Adventurous Use of the Sea: The Cruising Club of America

Safety and Navigation

Then and Now

Captain Fred Lawton, tethered on the deck of Bolero, 1950.
Captain Fred Lawton tethered on the deck of Bolero
Captain Fred Lawton, tethered on the deck of Bolero, 1950.View full-size image

Tethered on deck

Captain Fred Lawton, tethered on the deck of Bolero, 1950.

Mystic Seaport, Norris Hoyt photo
Life ring from the yacht Shadow
Life ring from the yacht Shadow, 1950s.
Life ring from the yacht ShadowView full-size image

Life ring

This canvas-covered cork life ring is typical of the basic emergency safety equipment carried on racing and cruising yachts through the 1950s. This one was used on the yacht Shadow.

Lirakis Safety Harness
Stephen Lirakis used the strong nylon webbing and hardware of mountain-climbing gear to produce the first safe, easy-to-use harness for sailors.
Lirakis Safety HarnessView full-size image

Lirakis Safety Harness

After experiencing the very rough gale conditions of the 1972 Bermuda Race, Stephen Lirakis refined his ideas for a safety harness, which he began to sell in 1978. Sailors had improvised rope harnesses, but Lirakis used the strong nylon webbing and hardware of mountain-climbing gear to produce the first safe, easy-to-use harness for sailors. This one was used for many years on CCA member W. Frank Bohlen’s yawl Tattler.

Courtesy W. Frank Bohlen. Mystic Seaport photo.
Spinlock Deckvest
The Spinlock Deckvest is both a safety harness and an inflatable life vest.
Spinlock DeckvestView full-size image

Spinlock Deckvest

The Spinlock Deckvest is both a safety harness and an inflatable life vest. This British product is widely worn for safety on Bermuda Race and CCA cruising boats.

Courtesy Spinlock. Mystic Seaport photo.
British Admiralty Chart 3272, North America-East Coast
Chart of New England coast
British Admiralty Chart 3272, North America-East CoastView full-size image

New England Coast Chart

Detail from British Admiralty Chart 3272, North America-East Coast, Newfoundland to Bermuda, updated to 1955.

Mystic Seaport
Garmin GPSMAP® 7215
Since 1995, GPS has become the easiest and most reliable way to navigate a vessel.
Garmin GPSMAP® 7215View full-size image

Garmin GPSMAP® 7215

Today, navigators commonly rely on Global Positioning System (GPS), which sends signals to an array of satellites to determine their vessel’s position within feet. Since 1995, GPS has become the easiest and most reliable way to navigate a vessel (or vehicle). This Garmin touchscreen chartplotter provides charts on which the navigator can plot position and course, and it can be enhanced with tidal, current, and weather information.

Courtesy Garmin Ltd. Mystic Seaport photo.
Plath Sextant, 1930
For celestial navigation, this high-quality German sextant made by Plath, ca. 1930, would give a mariner very precise readings when measuring the angle of the sun or stars to the horizon.
Plath Sextant, 1930View full-size image

Plath Sextant

For celestial navigation, this high-quality German sextant made by Plath, ca. 1930, would give a mariner very precise readings when measuring the angle of the sun or stars to the horizon. These numbers are used in calculations to “fix” the vessel’s position.

Dorade sight reduction calculations
Celestial navigation calculations for June 12, 1933.
Dorade sight reduction calculationsView full-size image

Stephens’s Sight Reductions

Navigators took “sights” with a sextant to find the positions of celestial bodies, then went through extensive calculations to “reduce” these sights to determine their position. This reproduced page from Rod Stephens’s navigator’s notebook for June 12, 1933, shows his sight reduction calculations during Dorade’s 1933 transatlantic passage to Norway.

Dorade log June 12, 1933
Rod Stephens’s logbook for June 12, 1933.
Dorade log June 12, 1933View full-size image

Stephens’s Logbook

Navigators also used dead reckoning to plot the vessel’s progress through hourly records of distance and direction sailed between celestial navigation calculations. This reproduced page from Rod Stephens’s logbook for June 12, 1933, shows his use of dead reckoning during Dorade’s 1933 transatlantic passage to Norway.