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Navigation in depth

Expertise in navigation means more than knowing how to follow a course line on a chart plotter.

In early June the International Cruising Boat Expo in Essex, Conn., will feature an all-day seminar that will provide would-be mariners with a solid foundation in the art of navigation, as taught by two superbly knowledgeable instructors — PassageMaker Electronics Editor Ben Ellison and Peter Trogdon of Weems & Plath.

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The seminar is titled “Soup-to-Nuts Navigation.” Those who attend will learn how charts are made and how to read them. Ellison and Trogdon will take the class through a hands-on session on paper charts, using plotting instruments provided by Weems & Plath. Attendees get to keep the instruments.

The navigation exercises not only instill situational awareness on the water and form the basis for understanding electronic navigation, but they also are requisites for anyone who seeks to pass a Coast Guard examination for a captain’s license.

The expo, an event in the tradition of PassageMaker’s TrawlerFest series, will be held June 2-7 at Brewer Essex Island Marina. “Soup-to-Nuts Navigation” will be held over two mornings, June 6 and 7, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Ellison, who is best known for his marine electronics blog,, will teach the principles of navigation using today’s multifunction displays — demonstrating how to use them and how not to use them. He’ll talk about the equipment available now and the advances he foresees. One of these is crowdsourcing, which has revolutionized the way charts are made.

Five hundred years ago in Europe, the owner of the most accurate charts held the pole position in the race for riches and military conquest. Kings guarded their charts the way modern nations guard nuclear secrets. Attendees will learn how recreational boaters today are turning that ancient Portuguese business model on its head — from charting as a kingly prerogative to charting as practiced by ordinary citizens acting for the common good, thanks to GPS, inexpensive sonar and computers.

As a bonus, Ellison’s electronics testing platform, a Duffy 37 bristling with sensors and displays, will be available for inspection dockside. Her name, as it happens, is Gizmo.

For information about the International Cruising Boat Expo, call (954) 703-4789 or email us at

The publishers of PassageMaker and Sail magazines, which are owned by Active Interest Media (as is Soundings), are the producers of ICBE.