Thursday, February 17, 2011


The topic for our group writing project this month is Navigation. Your challenge is to write a few lines about any aspect of navigation that interests you. And the prize for the best entry will be a copy of Tristan Gooley's book The Natural Navigator which I reviewed here yesterday.

Take this topic wherever you fancy. Maybe you have some ideas like Tristan's about how signs in nature can help with navigation. Or perhaps you are more of a gadget freak and would rather write about the latest technical navigation gizmo which you covet.

Or you could tell a story about a magnificent feat of navigation by yourself, or anyone else for that matter. On the other hand, an account of your greatest navigational screw-up might be more entertaining.

You could write about navigation on the water (after all this is supposedly a sailing blog), or on the land, or in the air, or underground for all I care.

Take the topic and make of it what you will.

Same rules as usual...

1. Write a post on your blog on some topic related to Navigation.

2. Once you've posted your story, let me know about it by sending me an email including a link to your post. If you don't have a blog just email me the article and I will post it here. Please let me know about your post, or send me your story, before the end of February. Choose a unique title for your post please. I don't want twenty posts all entitled Navigation.

3. I will post here two links to your article. Every day or so I will write a post listing any new entries in the project. Then at the end of the project I will provide a summary post with links to all of your articles about navigation. Depending on how many entries there are, I will probably then choose a shortlist of finalists and invite readers to vote for their favorite post.

Please participate in this project. Remember there is a prize. Even better than a free hat. A free book.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

As for that image at the top of this post, no it's not a picture of me in drag poking myself in the eye with a stick. I think it's some ancient technique of navigation, but how pointing a cross at the sun will help you find the right exit off the New Jersey Turnpike... I have no idea.


Baydog said...

The guy in drag is actually holding a tire iron. Why near his eye, I don't know. But yes, it's the New Jersey Turnpike, just North of exit 9, New Brunswick, where the Raritan river flows underneath. If you look closely, you can see Adam sailing in the Raritan Bay.

tillerman said...

Oh yes, a delightful spot. I remember it well. On my travels from North Jersey down to Barnegat Bay for Laser regattas I always felt that once I had crossed the Raritan I was past the point of no return.

Looks like Adam is having a fine time in his new boat but I think he's overtrimming the main a tad.

tillerman said...

Seriously though, what can you deduce about the position of the dude with the cross staff using natural navigation principles?

O Docker said...

Never having used a cross staff, I can't say for sure, but from what I'm reading, his position is that of someone who doesn't know how to use a cross staff.

tillerman said...

Why so, O wise O?

O Docker said...

It looks like he's pointing the long arm right at the sun.

From what I'm reading about how a cross staff is used, the lower end of the cross bar is aligned with the horizon and the top end with the sun (or star), no?

Tillerman said...

Correct. Also it looks as if he is trying to sight the sun over a range of hills, in which case he won't have a true sight of the horizon.

But irrespective of all that, there are some obvious clues in the picture that do help to narrow down the possible location.

Baydog said...

The only thing obvious to me is that I am unable to detect the obvious clues. Are you sure that's not the NJTP?

Other than being on either the West or East coast, and I'm thinking more the East coast, where could it possibly be? If the
East coast, then it was probably before noon and the prevailing southeasterlies had already come in. They're sailing back and forth while the explorer holds the tire iron to his head. Maybe they lost their anchor in the West Indies. They're also waiting to hear from the Lobster Shanty about reservations for that night. They can get pretty busy in the summer, provided it was summer. Is the sun in the correct position?

Tillerman said...

I think most natural navigators do assume that the sun is in the correct position. It's fairly high in the sky, and presumably our explorer, is taking a reading of the sun at noon. So it seems to me, that if we are in the northern hemisphere then south is on our left and the river is flowing west to the ocean.

A more difficult question is whether we can learn anything about the latitude of the scene.

Somewhat easier might be to estimate the approximate year it is meant to represent.

Then putting it all together, a river flowing west to the ocean, the range of possible latitudes, how far had European explorers reached in that era... where could it possibly be?

Baydog said...

Amerigo Vespucci. Final answer.

Wait..... Is this the weakest link?

Am I?

Tillerman said...

Might be Vespucci. If so, this is presumably in the southern hemisphere on the east coast of south America?

Cliff Clavin said...

The Davis Quadrant, or back staff, developed by Englishman John Davis, is widely acknowledged to have replaced the cross staff by the mid 1600s, being easier to use and eliminating the need to look directly into the sun to record a measurement.

O Docker said...

I think this is a 16th century Wednesday night beer can race. This guy tried to score his first ride ever and was left ashore.

Not only does he not know how to use a cross staff, but check out what he's wearing! Who the heck dresses like that to go sailing? And he didn't bring any beer or cookies, either. What was he thinking?

Tillerman said...

Baydog and O Docker, please do not lose sight of the free hat, I mean free book. If you had devoted as much time to writing a navigation post as to dreaming up wild fanciful comments you would already have completed them by now. Get to work boys!

PJ Spijkerman said...

For my sins. I favor the buoy crazy entry and would nominate that the winner of the prize. Not that the others aren't worth a prize, but buoy crazy rings many bells for me.

Sailing a large "platbodem" in Holland, it seems buoys are like magnets. I need them to mask my insecurities with respect to position, but oh my I can do without them when I hear this very loud bang, followed by a gentle "cling cling cling" noise underneath the hull letting me know one of my friends will be popping up behind the stern.

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