Tips for navigation?

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Janie88

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Hi, I took the Advanced Open Water years ago, but I am NOT good at navigation under water. Do you guys have any tips or where I can read more about how to navigate under water? My husband is excellent at navigation, and I admit that I rely on him totally to find the boat. But I don't like depending on him, I want to be capable of navigating. What if we get separated? What if something happens to him? Or at a minimum, I think it would make me feel more confident having the ability to navigate.

I have a new Teric, but I'm not sure how to properly use the compass. I know a lot of people (including my husband) navigate a lot by using their surroundings.

Thanks for any tips
 

VWRdiver

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Underwater is a 3d environment. You can use topo lines to keep your bearing. For instance, if you are in a lake, you can swim out until you get to a certain depth, and then turn right or left and follow at that depth. When you do that, keep track of your time swimming after you take that direction. Then note the time you turn the dive. Swim back for the same amount of time, and you should be in the ballpark for where you entered.

When you go to make that initial turn, you can also find a stick or something to stick in the ground so you recognize it when you come back.

Those are just a couple of tips. There are many ways to navigate, those are just a few that I use.

Also, like you said, learn to use your compass. If you surface swim out before you descend, face the shore entry point and mark the azimuth on your compass. That way you have a heading towards shore if you do an out and back route.

It takes practice. As your husband is navigating, try to follow along on your compass as well. You'll get there, just takes time.
 

rick00001967

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navigation can be easy for some and very difficult for others. i think some people are just born with good observation habits while others (i won't mention my wife haha) just never pay any attention to where they are going. it applies to every day life. when i am driving and ask her to help with the gps or a map, it is usually the start of world war three. haha shejust has no sense of direction or ability to relate a map to the real world.

for diving, i think the single most important navigation tool is your awareness of your surroundings. i would simply start by deliberately making mental notes of which way the current is flowing, how deep you are, and any features on the bottom or reef that stand out. where is the anchor line? is it to my left, my right, in fornt of me, or behind me? etc etc.

at first you will find it actually takes a lot of effort to do these things, but if you persist, it will eventually be something you do almost subconciously.

a compass is great. but it has limitations. if i am in the bush and get lost, a compass is useless unless you either have a map or have the info in your mind about which heading to follow to get home.

so the same applies to being in the water. if you land on a wreck in near zero viz, the compass does no good unless you have a heading to follow.

but if you do have proper headings to follow, using a compass in diving is pretty simple. for most divers i teach, the hardest parts are comincating with their buddy, maintaining their buoyancy, and staying on course while keeping an eye on the compass.

the simplest way to follow a heading is to choose a spot you can easily see that is inline with the heading you want to go. then simply swim to that point and start over. but this only works with good viz. it becomes tougher on a night dive or in bad viz and current.
 

BoltSnap

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Hi, I took the Advanced Open Water years ago, but I am NOT good at navigation under water. Do you guys have any tips or where I can read more about how to navigate under water? My husband is excellent at navigation, and I admit that I rely on him totally to find the boat. But I don't like depending on him, I want to be capable of navigating. What if we get separated? What if something happens to him? Or at a minimum, I think it would make me feel more confident having the ability to navigate.

I have a new Teric, but I'm not sure how to properly use the compass. I know a lot of people (including my husband) navigate a lot by using their surroundings.

Thanks for any tips

Honestly and frankly, I can give you all the tips here but in reality navigation is all about doing it in the water in real life. You should find a capable instructor who can spend time with you going over compass use and practice in openwater using various scenarios to get more practice.

I use my compass just as much as my dive computer (in addition to natural navigation).
 

Dan

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Since you have Teric, use its overlay compass (the red arrow that moves around the Teric display rim and is always pointing to north). Also after entering into the water and swim to the your point of interest for a few feet, turn around look up to where the boat is located and mark your return destination with the green dot, as shown in my Teric display, below:

CDD978C4-EB3A-43A6-982E-461453D0796A.jpeg
 

Outbound

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As others have said, good navigation requires both good compass skills as well as good observation. As you’ve learned in your training, things like the direction of any surge, the pattern and direction of sunlight beams underwater, the patterns surge and waves make on sandy bottoms, rock and coral features, etc. all give aid in determining where you are underwater and how to get to where you want to go and back again. Also, pay attention to time and note your finning speed. You don’t need to know your exact speed, but if you are doing an out-and-back you should try to maintain the same speed in both directions or make compensations if speed (or current) is different in one direction than the other.

