Warnings from Royal Institute of Navigation picked up by BBC, Guardian and Daily Mail…





Royal Institute of Navigation raises concerns about excessive reliance on electronic navigation

This blog from the President about the dangers of excessive reliance on electronic navigation tools echoes themes I set out in ‘Sextant’.

I’m really pleased the RIN is raising these important issues. They deserve to be debated much more widely: http://www.rin.org.uk/newsitem/4060/Society

Official report on the loss of yacht ‘Cheeki Rafiki’ in May 2014

Predictably, the report from the Marine Accidents Investigation Branch puts the blame for the loss of Cheeki Rafiki mainly on the failure of the keel – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/cheeki-rafiki-atlantic-yacht-disaster-5599764

Unfortunately, since it wasn’t possible to recover the wreck, we can’t tell whether flaws in the design and construction of the yacht contributed to the disaster.

The Daily Mirror reports:

…the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) had undertaken to work with the Royal Yachting Association to clarify the requirements for the stowage of inflatable liferafts on such vessels, and the Royal Yachting Association has drafted enhancements to its Sea Survival Handbook relating to the possibility of a keel failure.

The MAIB made a recommendation to the British Marine Federation to co-operate with certifying authorities, manufacturers and repairers with the aim of developing best practice industry-wide guidance on the inspection and repair of yachts where a glass reinforced plastic matrix and hull have been bonded together.

A recommendation has also been made to the MCA to provide more-explicit guidance about circumstances under which commercial certification for small vessels is required, and when it is not.

Let’s hope some useful lessons will be learned.

An honour from the Royal Institute of Navigation…

Well here’s a nice surprise!

I’ve just heard that I’ve been elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation (http://www.rin.org.uk/general/About-the-RIN) – ‘in recognition of my valuable contribution to navigation’ through my research and literary activities (writing ‘Sextant’).

I’m thrilled to join a very distinguished list of Fellows, though I hardly count myself worthy to do so.  Now I can add the letters ‘FRIN’ after my name!

Aboard Tenacious

entering Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores
Entering Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores

Well, we finally made it!

Tenacious is now safely tied up alongside in the harbour of Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, on the island of Sao Miguel – St Michael’s as it used to be known to British mariners.

The voyage has lasted six days and has been pretty uneventful. The stiff northerlies that sped us on our way as we took our departure from Cape St Vincent gradually eased and veered into the east and eventually south east. The main excitements – apart from mealtimes – were the occasional visits from dolphins.

at sea
at sea
Stu at the wheel, with Craig
My cabin-mate Stu at the wheel, with Craig – and the ship’s bell!

The low cloud soon returned and there’ve been few opportunities for sextant sights, though I did a round of ten star sights with one of the cadets – with excellent results. I’ve also done another talk or two.

We managed to carry sail until the early hours of today when we were pottering slowly along the south coast of São Miguel in darkness. At 1000 the pilot boat came alongside as we approached the great breakwater that protects the harbour from the Atlantic swells.

The pilot boat approaches - Ponta Delgada, Azores
The pilot boat approaches – Ponta Delgada, Azores

As we came in, we dipped our ensign to HMS Lancaster, a Royal Navy frigate already in the harbour. She returned the compliment.

HMS Lancaster - Ponta Delgada
HMS Lancaster – Ponta Delgada

I haven’t been here since 1981 when I sailed out from England in a Contessa 32. It’s changed a lot. Masses of ugly high rise buildings have shot up and there’s now a cruise ship berth (where we’re tied up) and a marina. But the waterfront is still as elegant as ever and I’m really looking forward to exploring the town again – and the island.

Ponta Delgada
Ponta Delgada

Everyone now has to clean ship – only then we can go ashore!

Tenacious on her berth in Ponta Delgada - by night
Tenacious on her berth in Ponta Delgada – by night

Aboard Tenacious day??

Cape St Vincent
Cape St Vincent and fishing boat

Such are the joys of life on the rolling wave that I’ve lost track of which day this is.

This will be my last post for a while as we are soon going to be making our departure from Cape St Vincent – a cliffy promontory surmounted by a large lighthouse that marks the western limit of continental Europe. After that I’ll be out of cell phone range.

Having spent a cosy night at anchor, to avoid bashing out into the gale then blowing, we set sail this morning in much more comfortable conditions – northerly force 4/5.  And I have a new berth – in a double cabin which I’m sharing with Stu, a garden designer who is besotted with Madeira!

my new cabin - mine is the top bunk
my new cabin – mine is the top bunk

We’re now about to cross the traffic separation scheme designed to prevent collisions among the many ships that sail past this historic headland – named after the great British Admiral.

Cape St Vincent
Cape St Vincent

Lunch today was chicken fajita with salad – very good too!

At 1600 I’m scheduled to do another talk on celestial navigation. Last night at anchor I showed some of the voyage crew how to use the sextant and we took some sights of the moon and Venus. Their results were impressively accurate.

the author on the bridge
the author on the bridge

We’re a more cosmopolitan crew on this voyage. We have people from Spain (Pablo), Portugal (Hélio) and Latvia (Eleanora) on board. Pablo is an expert in the field of artificial intelligence and Hélio has written a thesis exploring Portugal’s changing relationship with the sea.

Eleanora and Helio on the forecastle - at sea
Eleanora and Helio on the forecastle – at sea

And now we head our into the Atlantic, on a broad reach under a warm sun – and on the right course: due west. Who could ask for more?

at sea
at sea
at sea
at sea
at sea
at sea

Aboard Tenacious

Day 8 (I think!)

Just a quick post today, 24 March.

It’s 1400. We’re getting ready to go to sea again, under a cloudless blue Portuguese sky – but there are strong, cold northerlies which are going to make life uncomfortable once we get clear of the land. On the other hand the same winds will speed us on our way to Ponta Delgada.IMG_0032 5

The gangway has just been swung aboard and the line-handlers are standing by to cast off (that includes me). The pilot will soon come aboard. The new crew members are looking a little nervous, which is fair enough if you ask me!

Maybe the clear skies will hold and there’ll be the chance to do some serious sextant work. Lots of people have said they want to learn!

So farewell to Portimão. The open Atlantic awaits us…