Together, We Go Farther


Rope work practical

An organized and colorful tangle of climbing ropes and webbing are connected to the student and me, the mentor.   “Here is your eight plate and belay line. . . show me you know this stuff”, I say in a low tone.   I can hear the student’s rapid breathing as they hook up their belay line and move under the rope to the “Warm Zone”, the last stop before going over the edge – the Hot Zone. They are nervous and they refuse to let it show. They don’t realize they are breathing like they just finished climbing a few flights of stairs, but that’s OK – I’ve been in their shoes, I remember it well.   I still do it sometimes when leading rope rescue classes or rock climbing trips.   One of the hardest things to lead is high angle activities in unknown places. It causes anxiety.

The candidate yells, “On belay?”   The calm tone from the belayer in the woods (another candidate) replies, “Belay On”.   The candidate hooks up their descending device then looks at the belayer and yells, “Climbing!”

“You’re actually rappelling . . . “, I say in a low conversational tone. “Rappelling. . . “, they yell without looking up. They charge backward to the edge of a 70’ cliff. I glance at the belayer. . . they yawn.   Then they catch me looking and say, “Climb on”.   I continue my stare. . . “Rappel On”.


A little exploring during the practical open water paddle.

And so it goes at our Intermediate Expeditionary Skills Course – called “LEAD 2”.   Non-stop leadership, teamwork and skills. We begin with 20 hours of lecture and 12 hours of practical training in the first weekend. On the second weekend, we apply those skills. Together, the candidate experiences approximately 60 hours of training and an additional 40 hours of outdoor time in only 5 days. This was session two, where we apply the skills presented in session one.

The course is designed to begin the journey of a basic trip leader to the next level.   They learn to work together and perform expeditions in all terrains, from open water to mountains.   There are two main lesson plans in this course – the skills and the teamwork.   When you put both together, you get a powerful group of humans and an even more powerful experience.

We have been sharing the skills of climbing, rope rescue and a variety of other techniques from various organizations in one class. There is always more than one way to do it.   You don’t learn one organization’s way of doing it here.   You learn them ALL.   Which is tough to learn all at once, but necessary.   We are learning to deal with expedition climbing, high lines, rope rescue, caving, hazardous terrain travel, water rescue and leading all these activities at once.


Campsite – Search Bay

We don’t subscribe to “one way of doing it”.   We have a standard of utmost safety.   We build a system using a building code for a bombproof rope system. You have to build to that code and there are many ways to do it safely. We take ideas, standards and techniques from everyone. Sport Climbers, Rope Rescue, the Military, Cavers and everyone else that has learned lessons and developed a better, safer way.

Although we are only scratching the surface, we are also developing leaders who will take groups far into the wilderness to travel to places that few have gone. This requires an ability to deal with anything.   Climbing, descending, traversing and improvising.   We have to self-rescue, provide our own medical care and overcome our obstacles. This is the ultimate test of a leader and also the best way to develop a leader.

All day up and down the rock face. Later as night falls, they combine land navigation and ropes to navigate hazardous terrain.   They are slow and inefficient, but they are learning and developing quickly.

A couple of days later, during the “hotwash debriefing”, we stand on the shore of the St. Mary’s River. We have finished an easy open water paddle and explored some neat stuff.   Here they will mention how it was easier than they thought. Every class does this. They thought they would have to “dig deep”.   Which is what they should say, they have been practicing, learning and training. They should be ready for it.   They have the confidence now to say it was easy or we haven’t done our job.

But, the biggest reason for being “easier than they thought it would be” is teamwork. They worked as a team. They encouraged each other, supported each other, and taught each other. They didn’t criticize, compete or have egos. This is the main lesson of LEAD 2.   “Don’t be a dick, leave your ego behind, cooperate and this will be a cake walk”.   Don’t work as a team and it will be hell. Which is exactly what the candidates in this LEAD II course did. The course IS a leadership course.   Leadership and team – if you can’t be a part of a team, you can’t lead a team.   We can only hope that they remember the lessons they taught themselves.

For now, we have 9 newly trained leaders.   They have come a long way and they still have more to go. But, the most important point is well taken. They understand what a “team” can do.

The future is a little brighter, humanity is a little stronger, and we continue to work through issues. We continue to overcome obstacles, but we do it as brothers and sisters.

When we work together, We Go Farther!

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Getting an Aircraft’s Attention in the Wilderness.

If you go truly “remote wilderness” for an extended period of time, chances are you will need to resupply.  Many times, that resupply will come in the form of an “airdrop”.  Here, we talk a little about that and explore a change of airdrop plans and communicating with the pilot in various forms.


It’s been four days since you left Rupert House on James Bay.  You have seen one freighter canoe pass by as your group paddles their sea kayaks north on the arctic ocean.  You are expected to be at Cape Jones today for an airdrop, but. . . you won’t be there.  You still have 90 km to go.  Wind and tide were against you and frankly, the “still” melting ice hasn’t help.

