Many moons ago (about 45 years to be more precise) my elder brother purchased a 23ft V8 sterndrive Huntsman, our previous boating experience at the time was limited to a 12ft flat bottom bond wood rig.
We were only 18 & 22 at the time and as the Thirsty Merc song goes “While you’re young, you gotta learn the hard way, son...” Which for us, meant a lot of hard lessons!
This was back in the chart and compass days and to his credit my brother did a formal navigation course and installed a very expensive compass in the rig. Along with a bunch of mates we regularly fished and dived Loadstone Reef out of Townsville (you would know that one Moody), my brother’s navigation skills always put us spot on Loadstone.
One trip a very big rain storm came in and stayed in, visibility was about 100 metres. On the return leg we knew there was a huge rock called Magnetic Island close to our normal course so steered a few degrees south of the normal bearing. But a few degrees is a fair navigation error over that distance. We knew the coast was close when the storm finally lifted (to our great relief). The navigation error became apparent so a northerly visual course was set to Townsville.
I kid you not, the very moment the boat pulled up at the Breakwater ramp the engine stopped, the fuel tank was bone dry. Four key points came out of that day;
- How quick a nice day can turn to sh**
- The value of good navigation skills
- The one third fuel rule – 1/3 out, 1/3 back, 1/3 contingency
- Reflect and learn (and apply learnings)
These days GPS takes all the errors out, but it is vulnerable to failure of the boat's electrical system. Wiring quality is paramount along with battery maintenance, and I would suggest a direct lightning strike may well fry every connected device. Chances are probably reasonably low of a total failure on any one particular trip, but the cards will fall that way some day. Call me cautious but along with two MFD’s, two batteries and single VHF radio I also have a totally independent satellite communications and navigation device in the form of a Delorme inReach (now badged Garmin). The final fall back is EPIRB on the boat and PLB on the life jacket.
Enjoy that boating passion and stay safe.