Sailing Without Navigation

Dealing with GPS Failures


For thousands of years, sailors have used measurements based on the Sun and stars to calculate their location and the direction they are travelling. It is not a matter of willingly sailing without charts and navigation instrumentation, but could be an unfortunate reality when GPS systems fail hundreds of miles away from the nearest land. The two main ways that a sailor could navigate without charts and instrumentation, is to use the Sun to establish the compass directions and to use land as a point of reference. Land cannot always be used as a point of reference but the skilled sailor should seek out landfalls that could be used as landmarks. The Sun always rises in the East and sets in the West and this is a constant that can be depended on to establish the direction in which the vessel is travelling. Whether if the ship is travelling in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, the Sun will always rise in the East and set in the West. For sailing without charts and navigational instruments, the regular frequency of the direction of the Sunrise and Sunset will allow the GPS-less to find their direction. Also, if a sailor was forced to, they could create a make-shift compass using a needle, magnet, corks at each end of the needle to make it float, and bowl of water. Using a simple make-shift compass, a sailor will be at least, be able to find the North Pole and thus North, allowing them at the minimum to discover the location that they are travelling. It is rare that a professional sailor will be without GPS equipment but it may occur that the sailor will lose their GPS signal, forcing them them to use logic and knowledge to have a rough estimate of their current location. It is like when a person is driving a car from point A to point B, they may not always know exactly where they are during the course of the journey, but they will know what direction they started from and will have a general understanding of where they are in relation to the two points. Sailing without GPS and charts is not desirable, but may be un-avoidable due to various circumstances along a trans-oceanic voyage.