You know that you are under the flight path of your resupply aircraft, a de Havilland Canada Beaver.   So, how do you let them know where you are? Well, you could call them on the radio?  You’d probably be violating a few rules there.   Even as a licensed Ham operator, aviation bands are out of your frequency range – though most radios can still receive in that range.  Emergency, yeah you could transmit – if you radio is capable, but to get your supply of skittles and whiskey – probably not.

You land on a rocky island right under the flight path of your resupply aircraft.   You expect the plane, and the lovably grumpy pilot, to be cruising at 3,000 to 5,000 feet above you in about an hour.  So let’s get started.

First, shine up those signaling mirrors, compass mirrors, your old “U2″ music CD’s, anything that can reflect sunlight.  The plane will be approaching from the south, where the sun is shining and a signal mirror will work great.  Especially with 10 people reflecting 10 mirrors at the aircraft.

Have you ever used a signal mirror?   Do they really work?   Yeah, they do.   They work great.  First, if everyone is flashing at Old Dudley, he’ll notice it.  As someone who has had his attention caught by a signal mirror – they work well.   The flashes will make you wonder, “what is that”.  After pinpointing them you will realize, those flashes are on purpose and you will almost assuredly check it out.   The video shows multiple signal mirrors in action from about a mile distant, then a few more examples of their effectiveness.

One thing we would like to note.  Many signaling kits recommend the addition of a laser pointer for signaling aircraft.  Please don’t do that.   Laser pointers are not safe for pilots and their vision.  In fact, if you use it to signal a Coast Guard aircraft, the pilots are immediately grounded until they can get a physical exam due to the damage that can be caused by a laser pointing device.  The particular device you have may not harm their eyesight, but you probably don’t wanted to be the cause of an aircraft grounding, an flight crew being out of service and the logistics involved in getting a physical exam of the crew.  Just don’t do it.

OK.  So you got his attention.  What now.  Well, let’s have him drop the stuff in a certain spot.  How do we do that?   We could use an orange signal panel or spread out a tarp.  If we do, keep in mind . . believe it or not, an orange signal panel isn’t the “ideal color” for marking a DZ (drop zone).   In fact, for high altitude jumps, many military units actually use an 8′ x 10′ blue tarp instead (or a 6×8 for lower altitudes).  It is the same popular blue tarp that everyone uses to cover things from the weather.

According to the National Association for Search and Rescue – “Royal Blue” is a color that is not present in nature and is actually the best option for getting attention.  Don’t believe that?  Take a look at the picture below.

 blue vs orangeTo be fair these aren’t a perfect comparison, but the blue tarp does make a good contrasting color in almost every environment.   You can see the effectiveness of blue tarps while flying over a disaster area, this picture is from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Notice how the blue tarps look very bright and contrast very well.

blue tarps in disaster

The blue tarps used to cover damaged roofs contrast very well, you would almost think they were added with Photoshop.

All right, so we spread the tarp out and secure it for our expected aircraft.  Now what? We have a strategy for getting the pilot’s attention – multiple signal mirrors.  And we have a place for him to focus on – the blue tarp.  But, how do we tell him to make the drop?  Further, how do we communicate other intentions?

Since the blue tarp gives him a place to focus, let’s try to tell him where to drop the supplies.   There is a standard format for ground to air signals and most pilots should have documents in the aircraft that explain GTA signals.  So, first – let’s tell him where to drop supplies.  Well, lets try to do that, because this part gets a little difficult.

Unfortunately, the signal for “Drop Supplies” isn’t well know.  The letters “T Z” mean “Drop Here”, but as luck would have it, Canada is one of the countries that didn’t agree to that signal.  You can try “T Z”, but a better option may be to spell out “D Z”.  Keep in mind, it is NOT a recognize international symbol.  Actually, there isn’t a universal “Drop Here” signal that is well known.   You can also use the arm signal for “Use Drop Message” in the direction of the tarp in addition to your letter signal.  “D Z” is well know to military pilots as slang for Drop Zone.

Don’t use an “X” to mark the drop zone, because that means you “Require Medical Assistance”.  Essentially, you should have memorized these Ground to Air Signals in your basic outdoor training.


The 5 basic ground to air signals everyone who ventures into remote areas should know.

Will this work?  Maybe.  To increase your chances, you can let the pilot know that you have a radio receiver (Your HAM Radio) and you can receive his transmission – then answer him with the signals for “Yes” or “No”.  The frequencies you would most likely use are 126.7 MHz in Canada and 123.5 MHz (121.5 MHz standby) in the United States.

