New seminar offers simulating weekend

A new seminar in the Ocean Navigator School of Seamanship curriculum has participants navigating in coastal waters all over the world. The two-day Introduction to Navigation and Radar involves use of ship simulators that allow students to operate "ships" replete with throttle and steering controls, radar sets, visual projections, and chart tables.

Students are divided into crews and given a ship to control. They typically lay a course on a chart and, after establishing a good fix using radar ranges, get their vessels underway, following their predicted DR track as closely as possible. While piloting along a coast off New York or in Puget Sound, for example, students also plot approaching targets by radar and contact them by radio if necessary to avoid collision.

"It’s very realistic," said Ron Hill, a student who recently completed an Ocean Navigator weekend seminar at the Seaman’s Church Institute in New York City. "I had the opportunity to learn all this information and immediately put it to use."

Simulation facilities are designed for commercial applications, which means that the control rooms resemble the bridge of a full-size merchant ship, but speeds and reaction times can be adjusted to simulate the feeling of a yacht. To sharpen navigation skills, visual screens are usually fogged out. This prevents people from eyeballing their way along a coast, the potential danger of which is illustrated on page 8 in the story of the grounded cruise ship. Students also have the opportunity to approach foreign ports, sometimes learning the hard way that foreign buoyage is not the same as the American system.

"We were entering La Coruña, Spain, and suddenly realized that we were headed at 15 knots for the wrong side of a buoy," said another student. "We just thought, ‘Red right return.’ But that isn’t the case everywhere in the world; we should have studied the chart more carefully."

For more information contact David P. Jackson, Ocean Navigator School of Seamanship programs director, at 207-236-7014 or by e-mail at

By Ocean Navigator