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Recreational boaters are now boaters of the world of electronics and these electronics have changed boating immensely, but waterways – reefs and shoal areas – have not changed much. Many boaters have become dependent on electronic equipment without anticipating a failure. Because of this dependence, simple failure at the wrong moment may send a skipper into panic. If unprepared, they may find themselves at the mercy of the sea.

All skippers should have on board a portable or hand held compass, a watch, and a chart. They should also have a record of estimated speed at various RPMs for their vessel. The knowledge of reading charts will allow you to estimate distance and direction. Knowing the speed of your boat at specific RPMs will help you estimate a time of arrival at a given aid or destination. With the use of your watch, compass, depth sounder and chart, you’ll know what to look for and when you should be able to see it and determine your approximate position.

Loss of a depth indicator is a common failure. Have handy a roll of heavy nylon string and a large sinker to throw overboard if you still have a problem. It may not give you the exact depth but it will reassure you of clearance needed to avoid grounding.

A hand held horn or oral operated signal device (whistle) can replace a number of electronics. If you know the proper signals, it can replace the radio by allowing you to signal for help. At night, it can replace your lights by allowing you to signal danger to approaching craft. A horn will also help indicate your position at night or during conditions of poor visibility to those attempting to locate you.

Radar, G.P.S., or other electronic failures can be hair raising. Although your electronics are the most important and helpful items aboard your boat, you should be prepared to navigate safely without them.

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