The Backup Option for Boat GPS Equipment is Essential.

The final post of my adventurous sea voyage and why GPS for boats needs a backup, read below.Jeanneau Prestige 36

From the very young ages, I have been taught, that the Sea should be respected. I have always tried to follow it. Often, this also applies to everyday matters.

Every sailor knows that obtaining high accuracy ship’s position leads to safer sailing and faster reach to the destination. GPS navigation system on ship’s navigation bridge Today is one of the primary vessels navigation tool.

Young sailors hardly know how to use the traditional navigation instruments.

No matter how it would not be sad, traditional maritime navigational tools as a sextant, magnetic compass or even radar’s popularity and their practical application are almost lost. Even more. Many of new navigator’s generation almost do not know how to use these tools in practice.

…but what if the GPS for boat fails to work?

Thousands of pleasure crafts used to sail high seas, but many skipper’s navigation skills are far from the best. Many think that GPS for boats guarantees his safe sailing. Yes, satellite navigation is one of the best inventions for any vehicles positioning, shipping including, but what if the GPS for boat fails to work?

…a skipper must be ready for GPS backup solution

Suppose, we are in the narrow straits, step to the port- rocks, step to the starboard-sandbanks. Very precise positioning is needed. So, we have to be ready for GPS backup. It is what I encountered on my way back home and luckily I had even double reserve.

Inland waterway and drying channels are dangerous for an unfamiliar skipper.

Well, I will skip details on my routeing. I crossed The North Sea Eastward. Spent night and in next morning in refuelling in Oudeschild Texel. Weather for next leg to Kiel Canal was moderate to strong but wind direction from aft so no risk for navigation.

I considered the possibility of using inland waterways, but locals warn me to quit the idea. Because of very tricky routes and dangerous depth during an ebb. So we moved back to the North Sea.

The Main boat GPS navigation device was out of order.

As soon as crossed welcoming Dutch harbour breakwaters my Raymarine boat GPS Chartplotter just gone, screen blank, dead. No ideas. Go back to the port? And what? Call technicians?raymarine GPS chartplotter

No, I have Acer laptop with MaxSea marine navigation software and Bluetooth GPS antenna. It was all the time on standby, and the only inconvenience was finding a safe place for convenient navigation. Finally, I found the place next to the starboard window.

It was very exciting sailing as waves up to 3-4 meters from the aft and almost all the time had manually handle with powerful engines to avoid breaking waves and dangerous surfing.

It was dark when we entered Elbe river on the way to Kiel Canal Brunsbuttel locks. Lights were everywhere. Buoys, Beacons, hundreds of colored land lights. But most of all the sharp look-out has to be made on movable vessels lights, especially on dredgers.

We dropped anchor at 1 am to await the locks for Kiel Canal transit. Obviously, the data on my MaxSea navigation software were not latest updates as some navigation marks were not in the charted position. Without a hitch, we continued the beautiful navigation on the channel.maxSea navigation software

At midday, we reached Marina Winter Lager next diesel oil suction procedures. We almost got stuck again. This time due to credit card processing problems in marinas office. Luckily after many phone calls and whatever else procedures, money was withdrawn from my account and we were ready to sail.

Another smooth gliding along beautiful landscapes in four hours we were back in the Baltic sea waters.

The second GPS backup came in force.

The weather was good, and I supposed to reach a Stralsund narrows at midnight to drop an anchor for awaiting next refuel station’s working hours.

We were passed under a spectacular Fehmarn Sound Arc Bridge, and sadly I noticed that my laptop charger converter was dead. Not the charger but 12V to 220V converter was out of order. A laptop could not be fed from 12V because it needs 19V but the boat is equipped only with 12V output no 110V-220V AC sockets at all.

I checked Acer battery and realised that maximum half an hour remained to drains out so switched off the computer and started to look for the solution.

As I mentioned before, I have the third GPS navigation backup, and it was my first iPhone 3 smartphone. Not long before my adventurous sea voyage I had purchased Navionics Baltics application on App Store. An excellent app which is in my vault until now.navionics

One small inconvenient I have encountered was that iPhone navigation maps borders were in about 20 nautical miles distance. Then, the Raymarine Radar came into service after a long time standby mode. Honestly, almost useless navigation equipment. No bearings, not distances could be obtained by this kind of radars. However, to feel something a little armed with navigation devices, I leave it on.

Today almost all buoys are with lights.

