What is an off course alarm?

Hi there!

I have recently joined the Merchant Navy and as part of my training i have to compile an assignment on on off course alarms e.g. what one is, why its gone off, what my actions would be etc. I have looked throught the internet but all i can find are companies selling them..no real information!

Any help you could give would be great, thanks in adavnce ; )
Lets take this one at a time:
Off course alarm is an audible alarm that will sound when the autopilot detects a difference (Manually set by you) between the present course and the set (Desired) course. It can be gyro, magnetic or satellite compass

It has gone off because the ships heading has gone outside the parameters set - this may mean the ship is off course, or that the compass you are using (Gyro, magnetic or satellite compass) is showing a course outside the parameters you have set (This is important - the ship may be on course but the compass is faulty)

Actions - Important - Call the Master - especially if in traffic or close to navigational hazards. While he is on his way (In order to impress him as much as anything else) - switch the autopilot to secondary input or put a man on the wheel straight away. Check all compass readings against each other to ascertain that the ship is indeed off course and not that there is a compass fault. If gyros (Compasses) are good - stay with manual steering (Use the standard magnetic compass if you are worried about the gyros), whilst you get the autopilot checked out.

Happy sailing and good choice in joining the Merchant Navy.
It is something that means you are not sailing on the course you have input to the autopilot.

Your actions, would be to observe all the rules of the road and get back on course
An off course alarm is just that. It sounds when the vessel has gone off course. Usually a back up on a GPS, Loran, or ECDIS System. But Your LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW, and PLOTTING, RIGHT!
GPS systems can be integrated with auto pilots and radar. Depending on what type of electronics you have an off course alarm can be set at varying degrees off course which will sound the alarm should the vessel stray too far off the programmed course, there is usually a built in delay allowance designed to take into consideration of sea state and weather at the time. The same system can also be used when at anchor. The system can be set to sound an alert should the vessel drag its anchor outside the circle that has been programmed into the electronics. Suggest you purchase Chapman's Piloting book which has a great deal of information on various subjects in seamanship.
Your GPS can be set to ring when you are x amount off course. You set the x. You could be off because of current. Check all of your means of determining position and correct.