Voyage of Egret Forums
Brenda, Shermans Dale, PA asks:
I have followed the Nords since the 2004 Atlantic crossing. I read your columns all the time, in magazines and in this forum. I am always checking to see where you are located at this time. I have traveled by air to many countries and absolutely love it. Last year we bought our first ocean going vessel and ventured out and landed in a storm. My husband and I were exhausted and glad it is over, but we are ready to go again. What would you suggest for a laptop and I see you use Nobeltec, Max Sea and c-map. What is the best way to learn these programs? Are there classes available to teach you how to coordinate these with the other electronics? I am trying to tie everything together. Do you use your single side band much on your trips? And do you carry a chart printer? I do all our navigation and I just want to get better at it.

Scott Flanders from Egret responds:
Brenda, as strange as it may sound, we use but the most basic electronic navigation tools available. We started off cruising using Nobeltec software and early Map Tech charts. Our handicap has always been we are barely computer literate. Our vocations required different skills. Early on our greatest fear was a computer glitch of some kind and would leave us lost as to how to fix it. We are beyond most of that now but I will say it was quite a handicap. These days we use C-Map charts and Max Sea software. Nobeltec has bought C-Map and Furuno has bought Max Sea to use in conjunction with C-Map. Navigation software today is way beyond our current skills with all the functions they perform. We lay out our simple courses and change waypoints manually. We enter the course change into the autopilot manually. We double check everything. This simple routine has worked all these miles.

We have always used middle range Toshiba laptops and they have served us well. This past year we bought two refurbished high end Dell computers with Windows Xp to add to our stable of redundant laptops. We have three laptops in the pilothouse, two running while at sea. All three have navigation software and charting plus ocens e-mail/weather software. If you read thru these words you'll still see a ghost of paranoia lurking in the shadows. For these reasons we keep an embarrassing number of navigation laptops at hand as well as GPS's.

We had an early, very old (windows 98) navigation laptop fail. When I took it in to the show the tech asked if we dropped it in salt water. We didn't of course but it was exposed to salt air. Today we use blue tape to tape over any ports into the computer we aren't using. We also use an aftermarket laptop base that has cooling fans mounted underneath to help cool the bottom of the laptop.

Bottom line here is it is best you find a local boater who has reasonable computer skills to give advice, not ourselves.

Egret has an Icom M710 SSB radio. It has been a disappointment since new. Twice we have hired 'experts' to try and find why it doesn't receive well or transmit well. We took no installation shortcuts and both times the technicians didn't find anything wrong. SSB's gives you a link to the cruising community. There are SSB nets all over the world where sailboaters keep in touch as they cross oceans and so on. We would like to be part of this community but haven't been able to. When trying to transmit at sea the RF lights every indicator light in the boat as well as kick out the autopilot. For us, its just not worth having a RF induced problem to even try to use it. If we could get a piece of matching formica to replace the original we would take out the SSB and send it on its way in a flea market. In fact, thinking about it that would be a good winter project.

Lastly, if you got caught in a storm coastal cruising whose fault is that? Weather forecasting today is excellent. Schedules are what compromise weather. In the big picture, yes you were uncomfortable but you survived. Your storm was a simple learning process. The same thing happened to us early on. I would recommend going out in weather and learning how your boat handles in different seas. Start with smallish waves and slowly increase the wave size as weather, your time and comfort (mental) permit. Run the boat in every direction, BOTH of you, and discuss the changes. You will be surprised how fast you will become acclimated to weather in case you get caught out again. None of us like weather at sea. However, weather happens on occasion. What is important is you know nothing lasts forever, you will be safe and this too will pass.

Congratulations on your positive attitude. We're sure you will be 'out here' some day.