Some years ago, the U.S. Naval Academy proposed dropping celestial navigation from its curriculum because there are faster and more accurate methods to determine position at sea.
The admirals said, “No!” Aside from being a rite of passage, celestial navigation requires and provides mental discipline and, with the ability to observe the sky, a backup system independent of the ship’s electrical systems. It’s always good to have an independent backup.
In the December issue, I wrote about the boats that stand out in my life. In the course of writing, a strange thing happened: I had trouble remembering most of the boats I’ve owned or aboard which I’ve sailed. Was this the onset of Alzheimer’s? I went through my old logs, but after reading them they faded into a jumble of names and details that, while interesting, did not affect me viscerally.
I’ve never met a seaman — power or sail — who was worth a damn and wasn’t an avid reader. Winter is here, and it’s a perfect time to sit down with a glass of good scotch and a good book.
1. Boating fiction is a genre all its own. I keep reading and rereading some of these; they never seem to grow old.
I’ve been in boating for most of my life, except when I was trying to imitate John Wayne while in the service. My boating’s split pretty evenly between power and sail. I even survived building a 32-foot sailboat, and yet when I think of the boats I’ve owned, raced or delivered, only three stand out.
Don’t let anyone kid you; size does matter. Big ships versus pleasure boats are nolo contendere. In other words, you cannot win. Regardless of the Rules of the Road, COLREGS notwithstanding, the primary rule to remember is mass has the right of way.
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