Ariadne sailed from Les Sables D’Olonne today at the start of her (hopefully less than) 36 day Atlantic crossing. We are hoping to track her progress as she ‘crosses the pond’ and I plan to make updates periodically as she passes certain key points on the voyage.
At the risk of being accused of “spinning a dit” or “swinging a lamp”, this reminds me of one of the first times I made the crossing during my naval career when I was trying to attain my Ocean Navigation Certificate. It was a standard requirement for all Bridge Watch-keeping officers, and future Navigators. The requirement was simple: demonstrate to the Captain that you can successfully plan and execute an ocean passage without using satellite or other RDF navigation aids. The tools were a sextant, a star globe, the Nautical Almanac and Norrie’s tables, and a lot of time standing on the bridge wings at evening and morning civil twilight shooting up stars.
The rules were clear - make passage from Punta Del Garda in the Azores to arrive at Fort Lauderdale on the Atlantic coast of Florida at such a time and date, only making “x” number of course corrections, and “y” number of speed adjustments… also plan to meet the fleet tanker at the appropriate points in the voyage to ensure that you don't run out of fuel...
The Captain, an appropriately cautious man, ensured that the ships company were not solely dependent on my efforts by satisfying himself that progress was on track by making his own observations of the stars and sun as we progressed. (He also was able to double check himself on the Sat Nav in the navigation chart house.) Other than that I was on my own.
It was a great learning experience. The best advice I had when approaching a flat coast without the benefit of electronic aids, leveraging star sights and dead reckoning, was to aim off the target point by a decent margin and when you make landfall turn in the expected direction to ensure that you don't miss. I made use of that as one of my allowed course corrections.
It worked out; I arrived at the required channel marker, not only at the right time but also on the right day, and passed the test. Sadly I never really had the need to wield a sextant again in anger - but with the right time and guidance I am sure the old magic would come back..?
I trust that Ariadne will be in safer ocean passage hands than mine as she makes the crossing!