|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).