An Icon of a Little Boat

Teresa Carey Words 8 Comments

I may have been fortunate in my employment as a sailor on vessels sans electronics, where I had to sail day and night and in all types of visibility. Most recreational sailors can be more selective about when they sail and choose fair days. My sail-training grounds were the coast of Maine, a place where the fog can roll in so quickly you have only a half of a moment to confirm your position on the chart. If you aren’t quick enough, soon you are lost in a blinding cloud of white near a rocky shoreline who’s irregularity is as sure as the rise and fall of the eleven foot tides.

Your eye instantly begins to penetrate the fog, searching for breakers, rocks awash, or navigation aids. In a moment, your ear becomes attuned to the sounds of troubled water, birds, or horns and whistles. Your nose draws in scents of evergreen, fish, and fuel. And with a slight of hand, maybe you can weave all the data together and finally take a restful pause knowing your position and avoiding the sharp dangers of rocks and shore. Or, in that same half of a moment, you could glance at your chart plotter, see an icon of a little boat, and turn toward a favorable and safe route.

As mentioned in my recent posts, I am exploring the use of technology aboard Daphne. On one hand, I have a deep appreciation, almost an obsession (which I hate to admit) for traditional navigation. On the other hand, the technology is becoming more accurate, easy to use, and affordable. Currently I have an AIS, VHF, and a GPS that has always been broken. I never made it a priority to fix or replace the GPS for worry that I would become reliant on electronics like some sailors have. “I know how to use a chart and to triangulate,” they say. And I’m sure they do.

But when it comes to navigation, having the skills is more than just “knowing how.” A sailor’s internal compass must be calibrated with the changing current or the wane of the boat when the wind shifts two degrees. Their eye must be trained to spot buoys lost in the never-ending horizon, identify a ship’s lights against city lights, and using ranges in their peripheral vision to ferry across a bay. But many sailors go to sea greatly deficient in these skills.

With their eyes glued to a chart plotter, and their senses plugged in to technology, the sailor’s sixth sense is weakened rather than cultivated. I have met few sailors who have skills to rely on when their equipment fails. And many miss the enriching experience of using all their senses, and seeing the interconnectedness of the boat working with the entire ocean environment.

When I went from sailing recreationally, occasionally, and with crew, to living and cruising solo aboard Daphne, navigation went from a pastime to a chore. I decided it would be helpful to have a small hand-held GPS that would give my coordinates. I contacted the folks at Magellan who suggested the Triton, which now has a place, safely snug in a gym sock and tucked in the navigation table. I pull it out to double-check my positions, monitor my speed, and determine the moonrise. But the Triton offers much more than that. In fact, as I was reading through the manual I realized that I may never utilize all its features! Not only is it a GPS but its also a camera, voice recorder, flashlight, barometer….to much to remember. The only trouble I had was that because it is a land-based GPS, I had to manually convert the Lat and Long from decimals to degrees and minutes.

During my sail from The Bahamas to New England, I became interested in predicting the weather. Every few hours I logged weather information such as the cloud cover and type, precipitation, or wind speed and direction. Now, with the Triton I also have a barometer aboard and my weather prediction is becoming much more accurate.

Read more about the Triton aboard Daphne here.

Magellan official website

Comments 8

  1. Alan

    Hi Teresa
    I have been reading your blog and am loving it.
    I just bought a norsea 27 and am travelling to Anapolis in Sept to pick it up and drag it back to Canada. I have never sailed in my life but I am feverishly reading everything I can. I was wondering if you had any more pics on lowering the mast or maybe a short description. I will have to do it myself in order to transport.
    Dont worry I dont plan on sailing right away, I am planning on taking courses and learning for a couple years while I live on board before braving the high seas.
    Take care

  2. Neil

    Hello Teresa,

    A quick question. People talk about how you need to stand watch at all times when you’re sailing but what about people who sail solo around the world (and other various long voyages)? Does the watch part only factor in when you’re somewhat close to shore?

  3. Post

    Its a good questions, Neil. You should absolutely have someone stand watch whenever you can. Its difficult for solo sailors because of the obvious need for sleep. You are right to assume that its most important to maintain watch keeping close to shore because there is where you are more likely to run into dangers such as land or other boats. However, there are plenty of dangers even in the middle of the ocean and solo sailors should be aware of these risks.

  4. Douglas and Lang

    Hi “T” , seems that you are caught between a rock and a v hard place !

    All of us want simplicity in our lives,,, have you met anyone who wants complications in their lives ?

    Is there an easier way , we all ask ?

    My responce to this question is to find someone to share the work and responsibility with, and that might ease the load , or would it, depending on your choice , actually ?

    My Great Big Surprise from single handing , is that no one and no book or magazine ever told me or warned me , just how much work and money that it really takes to do what You are trying to do !

