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Marine Technology Skills & Seamanship - NOT the same

September 12, 2013   Mariners should be careful not to confuse technology skills, or the sophistication of their integrated, networked navigation system (complete with redundancy)… for seamanship.   Seamanship (as defined by Wikipedia) is “the art of operating a ship or boat”. “It involves topics and development of specialized skills including: navigation and international maritime law; weather, meteorology and forecasting; watchstanding; ship-handling and small boat handling; operation of deck equipment, anchors and cables; ropework and line handling; communications; sailing; engines; execution of evolutions such as towing; cargo handling equipment, dangerous cargoes and cargo storage; dealing with emergencies; survival at sea and search and rescue; fire fighting. The degree of knowledge needed within these areas is dependent upon the nature of the work and the type of vessel employed by a mariner. However, the practice of good seamanship should be the goal of all. The deep meaning of the word seamanship derives from the word seaman & ship. Thus it is the seaman who makes a good ship through his qualifications. Above all, Seamanship means Safety onboard and this is managed through continuous training and implementation of good working practices.” So, there it is -  Seamanship intertwines all things boating – more than you ever imagined when you took the eight hour state safe boating class ! And the more time you spend on the water (or around boats) the more you realize there is to learn. Tried and true skills will always trump technology when in a challenging situation. Learning and knowing weather and the wind, tides, currents, reading the waves and how a barometer can help forecast the weather, are the building blocks of becoming a “seaman” who practices “seamanship”. Boat handling skills, (without twin screws, bow and stern thrusters or joysticks) is one of the building blocks of seamanship. Knowing how the wind and current affect your boat, what the turning radius is and how many turns on the wheel from hard over to hard over (and doing it all in different conditions) will give you the basic confidence needed to make the next step to electronics and autopilots. Yes, there are purists (or luddites) who believe all things electric belong on shore (or not at all) and those who insist sextants are how “real navigators” navigate. Just remember that your boat exists in a potentially harsh, hostile environment, indifferent to your well being. Knowing how to survive in that environment is seamanship. Thinking you can master that environment is foolhardy, at best. Upgrading your systems ?  Think safety first, then comfort and convenience.  Prepare before the storm, and it’s affects will be minimized.     By Captain Rick Delfosse  203-216-7800  rick@rdelfosse.com Rick is a Coast Guard captain, National Safe Boating Council close-quarters boat-handling and open water boat handling instructor, Connecticut and New York certified safe boating instructor and a US Sailing-certified instructor.   He also conducts on-the-water courses and classroom seminars on coastal cruising and boating skills. The owner of a 43-foot pilothouse cutter and an Aquasport powerboat, he has extensive cruising and one-design, coastal and offshore racing experience smooth sea 1 .

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