Boatnotes II How do you safely navigate a warship to inside just a few yards of a deliberate observe? And the way do you try this with out GPS providing you with a exact place readout? The Register has joined the Royal Navy to seek out out.

This week we’re solely reporting from aboard HMS Severn, the warship internet hosting the Navy’s Fleet Navigation Officer (FNO) course.

The FNO course takes naval officers who’ve handed the navy’s first-stage navigation qualification, Preliminary Navigating Officer, and qualifies these individuals to navigate bigger ships of frigate/destroyer dimension. It additionally teaches them to do it within the absence of GPS, falling again on age-old expertise that might have been acquainted to sailors within the early twentieth century.

Though the course makes use of IT (the Warship Digital Chart Show Info System, or WECDIS), the coed navigators do not get the posh of immediate and exact place updates from GPS. The emphasis is on old style arithmetic, with the ship’s place calculated to inside yards.

Below “pilotage” guidelines (visible identification of landmarks or navigation buoys whereas near shore), the ship’s navigator should steer clear of the Limiting Hazard Line, a navigational time period for the purpose at which it turns into unsafe for the ship to go any nearer to shore in case she runs aground.

Every twist and switch of the journey from port to open sea (known as “legs”) is meticulously deliberate intimately, from speeds to rudder angles to turning factors, proper right down to the quantity of “squat” the ship has for a given pace – which influences her depth beneath the waterline.


‘Squat’ is the quantity by which the ship’s stern sinks below pace. The quicker you go, the extra squat you have got

“We do not use paper charts in any respect,” Severn’s captain, Commander Philip Harper, advised your correspondent. Though a paper backup looks as if an awesome concept, he continued, there are two essential explanation why the Royal Navy not makes use of them: “One, we have by no means misplaced all the things,” stated the captain, referring to the nightmare situation of all WECDIS terminals concurrently crashing or corrupting. “Two, we not have the abilities to function a paper chart.”

We’re a digital navy these days. We do not spend money and time sustaining expertise we not use.

A wry smile crossing his face, Cdr Harper defined that working a paper chart “takes a number of time and is at all times incorrect.”

If you happen to repair the ship’s place by taking, say, three bearings from shore landmarks, there’ll at all times be an error launched by the point it takes to bodily convey the bearing from the gyro-compass to the chart. Seconds depend in a navy that prides itself on precision to inside yards.

Calculating the ship’s place on paper whereas concurrently permitting for that ever-growing margin of error is a really perishable talent. With out WECDIS doing the sums within the background all of it turns into reasonably difficult, we’re advised. There are some easy guidelines of thumb – for instance, one diploma is the same as 35yds at 1nm, so should you’re off-course by a single diploma you know the way far left or proper of observe you’ve got gone.

This morning Severn left HM Naval Base Portsmouth for the week-long course. After a 6am begin the ship’s firm had carried out their Normal Working Checks, guaranteeing all gear and equipment was in working order. After an intensive briefing from one of many junior officers within the ship’s charthouse, we had been “off the wall” forward of schedule, heading south below an more and more heat and sunny sky.

The Register will proceed reporting from HMS Severn throughout this week. ®


As your correspondent completed writing this text within the wardroom, a voice piped up. “We should always play UNO!”

That is an operation of significant significance to the working of the ship, performed with the utmost integrity in accordance with a set of clear and complete guidelines (or maybe not). Severn’s wardroom picks one officer a day to do the washing-up; UNO is the tactic by which the sufferer is chosen.

“We as soon as performed for 2 hours to determine who’d wash three plates,” one officer gravely intoned.

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