Can a HAM Radio receive radio calls from Airplanes?  Yes – most of them can receive – they just can transmit, unless you modify the radio.  The following video is an aviation distress call received on a HAM radio during a search for the aircraft transmitting that call.  Distress calls for some aircraft are transmitted on 121.5 MHz – the “stand by frequency” in the US.  (Remember, in an “bona-fide” emergency, you can transmit on that channel for help.)   The ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) that made this call was inadvertent and not actual distress.  (No aircraft were harmed in the making of this video, it was accidently activated).

Once the pilot knows you are able to receive his transmission, he can ask you a question and you can answer “Yes” or “No” using the above ground to air signals.

After a number of exchanges, you should be able to work out the details.


Hand and Arm Signals for ground to air communication.

While these techniques do not guarantee success, you could also violate communications laws and go ahead and transmit on his frequency.  “If” you know his frequency. But, do so at your own risk.

Keep in mind, air dropping is difficult.   Pilots have a difficult job to keep a plane airborne, so they usually have someone on board to make the drop.  Also, accuracy is difficult from a aircraft unless you have some training and experience, so keep alert and well away from the target.   Drops can also be very difficult to see, so make sure the crew knows (in your pre-trip, airdrop instructions) that supplies should have a streamer attached so you can see their flight path into the bushes or ocean.

U.S. Forest Service - Air Drop Message Streamer

U.S. Forest Service – Air Drop Message Streamer

We’ll talk more about setting up a drop zone (target zone) and about receiving an air drop in later posts.  Stay tuned.

If you would like to learn more, consider joining as a Guild Member of the Team for access to online and hands on courses and classes.

Till next time. . .

-Chuck Hayden
Director of Expedition Resources/Expedition Leader
Fortune Bay Expedition Team


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From Here to There, A Women’s Expedition

In June, 11 women will experience the personal growth that the wilderness can provide.   Our own Larri Luthy (Loveboat) and Amy Colby (AR) talk about the expedition and the challenge and growth that Fortune Bay advocates.  The expedition is full, however, our practice weekends still have a few slots.

The radio spot took place on March 31st, 2015 on Radio for Divas with Kathey Batey. Listen in and see what it means to “Go Farther”.

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The Only Easy Session, Was Last Session. . .

This gallery contains 8 photos.

A look inside the LEAD2 training course. Fortune Bay’s underlying mission is always to develop strong leaders.   We do this by challenging people to live beyond their limits – always.   By living beyond their limits, they expand those limits and … Continue reading

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The Traveling Man

If you’ve been reading the newsletters and keeping tabs on Facebook, you may have noticed that the Fortune Bay Expedition Team is expanding its ranks. In the last few years, the team has grown tremendously. While we do our best to ensure that we acknowledge all members, leaders, and staff for their achievements, we admit that we have unintentionally neglected to acknowledge one of our own; a loyal member who continues to motivate and encourage fellow team members, has played an important role in the design of the School of Expeditionary Sciences Website and courses, and who has kept watch over expeditions from a far. This is the story of Bob – Frontier Bob.


Since the beginning, there has always been one. Drawn from the fabric of time and constructed solely from the elements of earth, wind, fire, and water, there is no equal. No one really knows where he came from, or how he got here, just that he has always been there; a shadow stalking the greats throughout history.

For as long as Bob can remember, he has existed. He never questioned the longevity of his life, simply enjoyed every moment to the fullest. He was curious and almost childlike with an obsession to see and touch everything.

Bob always had a strong desire to explore the world. Unfortunately, he was never very good at it. He often found himself miles, if not continents, from his desired location.

Bob recalled an unfortunate incident where he led a woolly mammoth astray. They were destined for an area in what is now referred to as Alaska, but Bob somehow managed to lead the poor beast to an island in the Caribbean instead. “It was a long swim, but I was convinced we were going the right way.” He has yet to encounter another similar creature of its kind.

wooly BobBob’s adventures often began as a result of him seeking out something or someone that he considered to be awesome. This is precisely how he found himself in Australia. Bob had heard rumors of a legendary bushman living in the outback of Australia. Locals told stories of the man wrestling and defeating a crocodile with his bare hands. Although Bob never did encounter the man known as Dundee, he did happen upon an Aboriginal tribe.

Bob instantly gravitated to the Aboriginals. They were painted like he was and so he thought they must be cousins of his. They referred to him by the name “Bil-lin Koor-ee,” which made Bob feel a special connection to the tribe, having been given an Aboriginal name of his own. Since Bob never learned to speak the Kutthung language, he never did learn the true mean of the name Bil-Lin Koor-ee; which loosely translated to “yellow man”.

bob with aboriginals

Bob spent many years living in the Bush. But he lacked the necessary survival skills, so he relied heavily on the Aboriginal people for the basics such as food and water. In exchange for their hospitality, Bob would help with small jobs.

