Online Book:

Navigation—Knowing Where It’s At

There are endless posts and comments on the internet about the latest cool electronic gadgets to help us navigate. But will acquiring all this expensive stuff make you a navigator who is competent and safe to go voyaging? No, not unless you also grasp the fundamentals of understanding where you are. In this Online Book Colin, Phyllis and John share the fruits of a combined century of navigation, much of it before electronic gadgets, and then relate that experience to modern electronic navigation.

Table of Contents:

Knowing Where It’s At

This retired fisherman and lifeboat coxswain from Clarks Harbour, Nova Scotia, is not the hero of my story, but I bet he could pull off the same trick.

We start this book by looking at the most important aspect of good and safe navigation. More important than fancy electronics. More important than paper charts. More important than radar. Situation awareness—knowing where you are at all times.

How We Know Where It’s At On “Morgan’s Cloud”

Phyllis in the cockpit navigation area on aluminum expedition sailboat Morgan's Cloud.

So what is it specifically that we do to make sure “we know where it’s at” while cruising some of the world’s more remote places on Morgan’s Cloud, our 56-foot aluminum McCurdy and Rhodes cutter? First, our primary navigation area is on deck. There is no way that we can be properly aware of our [...]

Electronic Charting Dangers

Aluminum expedition sailboat Morgan's Cloud aground in the Bahamas.

Although we are not Luddites bemoaning the take over of electronics and warning of the dire consequence of over reliance on them, we are aware of several dangers in their exclusive use: First off in the list of potential gotchas is the use of the electronic log features that we increasingly see included in navigation [...]

Separation and Redundancy


Finding a home for all our provisions before heading off on a cruise is always a challenge since I tend to overstock on the basis that we will use everything up in the end but running out of something vital in some out of the way place would really inhale. So, as always, there was [...]

Chart Plotters And Autopilots, Never The Twain Should Meet


On Morgan’s Cloud we don’t hand steer much: approaching and leaving a wharf, anchoring and hauling the anchor, transiting an intricate channel, or in the presence of a lot of other boat traffic; that’s about it. We find that by using our autopilot we are left with more time and focus to navigate, keep a [...]

It Ain’t Necessarily So

Channel marker, Arisaig, West Highlands.

In these days of hyper-accurate GPS navigation and deck mounted plotters, it can sometimes seem like navigation has been reduced to no more than a video game. And it sometimes seems that more and more people are implicitly trusting what they see on a screen, having never known the nervous twitch that accompanied entering a [...]

Navigation System—Plotter Or Computer?

Dell computer

John looks at the question of whether to install a dedicated plotter or a computer for electronic navigation, and continues with a description of what he did install and how it has worked out. John is an electronics technician by trade and has spent some 30 years in the computer business, so this is information from an expert in both the technology and its use in real world navigation.

Backup Systems, Do We Need Paper?


For many navigators the idea of going to sea without any paper charts aboard at all is pure heresy. But is that really true? Are we just hanging on to paper charts because we are stuck in our ways? Is there a viable all electronic backup?

The Secret Life Of Your GPS


Pretty much all of us rely on GPS, but have you every wondered how the thing actually works? Matt has the answers, and they are fascinating.