Tech should be at our beck and call... Editor David Pugh welcomes you to the latest issue of Practical Boat Owner magazine.

I recently listened to Remona Aly’s ‘Pause for Thought’ on Radio 2, in which she lamented the passing of the handwritten letter.

I paraphrase, but she said that she used to love the care and craftsmanship that came with the use of pen and ink, and saw the post box as her gateway to the variety and adventure offered by the outside world.

Like many of us old enough to remember a pre-internet world she has embraced the age of email and social media, but not without a pang of nostalgia for a simpler time. Communications have developed beyond recognition and in many ways have made our planet smaller, but at the same time have reduced the strangeness of strange places.

Foreign parts just aren’t as foreign any more. You can book a hotel a thousand miles away with the click of a button and, when you get there, find that the local shop sells everything you can get at home (except decent tea), and people are still calling to sell windows and sort out your unclaimed PPI compensation.

I think that’s why next year’s Golden Globe Race has been received so well. If a re-run had been proposed in the ’80s, the proposer would probably have been laughed out of town.

Technology was the future, Casio’s quartz crystal was clearly superior to Harrison’s balance wheels and with the new GPS system able to give an accurate position in an instant, why on earth would you condemn yourself to pages of calculations to find your lat and long from a bunch of fusty old stars?

Thirty years ago, I suspect few people would have had an answer to that question but now, with electronics and IT so enmeshed in our daily lives that some people seem to be incapable of making it through dinner without checking their Facebook page and with Google knowing more about you than your spouse does, more and more people are starting to kick back.

Tony Smith and his miniature gaffer Shoal Waters, for example, often feature in PBO exploring the Essex coast with little more than a tide table and a sounding pole. The Golden Globe Race takes this to a different level.

Whatever your view, heroes or nutters, those sailors racing around the world next year are certainly in for an adventure.

With no GPS, no communications and no up-to-date weather information, they will be more at one with the sea and sky than most of us find possible on the water these days. They must be on quite some learning curve – many of them are fairly young and have probably never had cause to handle a sextant before – but that’s all part of the experience.

It’s certainly not impossible: given that even the most inapt of midshipmen proved able to learn with the aid of Norie’s Epitome of Practical Navigation and the encouragement of the bo’sun’s cane, I’m sure the incentive of not getting lost will ensure a grasp of spherical trigonometry.

I wish them all the very best of luck, and when they depart in June next year there will be a part of me that wishes I was out there too. It’s not that I’m a Luddite – I’m afflicted with the classically male affinity for the latest gadget – but I think it’s our responsibility as people to remain masters of our technology and not become slaves to it.

Switch off GPS and destroy the internet and those competitors will neither know nor care. There’s something quite refreshing about that.

Out there, the oceans will teach them self-reliance, courage, common-sense, ingenuity and perspective – all essentially human qualities, impossible to synthesise, to fake or to learn from Google.

Fair winds,
David Pugh

David Pugh, PBO editor

David Pugh, PBO editor

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Here’s a full list of the March 2017 issue’s contents

Metal fatigue and how to spot it: Detection with penetrant dyes

PBO Tested – Multifunction instruments: The latest displays compared

PBO Project Boat 2 – Scarf joints and stringers: The Secret 20’s lines become evident

Winterising an engine: Preparing a Yanmar 2GM20

PBO Boat Test – Botnia Targa 30.1: The first brand-new Targa
to be built in five years

Avoiding piracy: Safe sailing offshore

Repairing a gearbox: A Standfast 43 loses drive in astern

Installing an autopilot: Upgrading the autopilot on a Seadog

How to optimise a traditional junk rig: The evolution of the junk with jiblets

Cutting-edge tech from Torqeedo: The Tesla motors of the sea?

Nautical know-how: How to maximise your night vision

From pan-pan to paperwork: A reader’s almost insoluble conundrum

34-36ft cruisers: Some craft set to take part in 2018’s Golden Globe Race

Purton Hulks: Gloucestershire’s maritime graveyard

MV Havengore: The story of an ex-PLA vessel and Churchill’s last passage

Harbour-hopping the English Riviera: Around the coastal ports and harbours of East Devon in a 22ft harbour launch

Portavadie’s phoenix rising: A marina arises from the ruins of a failed government oil rig project

Fixing a cabin spotlight switch: for under a fiver

Measuring shroud tension: PLUS more reader projects and tips

How to stop sheets snagging on standing rigging: Hints and tips from the PBO Sketchbook


Waiting for the tide: The editor’s welcome to this month’s PBO – sign up for PBO’s free monthly e-newsletter at:

‘Mad about the Boat’ columnist Dave Selby: Love on the rocks?

Columnist Sam Llewellyn: Thank heavens for dry wit

Monthly musings from Andrew Simpson: Chain reactions

PBO products and services: Books and plans from the PBO shop

New regular chandlery offers

News: Appeal to find abandoned yacht, Marina of the Year award winners… and more

Regional news: Aberystwyth Marina works completed, Colin Jarman tribute… and more

New regular chandlery offers

Readers’ letters: Your views

Ask the experts: Leaking teak decks, calorifier heat loss, and more reader queries answered

New gear: PBO looks at the latest marine products