Frontier Bob CanoeOne day Bob was sent to fetch the koo-yuk (fishing canoe) from the shores. He spotted a small crab near the boat and became very excited. He thought, “how happy everyone will be if I returned with food for the tribe!” For an hour he chased the crab through the rocks and sand along the beach, unable to catch it. He decided a surprise attack would be the best method for catching his prey. He hid inside of the boat, with plans to jump out and scare the crab. Unfortunately, a large coconut fell from a tree, knocking Bob unconscious. When he awoke, all he saw was water; no land anywhere in sight!

Bob was lost and alone, but he was never afraid. A part of him was born of water, and therefore he somehow felt safe floating aimlessly with no direction or purpose. He slept most days and spent the nights attempting to count all of the stars in the sky. He could never quite get past 20 though because he always ran out of fingers and toes.

One morning Bob was awoken suddenly by a crash. The boat had struck something fairly large and was taking on water quickly. It was another boat, though this one was much larger and different than his own. It had oars along both sides and an ornate carving of what appeared to be a dragon’s head at the bow. Bob was helped aboard the ship by a handful of men. It was here that he met Lief Erikson and learned to drink like a true Viking.

viking bob

Ok, maybe not a true Viking…but then again, Bob wasn’t exactly known for being able to hold his liquor. It was one such night, belligerent and mumbling something about a purple monkey, that Bob accidentally knocked over and broke the navigational instrument. No one was paying him any attention at the time so he quickly tried to put it back together to hide the evidence. Two weeks later the Viking ship came to rest on a strange and unfamiliar land.

Frontier Bob Rock 2Bob took this opportunity to explore the new lands. He traveled through dense forests, deserts, and swamps. He even ventured high into the mountains and low into the canyons. He had heard about this thing called rappelling (not repelling, which is what you do when you don’t take a shower for two weeks and smell) and thought he would give it a shot.  He quickly realized that one end of the rope should probably be anchored to something. “It was a long fall”.

Bob was a kind-hearted man, always lending a hand to others. But this was not always the case. For a short period of time, dark days fell upon Bob. Having succumbed to greed, he managed to stow away on the ship of the infamous Blackbeard himself (aka Edward Teach), hoping to partake in some of the riches. Fortunately, Blackbeard was more amused than not by the man in the yellow hat and agreed to put him to work as a member of the crew to work off his debt for attempted thievery. Since it was either that or walk the plank over shark-infested waters, Bob had no choice but to accept the proposal.

Bob & Blackbeard

Surprisingly, Bob and Blackbeard became very good friends. Legend tells a much more terrifying story of Blackbeard than the truth. The man Bob knew was a genius, one who loved kittens (he had 5), fishing, and strolling through the harbor markets in disguise. Blackbeard did partake in the act of piracy, he had an image to uphold after all, but he did so only from his enemies, and never actually harmed any of his captives. Bob was the only one ever permitted to refer to him as Eddie.

When Eddie, er Blackbeard, finally decided to retire from the seas, he and Bob parted ways. Bob wrote to his friend often and as soon as he has an address plans to mail the letters.

Bob was and is always looking for adventure and will follow it where ever it may be; even if to Antarctica. When word came that Ernest Shackleton had announced his plans to cross the Antarctic from sea to sea, Bob was first to sign up as a crew member for the expedition. He was ecstatic to be one of the few to have traveled to the Antarctic.

bob w-Shackleton

When asked about the expedition to the Antarctic, Bob responded with “it was cold.” It was so cold in fact, one frigid and windy night, the waters froze around the ship. The ship became trapped in the ice and most of the crew, Bob included, were forced to make their way to shore.

Many of the crew were distressed by the misfortune, but Bob remained positive. He took the opportunity to practice his photography skills. Ed Wardel, the cameraman accompanying the expedition, was not quite as enthusiastic when it came to sharing his camera. Though between the two of them, they did managed to capture some great shots. The crew, and Bob, eventually made their way back safely to the mainland.

firefighter bobBob has always been known for his non-traditional wilderness skills. Bob’s ability to make fire is unprecedented; controlling it is unfortunately another story. Yellowstone Park, for example, was once home to one such fire. Bob was strolling through the park one cold winter day and decided to build a large fire to keep warm. The fire was so large that it spread quickly out of control burning hundreds of thousands of acres in its path. Bob joined up with the firefighters attempting to control the flames, but in was hard work having only a bucket at his disposal. In the end, only a snow storm was able to finally help the raging fire to burn out.

One day, Bob was awoken suddenly from a deep sleep. A large item had fallen on him during the night. He quickly realized that the American flag hanging on the wall behind him was the culprit. It was at that point that Bob decided he was going to join the Army. Bob thought it would be a fun way to travel the world and meet new people. Army life was tough for Bob, it wasn’t exactly the vacation he was expecting. It was here he met a young man named Charles, though many referred to him as Pathfinder (due to his rank and ability to always find the way).

