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.
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: http://emails.timeincuk.co.uk/YBW_webcross
‘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
In 1968, the original Golden Globe Race was widely regarded as ‘a voyage for madmen’. But where does that leave…
Brain power is still best for calculating weather, wind and tidal information, says Dick Everitt
Tacking inside a ‘cone’ can help you to harness changes in wind direction, explains Dick Everitt.
Lone Australian yachtsman Shane Freeman has set sail on a 14,500-mile voyage to England in order to compete in the…
14 traditional pilotage tips to help you obtain and maintain a fix of your position
Has Navtex been superseded by smartphones and the internet, or does it still have a role in modern sailing?
Why make heavy going in choppy conditions when a less demanding alternative heading will get you to your destination in…
Dick Everitt explains how you can get a little lift from the tide
Simple step-by-step chartwork can show us when we’ll need to tack to clear a headland, says Dick Everitt.
GPS will keep us on the straight and narrow by constantly showing how much we need to adjust our heading…
Breton Plotters are simple to use in practice, but tricky to explain on paper – it’s much easier if you…
GPS is not infallible, so it makes sense to know the basics of shaping a rough ‘course to steer’ on…
'It’s easy for any sailor to remember how to draw tidal vectors with a handy little aide-mémoire!' Says Dick Everitt.…
PBO contributor Alan Watson reports on the Innovation in Maritime Navigation conference, hosted by the Royal Institute of Navigation at…