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Top 5 innovations in boating history

No one can deny that boating is the best sport in the world. Period. But did you know there are many amazing innovations to thank for making it the pastime we love?

We took time out to blog the top 5 in boating history.

  1. The sailing boat

Etchings of sailboats found in ancient Mesopotamia (now Kuwait) date back as far as 5500 BCE. These boats sailed the Nile River, and appeared to be very simple, with one square papyrus sail.

The Greeks, Egyptians and Romans also used sailboats. As well as Polynesians, who colonised islands by sailing to them in dugout outrigger canoes. The Polynesians made navigational charts using sticks, which allowed them to navigate currents and wave patterns.

Many other cultures, including Arabs, Indians and the Chinese had early sailing traditions too. And don’t forget the Vikings, who added oars to their sailing power, allowing them to traverse the Northern Atlantic Islands to North America.

  1. Celestial navigation

Ancient mariners navigated the high seas using the stars if land was not in sight or darkness had fallen. Sailing through a black expanse sounds harrowing, and the fact ancient sailors did this is absolutely amazing.

Celestial navigation requires mariners to take angular measurements between stars and other bodies in the night sky and the horizon. It also requires precise time keeping, or the boat will not remain on course.

The earliest written evidence of celestial navigation can be found in Homer’s Odyssey – a mythical text written around 3,000 years ago. The story goes that Calypso tells Ulysses to make sure the constellations Bear, The Big Dipper and Ursa Major remain on his left side.

  1. Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons

EPIRBs were reportedly invented during World War II to help find downed pilots. The original EPIRBs were said to be large, bulky and hard to deploy, which made them virtually unusable to the average seafarer.

As you probably already know, EPIRBs are tracking devices, which communicate with a global satellite system used in SAR (search and rescue) operations. While you can activate an EPIRB manually, they also trigger automatically if a boat capsizes.

Since EPIRBs became accessible to seafarers in 1979, the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme (the service that operates the SAR satellite) reports that, as a result, tens of thousands of individuals have been rescued from emergency circumstances.

  1. GPS

After the stars, GPS is arguably the next big innovation in boating navigation. GPS (AKA Global Positioning System) works by guiding mariners as they drive, making them far less reliant on paper maps and charts.

A GPS receiver works by communicating with 4+ satellites. The GPS provides the time and location of a vessel in any weather, no matter where it is in the world. For this to happen, the GPS must have a direct line of site with each satellite.

GPS navigation is extremely accurate, and has revolutionised the way people chart their courses around the world.

  1. The engine

This list could never be complete without mentioning the advent of the marine engine. The original marine engine was powered by steam, and was adapted from the first commercially viable steam engine (invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712).

William Symington, a Scottish engineer, developed the very first practical steam powered boat in 1802. This steamboat was called the ‘Charlotte Dundas’. In 1819, a vessel known as Savannah became the first steamboat to travel across the transatlantic from the US to England.

Steam engine innovations continued during the 19th Century, but diesel power technology eventually took its place. Today, we can thank steam engines for allowing ships to travel at steady speeds, even in unfavourable conditions.

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