How to navigate safely without electronics.
By David Seidman
Most of you don’t carry paper charts and depend solely on electronics. I think that’s dumb, but we all choose to withdraw from reality in our own way. So good on you, mate. However, even with a chart plotter you can still get lost, or at least disoriented. You press the zoom-in button and lose the big picture, or you zoom-out and lose the details of what’s around you. No matter how high-tech things get, you still need a sense of direction — and that can be a real problem.
While I’d love to tell you that hidden down deep within us we have an innate ability to find our way, it is not so. There was a glimmer of hope back in 1905 when Emile Jarvis studied how blind people got around. He noticed that the loss of one sense seemed to bring out a completely new one, from which he coined the term “sixth sense.”
Too bad he was wrong. Blind people find their way by becoming more attuned to their surroundings using the senses they already have, not by developing a new one. And that is the real sixth sense. For boaters, all you have to do is literally watch where you’re going. Be observant, stay aware of your surroundings, and keep track of where you are.
Women have a head start as they tend to navigate by landmarks, using what they see and hear. Returning to a friend’s house she’ll turn left at the faded-blue building and right at the park with squeaky swings. Unfortunately, the need for landmarks may also be why women have trouble reading maps, as they don’t intuitively relate to distance and direction (cartography’s defining parameters).
Most men have no issues with maps, depending on their sense of time and motion (which defines distance and direction). To get to that same house his internal clock will tell him to drive for three minutes, turn left, go a short distance at 40 mph and turn right. Since men don’t always keep track of external signs, they often don’t realize (or admit) they’re lost.