“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.
We just crossed 1000 Nautical miles this morning. The boat has performed perfectly. We are smack in the middle of the Columbia Basin portion of the Caribbean Sea. This position places us as far from land as you can possible be in the Caribbean Sea. The closest safe port at the moment is Cartagena, Columbia at a distance of 254 NM.
Today we found some good Caribbean Weed!
At 12:00 midnight of day 4
of our trip, after 84 hours since our departure, we are out of the Bahamas, through the Windward Passage and have safely skirted around the Island of Navassa. This Island is 40 nautical miles West of Haiti and rises to approximately 50 feet above sea level. It is a US territorial Island that was heavily mined for guano in the late 1850’s
and is now a National Wildlife Refuge. Though not too impressive on land, Navassa Island’s coral diversity and good state of health gives scientists hope for recovery of coral populations throughout this portion of the Caribbean.
It is but a spec on navigational charts that needs to be carefully avoided when traversing the Windward Passage.
The tide prediction charts
are not all in agreement for this area, however our instruments have shown our speed over ground to be about half a knot less than our speed through the water on our Southern leg toward Panama.
The weather so far has been incredibly good through the Windward Passage and “Warbird” handles the 5 foot following seas with admirable stability.
The Caribbean Sea can be a treacherous Lady, but so far she has shown us good favor.
As I finish this short report,
“Warbird” is now at:
A star filled night, a good ship underneath you and exotic destinations ahead,
Who could ask for more!
An expedition yacht like “Warbird” was built for long range open ocean cruising. With full fuel tanks we can cruise thousands of miles without refueling. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to get a push along the way. One of the ways we can increase efficiency is to try and use ocean currents to our advantage.
At 0130 while traveling the North Atlantic, on our way to the Windward Passage, cargo vessel “Palmela” showed herself on radar at 16 nautical miles. She was on a dead head on collision course with “Warbird” at a speed of 21 kts. After radio communication with her Captain, “Palmela made a 2 degree course change to her starboard and “Warbird” made a 6 degree course change to our starboard. This gave us a course separation of 1.5 nautical miles as we safely passed in the night.
The old adage that “two ships in open water are almost sure to be on a collision course” still stands.
We recently installed a new Furuno 3D depth sounder. Today we were able to see the new technology working at it’s best!
The sun has set on the second day of our trip. The winds have eased out of the southeast and the ocean is calm. There is very little moonlight, revealing only a sea of black when looking out of the wheelhouse windows. Even in this reduced visibility we are safely able to operator Warbird with it’s extensive array of navigation equipment.
One of the many tasks crew perform during a trip is to monitor the machinery. Every hour a crew member will perform checks of the engine room to inspect all equipment. We are looking for leaks, noises, vibrations, smells, that might indicate a potential problem.