Running Fix Explained
Coastal Navigation iPad eLearning App
This week we uploaded our updated Coastal Navigation course to Apple for publishing on iTunes as an interactive eLearning App. We’re very excited about this update because of the HTML 5 animations we’ve used to explain some of the concepts.
Specifically in regards to this post, no where on the web have we seen a decent explanation of how to do a very simple and elegant position fix using only one land position. The concept is called a running fix. In fact, all we found was very poor, long, complicated and sometimes wrong explanations of how it works. Certainly we found no animated interactive explanations. So as usual, at NauticEd we have broken down the seemingly complicated to the very simple.
Play this animation below then read the explanation and solution below – then watch the animation again.
If you don’t know how to use a Breton Plotter view our blogpost on how to use a Breton Plotter.
(NOTE: If you like this animation, please LIKE it on facebook and g+1 it. Thanks it really helps us grow and pay for all the free stuff we give away)
The Example Problem is:
You are sailing along on heading 57° psc (61° Mag) (47° T) your knot meter reads 5 knots. You are passing Horton Point Light to your starboard. At 1548, a hand held bearing shows that the bearing to Horton Point Light is 119°Mag (105°T). You decide to do a running fix. At 1615, the bearing to Horton Point Light is 160°M(146°T). Determine your running fix position.
The time elapsed is
1575 -1548 = 27 minutes (/60) = .45 hours
@ 5 knots you will travel 5 x 0.45 = 2.25 NM
You draw the true bearing line of 105° T to Horton Point Light. You then draw a vector 2.25 NM long in a direction of your heading 47° T starting anywhere on the 105° line. You then draw another line parallel to the first 105° T bearing that intersects the end point of the 2.25 NM vector. Finally, you draw in your second bearing line of 146° T. Where the 146° T line intersects the parallel 105° T line – you mark as your running fix position.
The theory behind this is simple but not usually explained. Initially you must lie on the 105 degree line somewhere but you don’t know where. You know that over the time elapsed you will travel the 2.25 NM from some where off the initial 105 deg line but you don’t know from where – yet. The parallel 105 deg line projected forward means that you will also lie somewhere on that projected line, again – somewhere. By doing the second bearing, off any object, the intersection of that bearing with the projected line means you must be at that point (given that your speed and heading were accurate).
LAT 41° 07.55’ N and LONG 72° 28.8’W
You can then draw your running vector from the fix position back to the original sighting line if you like to find your original position. This will also be your track.
Pretty slick ah? You’ll never be confused about a running fix again – and I bet you’re now wanting to get out on the water and practice next time out. Imagine trying to explain this using text and a paper book – yuk. Ahhhh no wonder people don’t like slogging through books anymore. In what?, less than a minute you grasped this concept fully.
eLearning is where it is all at.
Show off to your friends next time you’re out about your new found knowledge.
Invest in the onLine Coastal Navigation Class now
Here is the link to the iPad app for the Coastal Navigation Course (course material only does not include the test or certification)
Or – if you’re really ready to get going properly why not invest in the BareboatCharter Master bundle of courses. The Coastal Navigation Course is included and you get a bonus of the Electronic Navigation course for free AND you save a ton of $ over the A La Carte Prices. That’s the best deal ever!!!
Invest in the Bareboat Charter Master Bundle of courses (includes the Coastal Navigation Class) and save $64.50
The posting here is not a course in celestial navigation by any means. However it’s meant to simplify a few principles for you so that you’ll at least have some sort of celestial orientation. And… perhaps it’ll inspire you to learn the aging art.
This was written by Grant Headifen, Educational Director of NauticEd. NauticEd provides online sailing courses and Sailing Certifications accepted by charter companies worldwide.
Latitude: In the northern hemisphere, finding latitude is simple using one of the greatest gifts to human kind – The North Star. What ever angle the northern star is at from the horizon, that’s your latitude.
Imagine you’re an ant sitting on the top of an apple looking at a spot directly above you on the ceiling then the spot is 90 degrees from the surface you’re standing on. If you’re standing half way around the apple then you’d barely see the spot but it would be horizontal to the surface you’re standing on and so the spot would be at zero degrees. And if you were ¼ of the way down the apple then the spot would be at 45 degrees etc. ie the northern star is the spot on the ceiling to us.
You can also find latitude using other celestial sightings but they involve table lookups and are slightly more complicated. Not meant for this post and also note that there are a few more complicated variables not taken into account during this simplistic explanation like the height of your eyeballs above the earths surface etc etc. But at least you’ve now got the principle.
Longitude: Now this is a fun one and in an incredibly easy principle. But years ago (early 1700’s) while the principle was easy then the execution was difficult. Read on to see why.
The earth rotates through 360 degrees in 24 hours. That’s 15 degrees per hour. By convention, when the sun is at it’s highest point in Greenwich, it is noon in Greenwich. That means that at a place that is 15 degrees to the West of Greenwich the sun will be at it’s highest point one hour later. Six hours after Greenwich the sun will be at it’s highest point somewhere in over the USA and 12 hours later the sun will be at it’s highest point in New Zealand.
Animation of time zones
So if we know the time in Greenwich and sun just reached its highest point where we are then we can calculate our longitude.
Lets do a few examples. If it is 6 pm in Greenwich and the sun just peaked overhead here, then I am 6 x15 degrees to the west of Greenwich which is 90 degrees West which is right near St Louis Mo.
If the sun peaked overhead in Los Angeles what time would it be in London.?Well LA is 118.15 degrees West (from Google earth). Divide that by 15 degrees per hour and we get 7 hrs 53 minutes. Now since the times zones are created in bands this would round up to 8 hours. Thus it would be 8pm in London.
You’re sailing in the Greek islands in the Mediterranean and a little bird just told you your latitude is 34 deg 54 minutes north but failed to tell you the longitude. Fortunately you have your handy sextant and just as you take a shot, the sun just reached its apex overhead. You look at your watch and the local time is 12:10:48 pm. Where are you?
Since you’re in time zone B you are 2 hours ahead of Greenwich. Thus the time in Greenwich is 10:10:48 am. And since the sun peaked just now (=noon) then you are 12:00:00 minus 10:10:48 = 1 hour 49 minutes and 12 seconds from Greenwich. Putting this into decimal time this is 1.82 hours. Multiply this by 15 degrees per hour and we have 27.3 degrees East or 27 degrees, 18 minutes East.
You’re in the harbor north of the town of Kos on the Island of Kos.
That was incredibly easy, so why all the hoopla back in the 1700’s? The King of England even offered up a ₤10,000 reward to anyone who could solve the issue of Longitude. The above math was well known but the issue was telling the time. No one could accurately keep time at sea. After 27 years of work on the project, John Harrison, finally invented the Chronometer more commonly known as the watch. The watch was not susceptible to the sudden crashes of waves at sea and thus kept proper time.
James Cook on his second trip around the world in 1772 sailing on Rendezvous, took Harrison’s watch with initially much skepticism. Stating that he’d give it a try. After six months at sea, Cook stated that the Chronometer would almost certainly become the way of the future for Navigators. Cook then went on to reposition many of the Islands in the Pacific including Tahiti, his favorite island. His map of New Zealand astounds people even today with its accuracy.
Again there were a few simplistic assumptions taken in that explanation. But now, at least you understand the principle of longitude determination from a noon shot of the sun. You can also determine your latitude from a noon shot of the sun as well using tables and a bit of math. Again beyond this posting.
If you’d like to delve deeper into these topics, NauticEd provides online sailing lessons and an Introductory Celestial Navigation Sailing Course, or maybe you’re just happy with your handy boring ol GPS.