My instructor in the Piloting class told me something astounding. I am supposed to navigate my boat using paper charts and that round thing on the dash covered by that glass bowl. What is it called? Oh yeah. The compass.
This is the Age of Technology. We don't convey messages by pen and paper. Most boaters don't pay much attention to chart books, if they even have one on-board.
For the longest time, United States Power Squadrons treated Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as back-up to nautical charts and the skills to read them. Not that they were being old fashioned. How's a recreational boat captain to know where to go if the GPS conks out?
USPS adapted to trends and boater preferences to treat GPS as the primary navigation tool, without backing away from paper charts (every boater should have the chart on board of the waters they ply).
Now the challenge is to get captains to check the accuracy of their nav tools from time to time. It turns out that is something of a problem.
A survey of boaters by the Alliance for Safe Navigation found that only one-third of respondents regularly undated their on-board navigational data.
“Unfortunately, these survey results indicate that boaters simply are not aware of how often conditions change and how those changes can affect their safety,” explains President Ron Walz of OceanGrafix, a founding member of the alliance. “The truth is that waters do change—and inaccurate chart information can turn a safe and enjoyable cruise into a dangerous situation.”
Highway surfaces do not change, except for the damned potholes. Water always change. Wind, current and tide works its magic both on the surface and the sea floor.
So yes, it really does help to swap out those old paper and electronic charts for more current ones and to glance at the Coast Guard Notice to Mariners from time to time. If you are a thorough captain who plots your course on paper before transferring it to your GPS, be sure you've set the GPS to the same datum as on the paper chart.
If you don't know what I just said, schedule yourself for a Piloting class or GPS seminar offered by your local Power Squadron.
If you don't know where you are going, you'll run aground when you get there. Put more bluntly, boating's a bitch when you are lost on the water. Don't get lost because of outdated information.
Full disclosure: United States Power Squadrons is a member of the The Alliance For Safe Navigation as is Jeppsen, Sea Tow, BoatUS, and OceanGrafix. The Power Squadrons and BoatUS would have you avoid incidents on the water. Jeppsen and OceanGrafix would like to sell you stuff that enables you to know where you are--and avoid hazards--on the water. If you have to call Sea Tow...well, you probably weren't paying enough attention to the other four.
USPS members are offered discounts on navigation products offered by Jeppsen and OceanGrafix and receive discounted membership in BoatUS.