Next to the catamaran vs. monohull discussion, the debate about old school navigation skills vs. electronic chart plotters and digital weather prediction gadgets is probably next in line.
Here’s the debate.
One group (include me in this group) argues that you need to learn and know how to navigate your boat without any electronic instruments. You need to understand how to use a sextant and have a relatively good knowledge of weather systems, including cloud formations and other interesting (potentially life-saving) stuff.
The other group argues that anyone with an iPad and an excellent electronic chart plotter can set sail and offer a supporting argument that having 2 of each gadget on board and plenty of batteries or charging possibilities provides enough redundancy.
I think the latter group couldn’t be more wrong. Let me clarify that point; I couldn’t be more wrong when you go bluewater, ocean crossing sailing. For your weekend and coastal sailing, no knowledge of celestial navigation and total reliance on software weather updates “should be fine.”
However, if you go long term blue water sailing, my view is you better know what you are doing and can read and interpret paper charts, fix your position with a sextant, calculate speed without your onboard instruments.
Why? Because I think many gadget supporters (don’t get me wrong, I am a huge gadget fan) forget one major issue you can have with that gadget and the information on them: Operating System Failure.
True, most gadgets are pretty sturdy. You can waterproof them and might manage to have plenty of battery power onboard. I won’t mention a lighting strike here, which usually puts all your gadgets to sleep. Still, operating system failure is something millions of Garmin users are experiencing worldwide as I type this.
Garmin servers have been hacked or subjected to ransomware. Either way, millions of users have not been able to update or synchronise their devices. The hack primarily affects users of Garmin wearables, but Garmin also provides marine charts, electronic chart plotters and even aviation software.
Imagine your electronic weather routing and navigation software being exposed to such a software malfunction? You can have as many redundant systems as you want. It just won’t help you if you need to update your GRIB or chart plotter files in the middle of the ocean when you get this message: “Data is not loading, please contact support”
In Garmin’s case, this has been going on for five days. Individual systems are coming back online, but the point I am trying to make is that you should not lose sight of the shore without knowing your primary navigation skills and the idea of weather patterns etc.
Love to hear your view 😉👍🙏