Getting where we want to go

Navigating Sister from point A to point B generally goes like this:  I plan a route using navigation software on one of the computers on board.  The software I use allows me to view the appropriate nautical charts and to plot a course by pointing and clicking with the mouse.  It is very cool.  
When we leave a port we navigate our way out of the harbor pretty much entirely visually.  Once clear of the harbor I run the same software that I used to plot our course, and basically give it control of the boat.  The computer is connected to the autopilot so the software is able to tell the autopilot what to do.  The computer and autopilot do the steering for us, making course corrections as necessary due to currents, winds and other conditions which tend to push one off course. 
In a perfect world the computer would take us from point A to point B without further input from us. This doesn't happen.  We have to maintain an active watch because the computer doesn't see obstacles such as fishing boats, freighters, fast ferries, passenger ships, other sailboats, ski boats, Coast Guard cutters, fish nets, buoys and all kinds of other stuff that is waiting out there to break a hole in our boat.
One of us is ALWAYS awake and on watch.  With very few exceptions the person on watch is in the cockpit so she can make adjustments to avoid these otherwise "close encounters" of the worst kind .  The exceptions are those times when we are below for no more than a few minutes to answer nature's call or get something to eat or whatever.
Nevertheless the computer and autopilot are one of several systems that make it possible for two people to take the kind of trips that we take.  It is exhausting to hand steer a sailboat for any significant length of time.  We wouldn't leave home without her, ("Wanda the wandering autopilot", that is).

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