Bob admits he didn’t care for Pathfinder the first time they met. He was young, mischievous, and it really annoyed him that Pathfinder kept stealing his stuffed purple monkey.  The two spent only a few short weeks together sometime in 1993 before Bob was transferred to Germany. He was stationed here for the remainder of his service.


A few years later,  Bob found himself wandering the streets of Lowell, Michigan. He had just finished hiking a section of the North Country Trail and was in search of a good hot meal. He wandered into a small pub and immediately heard a familiar voice. He could not help but listen in on the conversation.

“Man I can’t believe some of the adventures you have!”, one of the men stated. “I wish I could do stuff like that, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

imageedit_27_7932414587“Come with me” the man with the familiar voice stated. “I’ll teach you how.” Although the man was not speaking directly to him, Bob thought to himself, “this is it! Finally I can explore and learn with the best of them!”

Excited about his new found potential for adventure, Bob started to approach the man but instead stopped dead in his tracks. Sitting at the table sat Pathfinder! After hours of reminiscing, Pathfinder convinced Bob to join the merry band of misfits that he was referring to as Fortune Bay Expeditionary Team. Bob was skeptical at first but figured “what the hell, this in itself might turn out to be an adventure.”

Throughout the years, Bob became an integral part of Fortune Bay Expedition Team. He was responsible for the removal of the “ary” from the “Expeditionary” in the Fortune Bay name and even helped Pathfinder to push his expeditions farther. Many of the extreme expeditions lead by Pathfinder were the direct result of Bob’s influence. Bob even earned the nickname “Frontier Bob” because of his earlier travels and exploits.

Bob on expedition

Bob ventured out on almost every expedition, though he mostly kept to himself. In 2014, Pathfinder convinced him to participate in a promotional video for the team (there was whiskey involved). Bob had so much fun making the video that he volunteered to be the spokesman for the team. And the rest is history.

Though we don’t recommend following a drunken man at the pub who encourages you to “come with him,” we are grateful that Frontier Bob chose to join us on our adventures and hope you will too!

~Robin “Killer Bee” Hutsko

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Do you know your compass? Test your knowledge.

Proper Compass PhotoWell, everyone is doing it. Using the GPS (Global Positioning System) to find their way around the wilderness. I do it. As a society, we spend billions of dollars on various GPS systems so we can make our lives easier. Professionals know that while the GPS is cool and all, the map and compass still offer greater navigation accuracy and much more reliability.

The key to using any navigation system is understand how it works on a basic level. Sure, we can shoot azimuths, follow terrain using a map, but do we really understand how it works? It is my experience, that most who venture out, have a poor understanding of the science behind the system they use.

With that in mind, let’s explore the compass.

The compass represents (still today) one of the most popular ways of finding magnetic north. The science behind the compass is truly remarkable. The magnetic compass is inexpensive, durable, dependable, doesn’t need a power source and is very easy to use. But do you really understand how it works? Let’s find out.

earthformationFirst, some background. . . Over 4.5 billion years ago, stuff exploded. Then, the debris of a huge nebula of stars formed earth. The non-burnable nuclear ash from the stars, heavy with particles of iron, nickel and cobalt all sank to the earth’s core. The ferromagnetic elements have electrons in their outer shell that spin, creating magnetic moments that are not cancelled.

Since then, the Earth has created heat from ongoing radioactive decay resulting in a molten core. The motion of these molten elements creates the earth’s magnetic field which extends a few thousand miles into space. This is the magnetic field we use to navigate.

This “Magnetosphere” protects the ozone from solar winds and keeps solar flares and dangerous radiation from extinguishing life.

So, the earth is actually made up of several “dipolar” magnets that are 90% of the Earth’s magnetic field. (Polar Bears are named after magnets!)

So Anyway, how well do you know your compass? Here we go. . . 

The magnetic needle in a compass points to magnetic north.


The magnetic needle of a compass aligns itself with the Earth’s Local Magnetic field and not to any single point.  This field varies a whole bunch across the Earth in intensity and orientation, and the compass actually points to the sum of the effects of many giant magnets at your location.  So, your compass aligns with the magnetic lines of force.  These are called Isogonic lines.

The magnetic needle is “attracted” to the magnetic north pole.

No. . .

If you think about that for a minute, that would mean the magnetic north pole would have to be awesomely strong to attract a little compass magnet in the southern US.   So strong, in fact, ships would get dragged over miles of open ocean, not to mention all the other magnets and metals objects flying north like a flocks of disorganized birds.

The magnetic north pole is stationary.

Not at all.

Earth_Magnetic_Field_Declination_from_1590_to_1990Well, most of us probably know this, but the earth’s magma is a swirling substratum that is constantly on the move.   Magnetic north is currently heading towards Russia at 65 km per year (a little over 40 miles). 

The magnetic north pole will always be in the north.

