‘I’d like to make a fish haven out of some of the equipment’

Sep 25, 2012 by Guest Writer

Some more thoughts about technology on yachts:

Technology is just a tool, nothing more. This tool allows for making information more available and more secured.

As soon as we purchase something, it has been replaced by better technology. It’s hard to keep up with the times.

Once in awhile, I’d like to make a fish haven out some of the equipment. But we figure it out eventually and then forget just how easy it has made our lives. Face it; we’re spoiled now. What’s it going to be like in another 10 years?

Right now, both my systems/alarms computer is dead. And the video card on the nav computer is dead. I have three $3,000 screens, all useless. I’m running on Garmin back-up and iPad nav app. Both are working perfectly. I’d run on three iPads if I could. It’s cheaper and more reliable.

Can’t live without it. Regulatory workload would require extra personnel without technology. Next stop: bar code scanning for inventory control of everything. Thanks be that USCG/MCA etc. doesn’t issue licenses to computers, yet.

It is important to keep the navigation systems off line.

When I first started going to sea, we used a sextant, paper feed fathometer, and a df. Radar was not yet required on ships, and all steering was done by a helmsman.
When we were close to land, we used a pelorus and used shore lights and marks for running fixes and pilotage. The 2nd mate spent his life correcting paper charts through notice to mariners. We had charts for departure and arrival and all charts in between. Our pilot books were our best friend in foreign lands, and many times we would use a lead line when traversing shallow areas.
Things have changed a little since then. Now we have digital chart plotters that chart our position within a few meters, AIS, ARPA, anti-collision, satellite communication systems, weather routing, and myriad other fancy toys. My last trip, I sailed from Seattle to Chile. I took two paper charts and a pilot book. Everything else was electronics and electronic backups. We had three different chart systems on three different computers, two radars, three steering stations, all with integrated auto pilots and secondary backups.
One evening, we had a power down and I found myself the only one who could steer a straight line by compass.
What happened to our sailing skills? What happened to our basics? I worry that technology has made us weaker, less capable sailors. Back in the day men could sail for weeks at a time, steering four-hour shifts. Now our biggest problems tend to be crew who cannot stay awake or, overly dependent on electronics, do not keep an adequate lookout. I am not sure all this high-tech really made it safer.

I think technology should be used as much as practical, but once it starts to interfere with reliability it should be avoided. For example, the OctoPlex; it’s neat to run the whole boat from one touch screen, but without a manual backup, you never feel good about going to sea.

In my opinion, technology is moving the individual backward when it comes to boat handling. We are equipped with a DP (dynamic positioning) system on board. You push a button and you will not move 1.5 meters either port or starboard, even in rough seas. This system works the bow and stern thrusters, swing down thruster, and obviously main propulsion all at the same time (if needed).
It is a very reliable system, but when it failed last month, the “brain” of the ship went brain dead, as did the captains. I feel the same way toward GPS units, both on vessels and in cars. If you can’t get directions right on a street that doesn’t move … . We are already over our heads in technology.

It was easier with just VHF.

One glitch can bring down a surprising amount of “things” that are relied upon. An inordinate amount of time and money is spent upgrading and maintaining this inevitable trend. If all else fails, make sure that you have a compass, a depth sounder and a paper chart.

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