“Why do we have to learn this?”

I taught sailing skills to adults for many years.  When it was time to learn traditional navigation skills with paper charts, sometimes I felt like I was teaching ninth graders trigonometry.  “Why do we have to learn this?”  “This is so old-fashioned, what’s wrong with using a GPS?” “Will this be on the test?”

Well, let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time there was a boat cruising in the Caribbean, just like our boat.  They had all the latest navigation tools, charts on the electronic screen, showing exactly where they were all the time.  Since the data was all electronic, it could be updated and kept current anytime they had an internet connection.  Life was good.  Just like on our boat.

Then some new electronic toys appeared onboard this boat.  Just like on our boat.  Those new electronic toys used the same kind of micro data card as the chart plotter used to store its charts. Just like on our boat.

The Captain of this cruising boat decided to update his chart data over the internet, as he should do on a regular basis.  He made the mistake of having more than one of these tiny little data cards out on the table at the same time.


Quick, which one is which????

Now when this Captain was done updating his charts, he took the other card and put it in the computer to import some photos.  Just like on our boat.  Then this (unnamed) Captain put a card into the camera, and pressed “Format”.  Ooops, wrong card. Chart data all gone.  Captain says naughty words. Just like on our boat…

Now the good news, on OUR boat we have a complete set of paper charts for the area we are cruising. We are not lost, we know what to do.  That other Captain?  He doesn’t have paper charts and even if he did he really doesn’t know how to work with them.  He is stuck.

We can download the complete chart data, but it is over a gigabyte of data, and our cellular data connection just won’t support that in one go.  So we have to find a real network connection in town to do our download.  In the meantime, it is back to navigating in primitive fashion.  Like people did in the dark ages–10 years ago.

So… to all my old students:  That’s why you have to learn how to work on paper charts!

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