Recreational Boat Navigation in the 1980's

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Recreational Boat Navigation in the 1980's

Postby porthole » Fri Jan 05, 2024 11:06 am

(In another article on a different topic, this aside to me was made, and rather than derail that discussion, I have moved that comment to its own thread--jimh]
jimh wrote: I skipped the LORAN-C era...
I'm surprised [that in your boating experience] you skipped the LORAN-A and LORAN-C eras [of electronic navigation].
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Re: Recreational Boat Navigation in the 1980's

Postby jimh » Fri Jan 12, 2024 10:25 am

REPLY TO ASIDE regarding my boating experience:

porthole wrote:I'm surprised [that in your boating experience] you skipped the LORAN A and C eras [of electronic navigation]

I think LORAN-A was in use by 1942, and as I was not born until 1950, I was not really a potential user of LORAN-A. LORAN-C was introduced in 1958. Although I did some boating in the 1950's, it was generally under the supervision of my father who did all the navigation chores, and the boating was on inland lakes and on very small boats, maybe 16-foot boats at best.

My own boating experience as a vessel master did not involve long open water passages until about 1986, and most of the navigation was near the coast line of Lake Huron and in Lake Huron's North Channel many islands. When you are sailing along at 4-knots, you have plenty of time to plot your boat position using the occasional fix and deduced reckoning methods.

In 1986 the use of official navigation charts produced by NOAA or by the Canadian Hydrographic Office was by far the predominate method of navigating, and a $12 chart was affordable compared to an electronic chart plotter and digital charts. I had a collection of dozens of charts for Lake Huron and the North Channel, all very beautifully printed in multiple colors on excellent paper, and some of the hydrologic surveys dated from the 1800’s.

In the 1980's LORAN-C was still in use, but you would only be able to plot your position by working out the time delay isobars on the printed charts and extrapolating intermediate isobars and finding where two isobars crossed. I never deemed that an expensive purchase of a LORAN-C receiver was necessary.

I still have all those old navigation charts, and looking back at them and seeing a course line I carefully plotted 30 or 40 years ago is a nice way to remember some old adventures sailing in the 1980's and 1990's.

To show you the level of electronic technology in use in recreational marine boating the 1980's , that boat had a MOTOROLA VHF Marine Band radiotelephone set that used crystals to set the frequencies for channels. The channel selector knob only had about six position, labeled A-B-C and so on, and a little chart gave the correlation between the channel selector position and the VHF Marine Band channel number. It was a very good quality VHF FM radio, and MOTOROLA was the gold standard in that realm.

I wish I still had that MOTOROLA radio because it was a commercial-grade product. I think Motorola was also selling it into the railroad communication market, because--as you may not know--in the USA frequencies that are allocated globally to the VHF Marine Band have also been re-purposed to be used for land mobile communication for railroads and other commercial users.

Also, I was competent in celestial navigation, thanks to having taken all the U.S. Power Squadron navigation classes through celestial navigation, making me rated a Senior Navigator or having "a full certificate." On that basis my DR tracks were probably as accurate as any LORAN-C position plots would have been back then.