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    Re: What do offshore recreational navigators really do?
    From: Lu Abel
    Date: 2005 Jun 7, 19:08 -0700

    Peter Fogg wrote:
    > I will, however, take issue with:
    >>... for $1K I could buy four high-quality GPS receivers and a whole lot of
    > As an engineer you might like to calculate the quantity, weight, cost, and
    > keeping quality issues of amassing enough batteries to power handheld GPS
    > receivers over the period needed for an extended passage, along with the
    > difficulties involved in replacing them regularly along the way, in what are
    > the charmingly undeveloped places we sail so far to find. It doesn't stack
    > up.
    It seems to me one fundamental issue is being ignored -- an offshore
    voyager would have no need to keep his GPS receiver running
    continuously.  Briefly turning it on two or three times a day while
    offshore (perhaps more often while making landfall) in all likelihood
    give more and more accurate navigational information than celestial.
    While I have not traveled to truly undeveloped parts of the world, my
    impression is that AA batteries are pretty widely available.   There are
    very few places in the world that are not touched by at least some of
    modern technology (radios, etc) that require batteries.
    > What I really question is the logic here, of addressing the shortcomings of
    > complex technology with more of the same.
    > The cruising lifestyle has been described as one of endlessly repairing
    > pretty well everything that can go wrong in the most inconvenient of places.
    > A couple arrived in Durban, South Africa, in a small and poorly equipped
    > boat. Because it had little to go wrong they soon had it shipshape again.
    > Among the people they met in port were another couple who had been there for
    > a while. This couple had a bigger boat with all sorts of wonderful features
    > - rather too many of which needed repair or replacement. So when the first
    > couple headed off to visit the wildlife parks they asked their new friends
    > to keep an eye on their boat. When they came back, weeks later, they stocked
    > their boat with provisions and water and were on their way. The other couple
    > were still waiting for parts to be forwarded from the United States.
    > Often these threads go places that render the subject lines redundant, but
    > this one is still apt. The answer is: they visit the elephants and giraffes
    > instead of being slaves to their technology.
    The phrase "right sized" technology is apt here.  I wouldn't condemn all
    technology (eg, I do think I'd want 12 volt electricity on my boat
    despite some hard-core cruisers eschewing even that).  On the other
    hand, fancy, unproven (in the sense of "unreliable," not "untested)
    technology will likely enslave its owners.  The trick is figuring out
    when technology has evolved to a point of reliability where it makes
    life easier rather than harder.  I don't think it's fair to condemn all
    technology with a single example (without specifics) of cruisers
    shackled instead of liberated by their technology.
    An excellent example is refrigeration.  Some cruisers condemn
    refrigeration systems as totally unreliable and happily drink their beer
    warm.  On the other hand, I know at least two cruising couples (one who
    have been at it for over five years, the other just starting) who would
    swallow the anchor if they couldn't keep food cold.
    I guess we all have our own tradeoff points around willingness to take
    chances with technology (hassle vs benefit).   Big things like engines
    and fiberglass hulls, little things like refrigeration, anchor
    windlasses, and GPSs.
    Lu Abel

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