DON’T LET MODERN TECHNOLOGY ROB YOU OF YOUR COMMON SENSE.
communicating with us, it is lulling us into a belief that we don’t have to pay close attention to our surroundings. As a result, we’re losing, or giving up, what is referred to as situational awareness.
Situational awareness, a familiar term to professional captains and crew, is defined as having a keen sense of the events and conditions around us, and the ability to apply our awareness of those events to our situation. Simply put, it’s knowing what is going on around you.
There is good evidence the increasing number of devices supplying information at the helm is making us less observant and more distracted. Look no further than the recent and tragic collisions involving Naval vessels USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain. According to the Navy’s Admiral William F. Moran, vice chief of naval operations, in the case of the USS Fitzgerald, “the sailors who were on watch in the ship’s bridge lost situational awareness, contributing to the collision.”
Two situations recently caused me to think about how recreational boaters interact with the technology at the helm and how it can affect our situational awareness.
Whenever I am in unfamiliar waters, I call a towboat operator in the area for local knowledge. On one call I made, the towboat captain gave the following instructions: “When you get to red marker number two, put a course line in your GPS straight to the RS junction marker. It’s about two miles in. Just follow that route on your GPS and it will keep you in safe water all the way.”
A few days later, when calling for local knowledge at another unfamiliar location, the towboat captain told me: “When you enter the river, as soon as you’re even with the Coast Guard station on your port side, look ahead and you will see a water tower and a church steeple.” He added that we should center the steeple under the water tower and hold that course until we came even with green marker 11, then look to our port side to find the entrance channel to the marina.
Both were good instructions that safely brought us to our destinations. The big difference, of course, was that one operator had us focused on a GPS screen, while the other had us looking out the pilothouse windows.
We are so focused on the information from our devices,
Keep your eyes on the horizon, as well as your MFDs.