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I recently read an article by Jenny Rough in the Washington Post.  It was titled, “Why it’s a real mistake to count on a cell phone when you go hiking

The article stressed the importance of learning how to use a compass and read a map.

It reminded me of a sailing trip I took from the Tonga to New Zealand.  It was two weeks at sea on a 31 ft Beneteau sailboat.  I was in a crew of five.  Although I had my day skipper certification from the New Zealand Yachting Federation, I was the least experienced member of the crew.

We had GPS but our skipper insisted that take our position readings from the sun.

We used a sextant, maps compass and a watch.  At midday we would, shoot the sun using the sextant.   The sextant was invented in 1731.  It hasn’t changed much since.

Photo Source: Wikipedia Public Domain


I suggested several times that ‘it would be fun to turn on the GPS in order to confirm our readings.’  He would not hear of it.

I never learned our margin of error, but we were accurate enough.   When our readings told us that we would see land the next day, sure enough, at sunrise we could see New Zealand on the horizon.

The story reminded me that technology is a great enabler, even a lifesaver, but we need to understand on our own how to get from A to B.

I am not sure if GPS has ever won over our skipper, but it was a great experience to shoot the sun every day at noon.