“We’ve Come A Long Way Baby”
“Second class don’t turn me on at all…”
These are the words from a popular country song by Loretta Lynn, released in 1979. I am going to use these words to express my feelings on how Yachting has evolved.
In my 42 year career (and counting) as a Boat Captain, I have seen pleasure yachting take a quantum leap in technological advances, safety and comfort. Gone are the days of celestial navigation, Taffrail logs and dead reckoning. My first sailboat delivery from Miami, Florida to Cartagena, Colombia was with the help of a Radio Direction Finder (RDF). This was basically a radio that could receive am, and fm signals. Identifying a radio station or LORAN transmitter by it’s Morse code, the operator would turn a directional antenna until the signal disappeared, thus marking the direction of the station relative to the vessel. Triangulating two or three signals on a paper chart would give the operator a fix of plus or minus 25 nm. The release of Loran A then C from military use, gave yachtsmen a new albeit expensive thrust forward in navigation technology. It wasn’t till the late 1970’s that Northstar introduced a marine satellite navigation system that utilized orbital satellites to obtain a fix. There were only one or two orbital satellites at the time and the unit would dead reckon
until the satellite would come above the horizon.
Two to six good fixes per day were the most a navigator could expect. The implementation of fixed orbit satellites in ever increasing numbers, gave us satellite navigation on a steady basis around the clock, “and what a thrill that was!”Our gps navigators today give us a wealth of information with an accuracy of plus or minus inches. A well equipped modern yacht benefits from advances in gyro/hydraulic stabilization, computer controlled monitoring systems that can monitor everything from bilge pumps, engines, generators and water pumps to what doors are ajar anywhere on the vessel. Technological advances in radar give us long and short range clear, crisp and constant color images with multi- target tracking capability and AIS input. Sonar and sounders are now capable of looking farther and deeper and showing us the bottom in three dimensional graphics
with amazing detail. Low light cameras coupled with infrared sensors allow us to see at night. Auto pilots that learn and can compensate for cross track error. Satellite tv, internet and phone communication with virtually no delay, and the list goes on. The pilot house of a modern yacht can be compared to that of a cruise ship and in some ways superior as it can be operated by a single helmsman.
A modern yacht boasts a list of creature comforts that rival the best of five star hotels. Climate control in all zones, multiple entertainment centers, plush, lavish interiors, laundry facilities, a high crew to passenger ratio providing special attention for guests, and in most cases even a private chef.
Columbus would turn in his grave with envy if he could see us now.
Yes, “We’ve Come A Long Way Baby”
Cruising the Oceans of the world in the 21st century is more akin to what we associate with space exploration. It is truly a new frontier.