Unfair USCG question

I just failed my Navigation Problem exam with the following question:

You get underway from the shipyard in Chester, PA, at 1515 DST (ZD +4) on 6 August 1983, enroute to sea. You will be turning for eight knots. What current can you expect at Fourteen Foot Bank Light?

I looked up Fourteen Foot Bank Light in both tables, but the pages for the light were in neither tables. In the Times and Heights, 14’ Light says “On Breakwater Harbor.” Pages not in the book. I looked up Chester River for a clue, found “On Philadelphia” so looked that up. No pages!!
When I got back to my hotel room I looked the question up on Lapware.

“Entering the Index to Stations on page 225 find Delaware Bay Entrance - Station 4111.
You note that Delaware Bay Entrance is a Reference Station found on Page 58.”


So the solution is in a Current Diagram for Delaware toward the back of the Tide Tables, with Chester and the light in there. But there is absolutely no way of finding a reference to it in any index, so no way of knowing about Delaware. Tell me how a mariner supposed to find that? Unless they have an intimate knowledge of that area of the East Coast.

It seems completely unreasonable of the CG to ask the mariner to find info for a question if it cannot be looked up. Plus it is an unreal situation.
I have challenged the question, but in the exam room all I could say was that the light was not available in the book to indicate where it might be, so don’t hold out hope.

Has anyone else had this question? Any thoughts on my opinion?
If there is agreement with my reasoning, I will write to the USCG about rescinding that question.

Thanks - and BEWARE this question if you are taking Nav Probs 126.

My first thought was: Isnt this one of the questions where you use that current table for the Delaware River?

So your protest is hinging on the fact that you dont know one of the 6 major bays in America and you didnt study that flavor of question? It sucks that you failed, been there, but this isnt a new or strange concept.

Even if you found where the light was In the light list, what was your plan to calculate current when you got there?


That is why I reached out to the forum. Was I just missing something major - and it seems that that might indeed be the fact.
I appreciate the response. Any others welcome.

Yeh man, that’s unfortunate, but you will recover. Just make sure you use that special diagram for those type of questions. And practice them! They can be tricky, you have to hold your straight edge at the exactly correct angle and carefully read the correct answer.

Not an obvious answer… That`s frustrating situation, indeed.

I recall from taking this test that I assumed at first that the information was arranged geographically but it’s not, it arranged by tidal basins.

Is there a general approach to the tide question that doesn’t require local knowledge? One that works for all tidal questions of either type rather than than having to recognize it’s a “Delaware Bay problem”?

Take the latitude and skim Table 2 until the numbers start to align?

Or just retire the question now that NOAA has ceased publication of these tables and one can look up the data directly.

While, I understand the frustration of not passing an exam, having been there and done that.

My problem was knowing what the Coast Guard means in the subject description of Tides and Currents and the topic Calculations. My thought was they wanted to test my knowledge of tables 1-3 and the use of the Index for solving their problems. What I learned was they wanted to test me on the entire book not just the basic use of tables 1-3, the index and glossary.

Like you after my exam, I went through the entire Tidal Current book to refamiliarize myself with the book and what I had been taught. What I noticed there were additional tables and a series of Current Diagrams starting on pages 212 – 217. Specifically there was a Delaware Bay Current Diagram on 214 and 215.

As I had never used the diagram before. I went to Maine Maritime Deck Prep program and found a video on Current Diagrams.

From this exercise I started looking for those questions that USCG had not only on current diagrams but also table 4, 5 etc.

I no longer consider the question of local local knowledge but one of knowing the reference materials used in the testing room.


For the most part, people don’t get questions that require deep local knowledge. Or rather, knowledge that can’t be found in the resources provided in the exam room such as the Coast Pilot. I used every last little bit of time for Chart Plot, for example. A question could be answered by one tiny little sentence in a sea of words, and not easily found by using the table of contents. It just takes time scouring. There were a couple questions that were a little iffy, sure, but overall I found the Coast Guard examination policies to be extremely generous. You basically have unlimited attempts. You can fail each module three times, and even then, you just have to resubmit an application. Nothing says you can’t do this into infinity.

Chester, PA is on the Delaware River…


One unfair question doe not make a failure as it takes more than one wrong answer to fail. Just practice a bit more and test again. There are retired folks that were quite successful in their careers that failed a module. Persevering separates the wheat for the chaff. Good luck

No, it takes two. But when a question is “unfair” it certainly means you have to make sure the rest are accurate.

Without a graph or a computer I dont know any other way you could calculate that problem by looking at two refrence stations. You’re only given STW, no distance or time- I think the graph calculates SOG from intended speed, now that I think about it, an ECDIS cant even calculate it that accurately.

Its also worth noting, I’m not sure how many ports actualy had a graph like this. It could be a tool from before my time, but Delaware Bay is the only place I’ve seen one.

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Unfair questions exist. When I sailed on the Great Lakes, I was testing for Lake Erie pilotage. I got a question asking me the hight at low tide under the bridge at North Tonowanda, NY. Problem one, a freighter cant go under a more or less 9 FT bridge. Problem two, the bridge in question is on the Black Rock Canal which is a separate pilotage exam! The proctor’s answer to me was, " It’s in thhe Lake Erie Chapter of the Coast Pilot"! She was a nasty piece of work.

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From the Nautical Almanac:

  1. Current Diagrams
    A current diagram is a graph showing the velocity of the current along a channel at different stages of the tidal current cycle. The current tables include diagrams for Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds (one diagram); East River, New York; New York Harbor; Delaware Bay and River (one diagram); and Chesapeake Bay. These diagrams are no longer published by NOS, but are available privately and remain useful as they are not ephemeral.

Current diagrams are listed as a topic on USCG nav general exam.

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I memorized all of the tides and currents

I couldn’t help but think “the Great Lakes have tides?”. The NOAA states that a “tide change” on the Great Lakes is about 5 centimeters, just shy of two inches, and with wind and waves, “tide” really is meaningless.

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I know! But IIRC, that was the wording of the question.

Reminiscent of the National Electric Code test. I took a class in the NEC while planning on become a licensed electrician. Found a “topic” in the NEC and when I asked the instructor about it, he couldn’t answer the question. Finally found out, maybe, that it involved equipment on a Gulf of Mexico oil platform. Something we work on every day in North Carolina. :laughing:

Jnx. I think you are closest to the mark. When I was writing my exams (in Canada) I found the same thing. There are clues in the words of the other questions. If the answer seems unattainable, pass it and come back to it later. “powpowquinn” didn’t mention if the chart they provided (or any other publication) included the Fourteen Foot Bank. It might have and so might have led him to the closest current station. Also, the question was not asking for an exact velocity and direction of current, it said, “What current can you expect. . .?” A reasonable answer (and, yes, I know that examiners are not always reasonable) might have been something approximate, such as, “an ebb current, roughly between 1.5 and 3 knots in a southeasterly direction” (I don’t know this body of water, either, so don’t shoot me if the current doesn’t run that way at Fourteen Foot or Fifteen Foot or whatever it is).