    What I do know from experience , is that your recent voyage has set an example, afloat , in your mind ,,,, and that you will be forever trying to re-create that wonderful experience , in your future voyages.

    Summed up by saying , “Always trying to get back, to where you were ” .

    Always trying to get back to that wonderful experience of simplicity in your life ,,,, but is that possible ?

    I guess, unless you are able to climb back into the womb, and continue your blog writing from there ,,, we will never know ???

    Well , What Ever , I really enjoyed the voyage experience, that you and Ben , shared with us .

    We will be reading your future blog , to See, if that is so ,,,,, Thanks For Sharing .


  5. Merry O'Brien

    I agree with Douglas in the idea that its harder to fight the complications once they’ve crept into life. But once you’ve taken the sometimes painful steps to minimalize your life it’s so much easier to subsequently maintain the “less” in your life. Here’s an example I’d be we all can relate to: our culture teaches you that you need that magic onion chopper, the cheese grater, the fancy peel…and once you have all those devices, its hard to make the transition back to just one knife. But in time, you learn that you spend less time cleaning, finding, and working a job to pay for all that junk. The additional time or muscle spent chopping with a simple knife is worth it. You may even realize you enjoy the rhythm of using the traditional tool. Indeed, Teresa says she loves the feel of the map on her hands, etc.

    That said, there’s something to be said for complex devices that actually simplify, declutter, and combine functions (in a real way…not just hype). I try to look for high tech devices that actually are worth their complexity. It’s a balancing act!

  6. Lee


    I’ve been following the voyage of Daphne and Teresa. I am so happy that young people are doing it!!! I wish we had more younger people taking on the tradition and challenge. I gave up on a life of international photojournalist to living on my boat six years ago. I am not rich, but found a solid boat, in pretty bad shape due to being hit by 3 hurricanes that summer. She cost about $20,000. A 40′ 1974 S&S ketch. (She was the only boat still floating in the lake in Ft Pierce.) But a few months hard work and another $5000 and she was ready to sail. (mostly) About the price of a new car!

    About the not having money part; the challenge is making money along the way. You go for a cruise for a year and it’s time to get a feeling of community again. I did charters wherever I was and that paid all my expenses. Craigslist is a free advertising place so you can pick up charters by advertising before you get to the next town.

    And when your getting a feeling like it’s time to take a break, you do. I taught at a high school for a program to help kids in trouble. (I got that job from talking with someone in a boat yard while we both were hauled out.) Solar panel installations in the Bahamas, Boat work here and there. Whatever comes my way. Nowadays it’s getting harder so I’ve just started a local newspaper in St Augustine. It’s all part of the adventure and the cruise!!! It’s not just sailing, it’s life.

    Teresa you are being so creative!!! You’re doing it and showing so many people that it’s possible!

    By the way, Krasna’s last cruise, went from 2008 till 2010 without plugging into electricity once. I live fairly comfortably, refrigeration, laptop, stereo, etc. I don’t have a generator on board either. Go Solar!!! Didn’t pay a dime to dockage the whole time. (Well once to go to a funeral.)

    Simplicity is possible; and once you get used to it preferable!!! And when you come to a place you feel like staying, stay for awhile; work, do maintenance, meet people and dip your toe into relationships again and rebuild your kitty. My paper is coming out in two weeks!!! I started it with a laptop

    Lee on Krasna

    St Augustine, FL

  7. Merry O'Brien

    Hey Lee, I always wonder about the issue of a feeling of community that you mention. I love my little town, and can’t imagine leaving it for more than month long (at most) vacations and day trips. How do you balance the adventure of cruising with the loss of place? Or do you pick up a new community–one of the shared life of cruisers? It also sounds like you are able to “sample” communities and pick up on them quickly. Isn’t it so sad to leave then, though? The idea of being accountable to one place, and making life work in a place (as opposed to my nature which is to run), and knowing everything about that place–that has become appealing to me. In a way, Teresa has a stationary community/place to turn to: this blog. Teresa, is this part of how you deal with this issue, or is the issue even an issue for you? I know you also have other ‘real’ places you consider parts of home as well though. As I make future decisions (boat purchase choices, career, etc), this is important for me to consider. I think part of this is that I don’t have parents, so there isn’t a sense of “home” for the holidays or anything, and also like I said, I’m trying out the idea of making my own home in the world for myself and being part of a community. Lots to think about, and I’d love to hear what you and your readers have to say about this.

  8. Nomad

    Merry, I think the answer will differ from person to person. I grew up living aboard, but have spent my entire adulthood living on land. What I find for myself, is that I tend to develop a sense of community very quickly and become part of it. However I very rarely stay in one area for more than a couple of years, before I feel the urge to move elsewhere. I don’t break the bonds with the communities I have lived in, but they are not present once I have left, until I go back to visit, then it feels like I never left. I suspect that many people living aboard develop a similar sense of relationship with community.

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