Jonathan Cooper's Letter from the Pilothouse

Are you interested in better understanding the navigational rules of boating? Sign up now for our Boaters University course; Fundamentals of Seamanship: Navigational Rules to learn the International and US Inland navigational rules.

When I began toying with photography as a hobby 15 years ago, my brother gave me for my birthday what I was too cheap to buy for myself: an early-release consumer digital camera. The device was boxy and unimaginative in its design, features, and usability. But it was also magical, allowing for the instant feedback that photographers have desired since the first in-camera photograph was captured 200 years ago.

Jonathan Cooper, PassageMaker Editor-in-Chief

Jonathan Cooper, PassageMaker Editor-in-Chief

Much has changed since I received my first digital camera. The 16-megabyte memory card was almost immediately a relic; today’s 512-gigabyte cards can record data, including massive 4k video, at dizzying speeds. Digital cameras can now process simultaneous algorithms for face detection, light interpolation, and motion, all in a variety of frame rates and sizes. But no matter how evolved the brain inside the box has become, the brain outside the box still matters. To take a good photograph, the user needs to know the rules of basic composition and control—in other words, the fundamentals still count.

To an even greater extent, recent advances in technology have revolutionized boating. In the past few years boaters have witnessed game-changing product launches from leading electronics brands like Simrad, Furuno, Raymarine, Garmin, Flir, and others. For those who can afford to install the latest tech, the capabilities at sea are mind-numbingly powerful. Gyro-stabilized night-vision cameras. Doppler-enabled radar with target tracking. Ultra high-definition touchscreen displays.

With this improved technology, though, comes a reduced reliance on the skills and know-how that should matter just as much: the fundamentals of navigation. For example, what good is knowing that your radar is tracking an overtaking freighter if you don’t know the proper—and legal—way to avoid collision? What good is a night-vision camera if you don’t know how to interpret the lights on the ship that is heading towards you on a collision course? The answer, quite simply, is, not good enough.

Boaters University instructor, Robert Reeder, rehearses on camera for our newest course on the rules of navigation.

Boaters University instructor, Robert Reeder, rehearses on camera for our newest course on the rules of navigation.

My colleague Brian K. Lind and I spent a week in October filming a brand-new course for Boaters University that just launched this past week. The course, hosted by our regular Seamanship contributor, Robert Reeder, uses the United States Coast Guard handbook as the basis for teaching the navigation rules for mariners in international and inland waters. Robert uses his experience, from teaching navigation in the Navy to his present-day work on fast ferries, to simplify and clarify the navigational rules of the road. This is not only a course for first-time boaters; this is a course for any mariner who needs a refresher on the rules of seamanship, the lights, shapes, and sounds that govern safe navigation on the water.

To preview or signup for the course, visit BoatersUniversity.com today.

Safe Cruising,

Jonathan Cooper 

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