I’m sorry. . . that is incorrect (but we have a wonderful consolation prize).

The earth’s magnetic field actually reverses a lot.  Reversals happen at apparently random intervals, ranging less than 100,000 years to as much as 50 million years.  The last time it happened, was 750,000 years ago.

There are three “norths” – Grid, True and Magnetic.

Not exactly, there is a fourth

It is called the “Geomagnetic North”.  Which is the north end of the axis in the magnetosphere which extends into space.  It is the center of the region where the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) can be seen.

We correct our compasses for “Magnetic Declination”.

Nope. . . we actually don’t.

We (including me) tend to use the term “magnetic declination” (or magnetic variation) when correcting grid lines taken from a map to a compass, or vice-versa.  Actually, magnetic declination is the difference between true north and the horizontal trace of the local magnetic field and that is the reference we use with most USGS maps.

True north is is usually used on a “Global scale” and does not reflect the grid lines on a regional map.  Global maps project large areas of a curved surface onto a flat surface. However, a level of spatial distortion is caused across a relatively small area of the earth’s surface, such as a USGS quadrangle map.  Because this distortion is unacceptable to map_magnetic_declinationnavigators, we have developed our own local rectangular grid system (such as UTM) to reduce that distortion.  Consequently, the grid lines of maps do not point to true north.  They, instead, become “grid north”.

So as a navigator, we have to adjust for the difference between grid north and magnetic north when converting between magnetic and grid bearings.  This angle between magnetic and grid meridians is called “Grid Magnetic Angle”, “grid variation”, or “grivation”, NOT “magnetic declination”.

What does it all mean?

Well . . . for practicality’s sake, not a lot, but the more you know. . . 

So yeah – kind of interesting, eh.  The good news, we don’t have to necessarily know all this or do all the calculations – most mapmakers do it for us.   And the information is usually printed on a map.

When the batteries have died, or your GPS has been jammed, spoofed or is miscalculating due to refraction, or when you GPS just can’t catch ephemeris, you can reach into your pack and pull out a very advanced and one of the most reliable pieces of gear you have. . . your compass.

Thanks for taking the time to “Go Farther” with your knowledge.

Interested in learning more of this stuff?  Become a Guild Member of the team for access to a whole website of lessons.  

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Arthur M. Anderson Freed from Lake Ice


The Arthur M. Anderson and Canadian Coast Guard Cutter Riley

2/22 – Noon update – The CCGS Samuel Risley and Anderson are underway off Ashtabula. Ice conditions remain difficult and the Anderson has become stopped at times. The CCGS Griffon is off Long Point and should be turning for Nanticoke shortly after 1 p.m. Algocanada is located in the channel leading to Naticoke while fleetmate Algosea is docked in port.


CCGC Riley escorts the Arthur M. Anderson


View of the Arthur M. Anderson’s stern from the CCGC Riley.


10 a.m. update – Sunday morning the Risley and Anderson remain stopped about 7 miles North West of Conneaut while the Griffon is en route to Nanticoke to escort the Algosea to the Detroit River.

The USCG Bristol Bay has departed Cleveland heading for Detroit and scheduled maintenance period. The USCG Neah Bay is expected to return to icebreaking service Monday after completing a planned maintenance period in Cleveland.


Tactical Consult at Sea.


Original report – After waiting to move since Tuesday, the Arthur M. Anderson was underway behind the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon Saturday night leaving the ice fields off Conneaut behind. They met up with the Samuel Risley and stopped about 7 miles North West of Conneaut. It is unknown if the vessel are stopped for the night or some kind of repairs.

The Samuel Risley will escort the Anderson to the Detroit area, which could take about 24 hours depending on the ice conditions. The Griffon will head to Nanticoke, Ontario for more icebreaking activity to assist commercial shipping.

The Griffon assisted U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay Friday when the Bristol Bay was attempting to enter Ashtabula, due to extreme ridging at the entrance, Griffon proceeded with Bristol Bay to Cleveland to ensure their safe arrival. The U.S. and Canada have a strong ice-breaking partnership and this winter both Coast Guards have been working tirelessly under very challenging conditions, to assist commercial ships through the heavy ice on the Great Lakes and connecting waterways.

BoatNerd, Canadian Coast Guard


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Arthur M. Anderson stuck in Great Lakes Ice

UPDATENoon, Sunday, February 22, 2015 – The Arthur M. Anderson is moving again.  Destination Detroit, Michigan.  More info and pictures here.

