Using Radar “Head Up” Display for Piloting

Mariners have become accustomed to navigating using “North Up” mode.  Photo: JCB

It’s amazing to think that just 45 years ago there were still shipping companies resisting putting radars on ships and even when I went to sea in 1969 it was still a temperamental instrument whose electronics filled a whole mast house on deck. Read the rest of this entry »

Feature: The Pivot Point Revisited: Captain Paul Butusina

“OK Captain, she’ll pivot round the fender now: hard to port and slow ahead”.        Photo: JCB

Many of you will recall Hugues Cauvier’s excellent article on the pivot point in the October 2008 issue of The Pilot. Read the rest of this entry »


Location, Location, Location ( With Apologies to Kirsty & Phil)

There is a general misconception that ECDIS is entirely dependent upon the satellite Global Positioning System (GPS) to function but this is not the case since every ECDIS must be capable of being used to plot positions from any source be it visual bearings, radar or even stellar observations. Read the rest of this entry »

ECDIS Part 3 : Problems!!

For Sale: One careful owner!!     Photo: JCB

In part 2 I mentioned that one of the key problems of ECDIS was the lack of training, especially type specific training. I have now piloted around 20 vessels which are navigating solely on ECDIS with no paper charts and only on four of these have I found all officers fully conversant with the functions and confident that they could safely navigate their vessel without the familiar paper chart as a back up. Read the rest of this entry »

112th Annual Conference: Swansea 13th -14th May

The 2010 conference was organised by S E Wales pilot, Gordon Harries and Milford Haven pilot John Pearn at the Village Hotel, Swansea which was attended by 44 delegates representing 22 districts. Read the rest of this entry »

ECDIS Part 2: Navigating Using ECDIS

He had bought a large map representing the sea

Without the least vestige of land

And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be

A map they could all understand.

Lewis Carroll

Farewell!                 Photo: JCB


In part 1, I expressed concerns over the training and in particular the need for any ECDIS user to be fully competent in the particular type of ECDIS placed on board his ship. Whilst such type specific expertise through training is being achieved the top end of the shipping industry, such as cruise liners and large tankers, the evidence is emerging of an alarming lack of comprehension by many officers of, not just their own system but of ECDIS and its functions in general. These are not just personal concerns but reflect those of many Industry observers. Read the rest of this entry »

ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System): Part1: How ECDIS works.

When I decided to produce an article on ECDIS I thought that it would simply involve reading a few articles, condensing the content and adding a few photographs. How wrong I was! Having started to delve into the mysteries of ECDIS I realised that this charting system, the carriage of which shortly will become mandatory, is a highly complex tool which, if it is to fully deliver the enhanced safety advertised, will require watchkeepers to forget many of the traditional chartwork skills and learn to use the electronic chart from scratch. Despite having waded through many papers and articles, even now I am not too sure that I fully understand all the elements that are combined to produce an authorised ECDIS.

A typical ECDIS console

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The Bristol Channel Sailing Pilot “Skiffs”

In the October 2007 issue I ran a feature on the pilot gigs of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. That feature was based on information contained within a, long since out of print, book called “Azook” by Keith Harris who kindly permitted me to freely use his research for my article. In addition to the gigs, the waters of South West England were also frequented by another famous pilot craft, the Bristol Channel sailing skiff, or cutter as it now more commonly known as. Despite the ongoing massive popularity of this sailing design, the only authoritative book on the craft was written in the 1970’s by Peter Stuckey. The book was updated and re-published in 1999 but again has long since been out of print and used copies rarely appear and attract very high prices. At the time of writing there is one copy on the internet in the USA with an asking price of $216! In what was probably my best investment in recent years, I purchased a copy in 1999 when it was republished and Peter Stuckey has kindly granted me permission to use extracts from the book for this article. As an introduction, I cannot better Peter’s own which dedicates the book to: those brave men of the Bristol Channel who, with their stout boats, went seeking “downalong”

Feature pic 1jpg

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In the April issue’s editorial I expressed concern over the fact that the pilot of the Cosco Busan, John cota, had been charged with and had pleaded guilty to causing pollution. Read the rest of this entry »


Fog pic 1 web

In fog. proceed with caution and obey the COLREGS!                                   Photo: MAIB

Fog has always been one of the elements to cause most concern to the mariner, especially in coastal waters, and in the days before radar the prudent navigator would frequently stop or anchor and wait until the fog cleared before continuing on passage. Similarly, once in pilotage waters, pilots would also anchor and await clearer visibility rather than risk a collision or grounding by continuing on passage. Read the rest of this entry »

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