Navigating the seas in the modern age

Mostly we do not yearn for the experience of transportation so much as we do for arriving at our intended destination. But one of the issues of travel, beyond the method of travel, has been navigation. Today, we take for granted we can enter an address and have road navigation dictated to us. But what are and were alternatives? How do marine travellers navigate ever changing oceans?

The stars are forever

While the ground might be changing, the skies above do not. You might not be able to point to a wave, but you can point to the moon – and this principle has allowed marine navigators to use heavenly bodies’ positions to navigate the Earth.

Celestial navigation, says GlobMaritime: “involves reducing celestial measurements to lines of position using tables, spherical trigonometry, and almanacs.” And by this reduction, you can use the maths to calculate your own position and adjust your trajectory accordingly.

But this is only one kind and navigators have to use more than one method to be effective. GlobMaritime notes:

“Electronic integrated bridge concepts are driving future navigation system planning. Integrated systems take inputs from various ship sensors, electronically display positioning information, and provide control signals required to maintain a vessel on a preset course. The navigator becomes a system manager, choosing system presets, interpreting system output, and monitoring vessel response.

In practice, a navigator synthesizes different methodologies into a single integrated system. He should never feel comfortable utilizing only one method when others are available for backup. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. The navigator must choose methods appropriate to each particular situation.”

Those methods mean things like chartplotter, which specifically “executes an important function of assimilating GPS data with the aid of an electronic navigational chart.”

Navigation is an essential part, obviously, aside from being able to actually steer – that’s why you’ll find navigation as a central focus for many qualifying degrees and courses, such as Yachtmaster ocean courses.

These aren’t just skills for yachts or boats and can be useful skills in general, as you acquire and utilise skills you otherwise might not.