System helps solve fog problem


August 04, 2003|DARREN PECKLER

For most people, Dale Hollow Lake is famous for its wonderful scenery and smallmouth bass. But for night fishermen, Dale Hollow is also famous for its fog.

I have probably been fogged in or socked in at night on Dale Hollow more than any other lake. On more than one occasion, I've had to tie up to the bank and wait for the morning sun.

Nighttime on any lake can be a little confusing, but adding fog to the equation makes navigation extremely difficult at best and dangerous, if not impossible, at worst.

Trying to move about in the fog was always tricky. More than likely you would end up going in circles and thus becoming more confused and more lost.


Over the years, I tried many different methods to cope with this situation. Fog is one of the main reasons most of us carried compasses in our boats to take headings and maintain a proper route through the fog.

We've utilized many of the older, proven techniques such as writing down compass headings, time of travel and a known speed on the engine during daylight hours in order to be able to return to the ramp should the fog set in.

Most of these problems have now been solved by the global positioning system.

As I understand this program, this satellite-based navigation network. was originally created by the U.S. Department of Defense, utilizing a network of approximately 24 satellites. Its original application was for military purposes, but in the late 1980s the government made the system available for civilian use.

The beauty of the system is that it works in any weather condition 24 hours a day. I happen to have a GPS unit on my boat because it came from the factory equipped with a Garmin depth finder and GPS map combination.

I knew very little about this system when I first obtained it, but have since learned just enough to keep myself from getting completely lost on most bodies of water.

Although I am no expert, as I understand GPS satellites, they seem to circle the earth about twice a day in some very specific and precise orbits. The GPS receiver unit in my boat (which is really a miniature computer) uses this information to triangulate, and, therefore calculate my exact location.

This location is displayed on the LCD screen on the unit in my boat. The GPS map/sounder in my boat shows my position on an electronic map. By utilizing these satellites, my on-board unit determines my latitude, longitude, and altitude.

Once this information is obtained, my unit is able to determine my exact location, as well as my speed, my heading, and even the distance to designated destinations.

Until very recently, GPS units were accurate to within about 15 to 20 yards. However, newer units utilize a program known as WAAS (wide area augmentation system) capability. According to my Garmin literature, my system is capable of accurately displaying my position to within about three yards.

All of this seems amazing to me, especially in light of the fact that I am told the satellites are about 12,000 miles above us and moving at a speed of roughly 7,000 mph.

Again, according to my information from Garmin, these satellites are powered solely by solar energy, with backup batteries on board to keep them running in the event of solar eclipses.

These satellites, known as Navstar by the Department of Defense, were first launched about 1978. The network or "constellation," as the Department of Defense says, consists of 24 satellites, with the lost of them having been in place since 1994. The satellites appear to have approximately a 10-year life span, with replacements being built and launched into orbit on a regular basis.

Outside of a history lesson, the purpose of this article is to inform and encourage night fishermen, as well as anyone else who utilizes the outdoors on a regular basis, to consider obtaining one of these units.

Although they are not absolutely necessary for a successful night fishing trip, they are extremely useful and helpful in moving about the lake in all kinds of weather conditions.

Besides all of this, it is extremely comforting in the middle of the night as a fog bank approaches to be able to look at your GPS unit and know exactly where you are and how to get back to the launch ramp.

Technology is amazing and the cost is relatively low, but the feeling of safety and security in having these units on board your boat is priceless.

Thanks for reading; hope you've found something useful. Please be sure to wear those life jackets when you are on the water, especially during your nighttime fishing adventures.

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