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Thursday, October 09, 2008

October 5, 2008-Survey Trip

Launching the Avon

I’m not the first Roswold ready to survey a harbor himself if the charts are lacking. Grandpa Alfred drew mud maps of Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka before the war when, as an Alaska Steamship pilot, he had to take vessels into those ports and the charts just plain lacked sufficient detail to pilot a ship safely in. I found his carefully drawn charts, in smudged pencil on plain vellum, folded into his Useful Tables book which my father passed down to me many years ago along with Grandpa’s 1899 German-made sextant. That was the first tangible evidence I had to the kind of sea captain he was. Looking at those charts I could visualize him on the bridge of his vessel with basic equipment such as compass and rangefinders taking sights and getting soundings from the deck, and with this information, back in the pilot house, he could draw his basic charts.

Our own first survey was Denerau in the Fiji Islands when we picked our way in with Wings in 2000. The new port wasn’t on any available chart so we drew our own chart and later passed out printed versions to other cruisers who wanted to go there.

In San Fernando in the Philippines in 2006, with our dingy, we surveyed a tortuous route through the reef system to deep water only to find when we tried to take Wings to sea following that route that a second reef system farther out still blocked our path. We had not surveyed a route for that second reef and we had no time to do it, so that survey expedition wasn’t fruitful, but we had fun doing it.

Today we took Wings’ dingy out onto the bay at Laem Phrau and with a plumb line checked depths all over the area in front of Yacht Haven. We knew there were sand bars and mud flats out there, and maybe even some deep water, but the charts didn’t seem to be that trustworthy. For one thing, according to the chart we were right on top of the sand bank at the mouth of the marina. So we conducted a basic survey, just like Alfred might have done 80 years ago.

You can see a video of this trip here.

But the survey was just an excuse. It was a nice day and we needed to get out on the water. In fact we could have had a great sail today if we’d gone sailing instead but Wings is in storage these days (since we leave it for two or three weeks at a time when we are in Bangkok at work). The sails are off, a full cover is on; everything is put away. When faced with all the work to get the boat ready for sailing and go out and then come back in and put it all away it just seemed like too much for us today. Still, a nice day, lots of sunshine; not to be wasted and if we couldn’t go sailing then a dingy trip to do some surveying seemed like a good second choice. An additional benefit is that we would get a chance to inspect and test the dingy and motor. They’ve also been in storage for 9 months.

Survey Results

The new chart is the result.

It was a nice day on the water, and we accomplished both goals of completing the survey and testing the dingy.

Click here to see the video.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Phuket

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