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Why are the MCA so old fashioned?

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  • Why are the MCA so old fashioned?

    When in college as a deck cadet we have to learn how to do all manual calculations, which is good. However, the content of some of the examples/formulae is out of date. For example: When calculating a amplitude in college we have to first work out if the chronometer time is correct and the GMT. I find this un-needed in the modern age of digital clocks on the ships bridge, which can easily adjusted back to GMT with the click of a button. Infact, out of every ship I've sailed on not one of them has even had a chronmeter onboard. Before someone says digital clocks can fail, so too can chronmeters.

    Another example would be calculating errors. We were only taught how to calculate a compass error in college, never a gyro error. Most ships these days rely on a gyro as the primary heading indicator, the compass is very rarely used for a bearing. Learning this method meant that my notes from college were not totally useable onboard (as you have to add certain steps to calculate a gyro error). So we are taught one way of calculation in college, then another way onboard and then have to go back to college and re-learn the outdated method again to use in exams. If the MCA updated thier syllabus we wouldn't have this problem.

  • #2
    Well you should be able to work out what time it is GMT without resorting to pushing a button on the GPS, no-one uses the chronometer these day I agree, but it doesn't make a huge impact on how you do the calculation, you just miss out adding/subtracting a few seconds.

    As for calculating gyro compass errors, it's just the same as doing it for the mangetic, but you use your gyro repeater to take the bearing: when you take the bearing, also note the ship's head by gyro and the ships head by magnetic, you work out if the gyro is reading high or low and then adjust the ships head to true accordingly... GTVMDC.... it's no different!

    Size4riggerboots

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    • #3
      You are training to be a maritime professional with a certificate of competency widely recognized to be among the best in the world.
      The reality is that much of what you will learn is not relevant to the day to day of working on modern ships. However, by learning how things work and why, you will have a much more fundamental understanding of your job.
      I agree that it seems stupid now, but I have sailed with officers who were never taught the things to which you refer and as a result were significantly less competent than their British counterparts.
      Cruise ship Captain with experience on-board Passenger Vessels ranging from 5500-150000 GRT.

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      • #4
        Totally agree with HolyNougat, you have to understand the fundamentals of navigation, many of it you hopefully should never need to use again.

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        • #5
          Size 4, yes I know how to work out GMT but I was using the digital clock as an example as it has replaced the chronometer onboard. You say to miss out a few seconds etc but thats the point i'm getting at, if the syllabus was totally relevant we wouldn't have to miss out steps that are outdated (however little time they take is irrelevent). Also, the actual procedure and layout we were taught in college for compass errors was totally different than the calcuations for gyro errors onboard. This lead to confusion and, like I said, having to learn the way its done onboard in the modern world and then the outdated MCA's way for the exams.

          HolyNugat I think you mis-understood me. I totally agree that we should learn the fundermentals. However, the college should teach gyro errors rather than compass errors as thats what we use onboard.

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          • #6
            I don't understand what you mean... As s4 has said ITS THE SAME PROCESS regardless of whether its magnetic or gyro compass... Ie take the bearing and then compare it to the true bearing.

            If you mean working out the deviation and variation then that is a requirement as failing to keep an accurate deviation record will result in port state deficiencies and the need to do an annual compass adjustment.
            ?Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn?t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.?

            ? Mark Twain
            myBlog | @alistairuk | flickr | youtube Views and opinions expressed are those of myself and not representative of any employer or other associated party.

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            • #7
              Coming to the end of my training, I fully agree with HolyNougat. It may seem pointless but it all comes together in the end and you can see why you've been taught things that you can think of no use for. By understanding the fundamental processes you can much more easily adapt to new ways of doing things.

              The chronometer thing baffled me for a while. I've only been on one ship with an old-style chronometer, and it just wasn't used. But if you think about it, when do you need to know the time to the second? For celestial calculations. When are you likely to use celestial? When the GPS fails deep-sea. What happens when you lose GPS? Your GPS device time is no longer "guaranteed accurate". So what can you do? Determine the error using a radio time signal, the same as you would with a standard chronometer.

              Or, to look at it another way, a functioning GPS is doing exactly what you would do, by correcting itself based on a radio signal.

              By calculating UT from the chronometer time and applying the error, you understand that simply reading the time from your watch won't give you the most accurate answer. And, ok, a minute or two out might only throw your position off by a few cables, but by striving for the highest level of accuracy you can place much more confidence in your result.

              As for gyro errors... the basic process is identical. Take bearing. Calculate azimuth. Compare. I do agree, though, that the celestial syllabus doesn't cover the extra steps required when you've taken a gyro bearing rather than a compass bearing, however you have twelve months at sea to cover something that can be explained to you in a matter of minutes.
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              • #8
                Just reiterating what has been said before , the fundamentals of how things work and why is more important than just being able to do them.

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