CONNEAUT, Ohio- Coast Guard crews are working to free a ship that has been stuck in ice on Lake Erie for days. The Arthur M. Anderson was headed to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and stopped moving near Conneaut Harbor.  The freighter is on the 16th day of what would normally be a two and a half day trip. Keeping in good spirits, the crew on the Anderson has changed their AIS destination to “Funny Farm.”

arthur anderson 2

U.S. Coast Guard said its ice-breaking tug, the Bristol Bay, has struggled to get to the stranded vessel, fighting through 8 to 10 feet of ice. It has been outside of Ashtabula for several days. “When ice freezes just in normal conditions, it’s a flat sheet. But what we’re seeing in Ashtabula and Conneaut are called wind rows, and that’s when ice breaks and is pushed on top of one another and then it gets really thick,” Lt. Davey Connor said.

Progress has been so slow for the crew of the Bristol Bay that the Coast Guard delivered 100 pounds of food using a rescue basket Thursday night. The Bristol Bay is heading back to Cleveland to wait for assistance from the Canadian Coast Guard’s 234-foot icebreaking ship. Once the route to Cleveland is cleared, the two ice-breakers will return to Conneaut to free the Anderson.

arthur anderson 2/21 – Lake Erie  5:30 p.m. update – The Griffon created a track north of the Arthur M Anderson and was breaking out around the vessel by 4:30 p.m. The Samuel Risley is about 30 miles to the north west and should arrive this evening. Both Coast Guard ships will work on freeing the Anderson and hope to see the Anderson underway Sunday morning.

Once the Anderson is freed, the Samuel Risley will escort the Anderson to the Detroit area, which could take about 24 hours depending on the ice conditions. The Griffon will head to Nanticoke, Ontario for more icebreaking activity to assist commercial shipping.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon assisted U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay yesterday when the Bristol Bay was attempting to enter Ashtabula, due to extreme ridging at the entrance, Griffon proceeded with Bristol Bay to Cleveland to ensure their safe arrival. The U.S. and Canada have a strong ice-breaking partnership and this winter both Coast Guards have been working tirelessly under very challenging conditions, to assist commercial ships through the heavy ice on the Great Lakes and connecting waterways. Canadian Coast Guard.

Anderson AIS

Anderson’s AIS destination – “Funny Farm”. AIS is a vessel’s “Automatic Identification System”. You can track the Arthur M Anderson here –


8 a.m. update – The USCG Bristol Bay arrived in Cleveland about 12:30 a.m. and tied up for fuel and supplies. She is expected to depart Cleveland and return to Detroit for a schedule maintenance period. The CCGS Griffon assisted the Bristol Bay into Cleveland and departed about 12:30 heading east through the heavy ice to free the Arthur M. Anderson off Conneaut.

The CCGS Samuel Risley entered Lake Erie and stopped for the night off Colchester about 2 a.m. The Risley was back underway at 6 a.m. heading for the Anderson. The Griffon made steady progress overnight before stopping at 6 a.m. about 16 miles West of the Anderson. The Risley and Griffon are expected to free the Anderson and then escort the vessel back through Lake Erie.

Original Report: The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon arrived off Ashtabula before noon Friday to assist the USCG Bristol Bay to Cleveland, conditions at Ashtabula were too difficult to make entry possible with the fuel available on the Bristol Bay. The Griffon and Bristol Bay spent the day backing and ramming through the ice arriving off Cleveland about 11 p.m.

By midnight the Griffon was working through the heaviest ice near the Cleveland harbor entrance. All icebreakers are expected to return to the Arthur M. Anderson who remains stuck off Conneaut, Ohio. Winds had shifted to the South on Friday and this should relieve some of the pressure on the southern shore of Lake Erie.

After the extensive delays and severe ice conditions the Anderson will likely skip the last trip and head for lay-up in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley began working with the Peter R. Cresswell Friday morning making slow progress on the lower St. Clair River. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock arrived downbound about 2 p.m. to assist.

The icebreakers worked closely alongside the Cresswell and cleared the St. Clair Cutoff Channel about 5 p.m. The escort continued across Lake St. Clair reaching the upper Detroit River at 7:45 p.m. The Hollyhock stopped for the night in the Belle Isle Anchorage to trouble shoot a systems error while the Risley assisted the Cresswell into Detroit before heading downbound for Lake Erie about 11 p.m.

Story: Courtesy Boat Nerd

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Which way do I go? Clarifying Navigation Terms

Heading, Course, and Bearing.  These terms are tossed about, often incorrectly, leaving the uninitiated with a confusing array of meanings and intentions.   So, let’s clarify the meanings of these terms to help clear up confusion.


Heading –  The heading is the angle between the direction in which the vehicle’s nose is pointing.  It isn’t necessarily the direction the vehicle is travelling, just where it is facing.

Course –  The course is the direction the vehicle is actually travelling over the land, sea or air.

Bearing –  A Bearing is simply the direction to a certain point, in any direction.

To illustrate the point, check out the animation below.


Of course, in navigation, these terms are normally relative to magnetic north when referring to compass readings.  They may also be relative to true or grid north when making reference on a map.  But, we are not done – there is also the situation where we use these terms relative to the vehicle.   “We have a zodiac bearing at us from 4 o’clock”, for instance is an example of bearing reference to heading.

