Smarter sailing ... the editor's welcome to the February issue of Yachting Monthly
Would you go to sea without paper charts? Of course not, you cry, sensibly. Being able to navigate safely in the event of electrical failure is crucial, but charting technology is moving on at such a pace that it does raise the possibility of leaving paper behind for good.
Most of the ARC skippers we spoke to, setting off across the Atlantic this winter, are relying almost entirely on electronic navigation (p40), using multi-function displays with charts updated via the internet. If they lose battery power, they have generators. In the event of a complete meltdown, their crews carry smartphones and tablets, all with charting software and GPS capability, backed up with portable powerbanks. That’s a lot of redundancy.
Of course, the GPS system could go down, and if you don’t have the new kit that gives you access to the Glonass and Galileo satellite networks, then you might have to plot your position manually, but that too could be done on a screen rather than paper.
Few of us, however, would give up our pencil and dividers. Good seamanship dictates having a back-up for everything and paper gives us ‘resilience’, albeit as emergency equipment rather than a primary source of navigation. In which case, perhaps we should look at what charts we carry and how we update them.
At the other end of the spectrum, augmented reality is now, well, a reality, as is navigation with aerial drones (p44). Being able to point a camera at the horizon, as the phone or MFD screen pinpoint the correct AIS targets and channel markers, is pretty mind-blowing stuff. We’ll see if it catches on.