Plotting Your Escape in the Age of Satcom


I wanted to try a little experiment this week. Something safe, with little risk of getting hurt. Something I could do while drinking coffee and listening to Puccini . . . or the Rolling Stones . . . or Mumford and Sons. Something on the Internet.

It got off to a bad start. I dropped in on one of those Internet forums where angry people wait to spring on innocents like me. The deeper I dug, the angrier they got. I can’t remember what the source of vitriol was-something about a television star Id never heard of, but the anger was contagious. I started shouting at my LCD. And then my 8-year-old son asked me if I wanted to go outside and throw the football.

Thats the nice thing about the Internet, you can always switch it off. Out of sight, out of mind.

Plotting Your Escape in the Age of Satcom

The experience came to mind as I began working on this issue. Our article on satellite communication struck a nerve. Do I really want to be in touch with all my Facebook friends, all the time? Do I really need to be available 24/7, or leave a trail of breadcrumbs showing every place Ive been?

People often mistake me for a Luddite. Sure, my wife and I cruised for years in a wooden ketch built before World War II, but we were young and broke, and it was the only boat we could afford that was up to the task. On our most recent cruise, I spent more time playing with an iPad than I ever imagined I would.

Ill admit that electronics are not my toy of choice. When it comes to technology, I prefer machines-things with gears and springs that spit oil and grease. The wimpy aesthetics of silicon wafers rub me the wrong way. I need to get over it; I know. I live in a world full of gizmos, and gizmos are good for all kinds of things.

But what happens when you can’t push the World Wide Rant out of sight, or out of mind? What happens when youre anchored in the Jumentos Cays, where the water is so clear that youd swear it was air; its sunset, and the sky is turning a surreal shade of pink, and youre . . .waiting for the latest numbers from Wall Street, . . . or texting a friend of a friend?

I still get real letters written on real paper from readers. (They come in envelopes with stamps.) A while back, I got one from a reader in Maine who was looking for an article that we published about five years ago. I looked for his email address, so I could send him a PDF or the link to the article online. And then I saw further down the letter, I don’t have a computer. Good for him, I thought.

I found the article he wanted and put it in an envelope. I thought about including a letter reminding him that with a computer, he could have instant access to our archives online, read my riveting blog, download our new e-books, etc. Instead I just scrawled along the margins of the page: Dont bother getting a computer. Theyre overrated.

Sometimes, I think all these gadgets are made for people who speak a different language than me-IMHO.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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