I became aware of my conviction in holding traditional navigational skills as a highly revered craft when I purchased a large offshore chart that needed to be folded in order to fit on Daphne’s small table. With each crease I laid in the chart, with each pleat I tucked into its edges I cringed. Silently, I made a promise to iron them away immediately upon my return to land. During planning gatherings, no one could set their mug on the chart, write on the chart, lean on the chart, or even touch the chart. And even now, after a week of steady offshore use, like a new chart in a store, the chart remains as smooth and crisp as the horizon.
For years I have been torn between the beauty and simplicity (or complexity) of traditional navigation and the great advances and usefulness of new technology. I clearly remember the day I purchased my first cell phone…at my mother’s insistence. I paced in and out of the store all day long. When I finally paid and activated the phone, the employees of entire store stood. I exited to a standing ovation of cheers, whistles, and clapping.
When I decided to sail offshore for an extended period of time, I began to wonder how I would manage the need for sleep. I tried sleeping one hour on, one hour off, I tried legs up to 35 hours without sleep, and I even tried sleeping in my cockpit, donned head to toe in foul weather gear, hood and all. But nothing creeps up as quickly and surprises me more than a 900 foot tanker traveling 19 knots who’s CPA (closest point of approach) is less an one nautical mile from little Daphne and her delicate crew.
I decided to upgrade my electronic assistance with an AIS receiver and contacted Standard Horizon to discuss with them their new product Matrix AIS. The AIS, or Automatic Identification System, communicates a short-range signal transmitted between ships. Most commercial ships are required to transmit a signal, which gives information such as their position, speed, heading, size, and vessel name. While I slept, the Matrix served as an extra set of eyes alerting me when ships were approaching. I could then contact the vessel and arrange a safe passing with the captain.
It was fantastic! I could sleep a little more soundly knowing that I would be alerted with a beeping sound when a large ship was within 15 nautical miles of Daphne. Being able to hail the ship by name was excellent. I enjoyed contacting the captains, sometimes the only person I spoke to all day. I asked if they could see me on their radar, which usually they could not. When we arranged a plan for safe passing, I then asked the captain for the most recent weather report. Without that information, I may have gone several days without knowing where the high and low pressures were developing or if a storm was approaching. Daphne’s onboard technology systems aren’t yet advanced enough to receive a weather report when sailing many miles offshore. Perhaps that should be the next upgrade…
More about electronics aboard Daphne in the next few posts.