Reading through some recent sailing magazines I am amazed by the complexity of all of the various ‘necessary’ electronic gadgets. These are overlaid, interlinked, talk to one another and perhaps conspire against the skipper. I think if I were starting sailing nowadays I’d find it all quite daunting.
I can remember sailing into Poole about 10 years ago. Our old boat only had a depth finder and GPS, but onboard we had a young yachtmaster who had a handheld device that showed our course and position. Whilst the rest of us admired the view his attention was focused solely on our slow progress on his 2” screen. At regular intervals he advised me of our ETA, which was irrelevant, but I thanked him nevertheless.
Since then things have moved on at a pace, but is it necessary to equip your boat with all of these devices, which are costly and quickly become out of date. Well, I suppose it depends on how you use the boat, where and when.
My first offshore trip was an attempt to get to Cherbourg from the Solent on an old German cutter. It was rough and even in the Solent I can remember being waist deep in water on the foredeck, changing the headsail. The merciless skipper was trying to bring the novice crew up to speed, and thought a days exercise thrashing backwards and forwards in these conditions would be good training.
The next day we set off on his planned course from the Needles. Paper chartwork and dead reckoning of course. Naturally the wind was blowing directly from Cherbourg. With 10 on board the cockpit was crowded and we all took turns being on the weather side ,which was attended by many soakings, as we tacked back and forth,. After 22 hours beating to windward Captain Bligh concluded that Aldeney was a better bet, and 3 hours later we were happily moored up.
I’m glad that I was so ignorant of our position on that trip, staring at that 2” screen would have been soul destroying. Nowadays few skippers would attempt such a trip without a chartplotter and that’s a good thing, but does your boat really need to be bristling with electronic devices to get from the Hamble to Yarmouth on a fine summer day, I think not.