a lot more to being an OOW than just reading sail trim computers, and navigational electronics to know from them ones sailing condition and position within half a metre - apart from those dead batteries what if the damn fuze blows?