Now, it doesn’t end here.  There are many other terms in navigation.  Their definition might be different according to their application on the ground, in the air, or at sea.  There is “course made good, track, route, course to steer, tracking angle, cross track error” and many other terms.  But, we will get to those in a later post.

Until next time. . . “Go Father”.


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Ten Essential Systems – (Not Items)

mountaineers bookThe point of the Ten Essentials list (developed by The Mountaineers, with origins in the climbing course taught by the Club since the 1930s) has always been to help answer two basic questions: First, can you respond positively to an accident or emergency? Second, can you safely spend a night—or more—out? The list has evolved over time from a list of individual items to a list of functional systems; the updated Ten Essential Systems list is included in Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 8th Edition.

Ten Essentials: The Classic List
•Sunglasses and sunscreen
•Extra clothing
•First-aid supplies
•Extra food

Ten Essential Systems
• Navigation (map & compass)
•Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
•Insulation (extra clothing)
•Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
•First-aid supplies
•Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
•Repair kit and tools
•Nutrition (extra food)
•Hydration (extra water)
•Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)

1. Navigation
Always carry a detailed topographic map of the area you are visiting, and place it in a protective case or plastic covering. Always carry a compass. Climbers may also choose to carry other navigational tools such as an altimeter or global positioning system (GPS) receiver; other aids include route markers, route descriptions, and other types of maps or photos.

2. Sun Protection
Carry and use sunglasses, sunscreen for the lips and skin, and clothing for sun protection.

3. Insulation (Extra Clothing)
How much extra clothing is necessary for an emergency? The garments used during the active portion of a climb and considered to be the basic climbing outfit include inner and outer socks, boots, underwear, pants, shirt, sweater or fleece jacket, hat, mittens or gloves, and raingear. The term “extra clothing” refers to additional layers that would be needed to survive the long, inactive hours of an unplanned bivouac.

4. Illumination
Even if the climbing party plans to return to their cars before dark, it is essential to carry a headlamp or flashlight, just in case. Batteries and bulbs do not last forever, so carry spares of both at all times.

5. First-Aid Supplies
Carry and know how to use a first-aid kit, but do not let a first-aid kit give you a false sense of security. The best course of action is to always take the steps necessary to avoid injury or sickness in the first place. At a minimum, a first-aid kit should include gauze pads in various sizes, roller gauze, small adhesive bandages, butterfly bandages, triangular bandages, battle dressing (or Carlisle bandage), adhesive tape, scissors, cleansers or soap, latex gloves, and paper and pencil.

6. Fire
Carry the means to start and sustain an emergency fire. Most climbers carry a butane lighter or two, instead of matches in a waterproof container. Either must be absolutely reliable. Firestarters are indispensable for igniting wet wood quickly to make an emergency campfire. Common firestarters include candles, chemical heat tabs, and canned heat. On a high-altitude snow or glacier climb where firewood is nonexistent, it is advisable to carry a stove as an additional emergency heat and water source.

7. Repair Kit and Tools
Knives are so useful in first aid, food preparation, repairs, and climbing that every party member needs to carry one. Leashes to prevent loss are common. Other tools (pliers, screwdriver, awl, scissors) can be part of a knife or a pocket tool, or carried separately—perhaps even as part of a group kit. Other useful repair items are shoelaces, safety pins, needle and thread, wire, duct tape, nylon fabric repair tape, cable ties, plastic buckles, cordage, webbing, and parts for equipment such as tent, stove, crampons, snowshoes, and skis.

8. Nutrition (Extra Food)
For shorter trips, a one-day supply of extra food is a reasonable emergency stockpile in case foul weather, faulty navigation, injury, or other reasons delay the planned return. An expedition or long trek may require more. The food should require no cooking, be easily digestible, and store well for long periods. A combination of jerky, nuts, candy, granola, and dried fruit works well. If a stove is carried, cocoa, dried soup, and tea can be added. There are many possibilities.

9. Hydration (Extra Water)
Carry extra water and have the skills and tools required for obtaining and purifying additional water. Always carry at least one water bottle or collapsible water sack. Daily water consumption varies greatly. Two quarts (liters) daily is a reasonable minimum; in hot weather or at high altitudes, 6 quarts may not be enough. In dry environments, carry additional water. Plan for enough water to accommodate additional requirements due to heat, cold, altitude, exertion, or emergency.

10. Emergency Shelter
If the expedition party is not carrying a tent, carry some sort of extra shelter from rain and wind, such as a plastic tube tent or a jumbo plastic trash bag. Another possibility is a reflective emergency blanket. It can be used in administering first aid to an injured or hypothermic person, or can double as a means of shelter.

–Adapted from Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, published by Mountaineers Books

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