Don't read this unless you have time . .
When I first started ocean sailing we had some great systems. We had things like sextants that could help to locate your position in the middle of nowhere. Monochrome radar could tell you if you were close to land or another vessel. The good ones left a breadcrumb trail so you could see which way the ship was heading. You could set alarms rings to attract you attention to approaching ships. It was amazing. If you wanted to identify the vessel you used binoculars and if the vessel wasnít close enough for that, its identity didn't matter.
We had RDF (radio direction finder) that you could swing around in different directions and when the incoming radio signal was loudest, that was where the transmitter was and you could use this info in a great process called DR (dead reckoning). We had barometers that could provide an indication of approaching inclement weather that allowed us to prepare for a blow.
I had a system of instruments on my boat that sort of talked to each other and provided a cool piece of info Ė true windspeed! It calculated this by vectoring the boat speed, wind direction and speed. Great stuff. We never used that info for anything but wasnít it great to know?
We had windvane steering that would aim the boat more or less down your chosen course and you could leave the driving to it while you did the DR and took sights with the sextant, did sight reductions and filled in the logbook. Very liberating stuff.
And we sailed around the world in relative safety for many years. Every year technology got a little bit better and new things started appearing on the scene like Satnav and Navtext that only the rich folks could afford. Us lesser people looked on in awe.
Today of course things are a little different. We have color HD radar, color chart plotters that can put photos of a harbor on the screen alongside a radar image and a chart, autopilots and instruments that talk to each to the extent that the skipper feels a little superfluous. We have safety gear like AIS, EPIRBís and PLBís, satellite telephones and internet comms. We have GRIB files and on-board weather prediction even though when the weather turns up bad there is precious little one can do to change it. We can send tracking data to anywhere in the world so that everybody knows exactly where we are. Most donít care but thatís OK, weíll tell them anyway.
The total cost of having all this stuff on your boat could be higher than the cost of many of the boats that people are sailing around the world. Most of us canít afford even half of it. And hereís the point of this thread:
One reads numerous articles in sailing magazines that will have you believe that if you donít have all of these things on your vessel before leaving the dock, you are incompetent, irresponsible and totally uncaring of the well-being and safety of your crew. One gets together with other sailors at safety seminars and they look on in dismay when you tell them ďI donít have AIS and Iím not planning on getting itĒ.
WTF!! Am I the only person that thinks this?
My friends appear to walk wide circles around my boat as if its very existence is unsafe to all those around it. I now have to have this stuff to conform to CAT 1 inspection requirements that would condemn every boat that left the dock in 1995. If I donít, I canít get Custom clearance to leave on a voyage. The fact that I have things like solid handrails all round and a full enclosure for weather protection doesn't count. Itís not electronic. It canít talk to you ergo itís no good.
Iím at a point where I hide sailing magazines from my wife in case she reads about another expensive piece of wizardry recommended by another journo who also probably canít afford it and then she wants to know why weíre not getting one.
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"Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."
Arthur C. Clarke