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 cant 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.

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 cant 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.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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