Monday 9 January 2023

Scanning the Horizon

 While there no right or wrong way, a small change in the way we do it has its rewards. 

While I didn’t come up with this idea, I have been using it successfully since being taught many years ago. It’s a big ocean out there and searching the horizon for lost equipment or god forbid a man overboard takes a keen eye. Any thing we can do to increase our chances of seeing what is out there has to be a good thing. 

At the time we were looking for a buoy about the size of a tender that had parted from our tow during the evening. Normally we could have tracked it to about a twenty five square metre patch of the ocean because it reported its position regularly. Unfortunately the battery must have run down and it was in the water somewhere in the South China Sea. We had a fair idea where it might be but we didn’t know exactly. This meant we had a large patch of the ocean to search for our buoy visually.

On the bow, but this isn't necessary works from the cockpit as well. 

I will put my neck out and say most if not all of us reading this will normally read left to right, however there may be exceptions where English is a second language. I am not sure if you have ever noticed that when reading we can skip words or from time to time we can put words in if they are missing to keep the sentence flowing. We have been taught to scan from left to right to take in information just about all our lives. This also means we will normally scan the horizon from left to right and in doing so we can skip over fine details, sometimes we just don’t see things that are right there in plain view. To counter this the best thing to do when on lookout and scanning the horizon is to do it from right to left. This does two things, it slows your eye movement down and also the speed you move your head, this then lets your brain process what it is seeing in doing so you take in more detail. At the start it may even feel unnatural to scan the horizon this way. Try it out, do a scan of the ocean out in front of you from left to right then repeat the process scanning right to left and see if you see things you missed the first time. I know it works for me.

Back to the lost buoy, yes we did find and retrieve it, we only had to search four hundred square miles.

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