As for your Teric’s compass, it’s an amazing tool. You can take a bearing when you are in dive mode and then lock that bearing in and it will keep a little green dot up on the edge of your screen indicating your bearing. That will overlay no matter what screen you have up, so it’s very useful. For an out and back, for example, you can take a bearing in the direction you want to go and then when you turn around just make sure that the green dot is 180 in the opposite direction (so, at the bottom of your screen). Or, you can take a bearing to shore so that you always know which direction the shore is. Just remember that it’s a bearing and not a specific point in space, so it won’t guide back to your exact spot. It will just indicate the bearing direction.

Mostly, just practice, practice, practice! And no need to wait until you are diving to do so - you can practice navigating on land as well.

Good luck!
 

CuzzA

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This really depends on the dive site. Something like a long ledge is easy to navigate. Any good captain should give you an initial heading. For example, if we're diving an east/west ledge, I'd drop you on one side into the current and tell you the direction to head along the ledge facing the current and I'd add the depth of the break and top shelf. Knowing this would allow you to navigate north or south to find the break. From there it's pretty self explanatory. Head into the current on the way out and ride the current back in.

On a multi structure system that doesn't have a straight shot feature you can dive parallel with you need to think a little more about where and how long you've been. You would still want to head out into the current and you can use your compass as a crude reference to get you going back to where you came from. You would need to remember the headings when you make turns so you can get back. In most cases close enough is good enough. I think it's far more prudent to learn how to shoot a bag at depth. Doing so would give a visual reference of where you're at on your ascent, which could end up being far from the entry with current carrying you along on your stops.

With enough practice you'll find that you get comfortable and immediately establish your bearings with each dive. When I first started diving navigation was a bit confusing, today it is rare I don't end up surfacing right at the ladder on free ascents with no line.

Your safety stop also serves as an opportunity to find the boat. Gives you something to do while you wait.
 

_Ralph

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Not knowing where or how you guys dive (although, you did mention a boat)....

Shore dives, I generally have a very good idea on the topography (either from previous experience, sonar charts - Navionics WebApp is excellent for most coastal waters, or briefings).

I’ll set a back bearing with my compass to the shore.

On boats, I follow down the anchor line, make note of the depth and terrain the anchor is in, and head out to the ‘feature’ that we are diving. Noting the direction and setting another back bearing if needed.


Most of my navigation is ‘natural navigation’ ie, following a wall, or structure, following a contour, or Pinacle landmarks... as well as taking note of the flora and fauna.

Keeping track of where you have been, and a general direction is handy.


Ask your dive buddy to let you navigate on dives... get some more experience and comfort with it. If you are doubting where you are, just ask... most people who navigate don’t stop, even if they’re not responsible for navigating the dive...


_R
 
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Janie88

Janie88

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Not knowing where or how you guys dive (although, you did mention a boat)....

Shore dives, I generally have a very good idea on the topography (either from previous experience, sonar charts - Navionics WebApp is excellent for most coastal waters, or briefings).

I’ll set a back bearing with my compass to the shore.

On boats, I follow down the anchor line, make note of the depth and terrain the anchor is in, and head out to the ‘feature’ that we are diving. Noting the direction and setting another back bearing if needed.


Most of my navigation is ‘natural navigation’ ie, following a wall, or structure, following a contour, or Pinacle landmarks... as well as taking note of the flora and fauna.

Keeping track of where you have been, and a general direction is handy.


Ask your dive buddy to let you navigate on dives... get some more experience and comfort with it. If you are doubting where you are, just ask... most people who navigate don’t stop, even if they’re not responsible for navigating the dive...


_R
Thank you all for the replies. My husband does not use a compass on most dives, or at least not as his main navigation - he uses "natural navigation" and takes note of the terrain, will turn around and look at the boat/anchor as we are going out to see what it looks like coming back, etc. I tried that a couple of times and it was confusing and I didn't see good landmarks. But I will keep trying.

I think I will also inquire how much to take a class in navigation with an instructor.
 

DiveClimbRide

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Depth is your best landmark. Most sites have a gentle (or steep) slope in one direction. As you go down make a note of a landmark at any depth on your way down but remember it. Then at you deepest point swim left or right and when you hit turn pressure turn around and swim back for a shorter period of time then you swam out for. Then ascend along the slope to the depth of your landmark. And swim along until you find it. By the way your landmark can be something as vague as swimming north (if you're diving around a tiny island) or as specific as a cleft of rock with a pretty coral on it. Anything works.
 
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