Unfortunately, I noticed that it was unavailable to reach the very tricky, narrow, just partly with litted buoys marked channel, before dark. Weather and visibility were excellent, and I speeded to 25 knots to faster reach an anchorage. We arrived at entrance channel at midnight. Five years ago this narrow waterway with depth contour 4 meters was marked with Green and Red lateral buoys and just some of them was equipped with lights. Today the situation is much better; all channel buoys are litted.

I sent both sailors equipped with the searchlight to the bow for watching the buoys. I was gazing at tiny iPhone 3 screen with one eye and other to the darkness slowly navigating the 90 ft wide channel.

 Not allowed any deviation because of National Reserve Restricted area. A couple of times guys warned me about the buoy exactly on the course. Luckily a slow speed and powerful engines allow stopping the Jeanneau Prestige 36 almost immediately. About in an hour, we dropped an anchor in designated area in company with dozen sailing yachts.

Miracles Happen

I did not have peace of mind, and I log on Raymarine forum, spending an expensive foreign cellular traffic, to look at what might be the cause of my GPS chartplotter’s problem. I was surfed many threads but did not find an exact answer, just have advised to check fuses or reconnect from a power supply. I did it, but nothing happened, still no picture.

In the morning when we were underway to Stralsund I switched Raymarine GPS unit again just for fun and… Miracle, the screen became blue and nautical charts were loading one by one. I do not know it was a fuse or just hang of unit’s software, but everything was back to normal working mode. I was glad mainly because of autopilot is usable again.

So, now you know from my personal experience how important is to have GPS for boat backup solution when sailing high seas and even on inshore navigation.

Paper nautical charts can save not only nerve cells

One more advice which, unfortunately, I did not follow on my sea voyage. Keep paper nautical charts on your boat’s shelf, magnetic compass and direction-finding device. In such a way equipped you could, at least not to get lost at all.paper nautical charts

The remaining sea route was the same as an inbound track. I just did a short stop in my native port of Roja to meet my siblings and to take a couple of cans of diesel. And, to be honest, a little brag, how cool I am, as have sailed the sea route Riga- Lowestoft-Riga and covering totaly about 2200 nautical miles. Why not?

Another four hours and I have crossed Riga sea port entrance and safely moored at this wonderful Jeanneau Prestige 36 power boat home pier.

It was the adventurous, exciting and educational sea voyage and I hope that someone get a bit for his (her) future marine sailings.

You are welcome to any questions and comments. I will try to reply in my best manner as far as my knowledge or lack of it allows.

Have a safe and pleasant sea voyages!

Not to be continued untill next voyages


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  1. Cергей

    Two thousand miles of trouble-free and successful voyage is worthy of a sailor! Good luck to you and exciting new routes, Andrejs!

    1. Andrejs (Post author)

      Thanks Serge for stopping by and kind words!
      In fact, I would not say that definitely without problems, but the experience and positive energy have learned tons.
      Thanks again and take care!

  2. Gabrielle

    You are absolutely correct when you write that young sailors hardly know how to use the traditional navigation instruments. I’d be the first one to tell you that I don’t have any experience with deck instruments, and I lazily allow others to figure out the process for me. Great article, definitely well-written, and it was thought-provoking.

    1. Andrejs (Post author)

      Hi, Gabrielle and thanks for stopping by!

      If you’re serious what wrote to me, then it the first step to overcoming laziness. Dig out a grandpa sextant, catch the Sun, make some calculations,luckily no thick calculation books are needed as all could be found in your smartphone app store. You are ready to go for celestial boat’s position. Trust me, it is the real fun.

  3. Slovan Georgius

    I read your exciting voyage and have learned some decent lessons. The first and most important that navigation equipment backup is essential to safe marine adventure. You are right regarding lost traditional navigation skills. Hardly anyone now knows how to navigate by paper nautical charts and knows how to sail only with the help of GPS. Also, I should refresh this knowledge.

    1. Andrejs (Post author)

      Hello, Slovan! I guess that You are from Mediterranean or Black Sea area, is it so?
      Anyway, you are a sailor as asking right questions. Not knowing at least basics of traditional navigation and how to find your position by sextant and dead reckoning is almost the same if you drive a car but do not know how to switch on head lights or where is a hand brake lever.
      GPS navigation is clearly a modern navigation key tools, but we have to remember that it can be switched off or even jammed by humans.


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