Editor’s note: In his most recent Coop’s Corner column, “Analog Digits,” Contributing Editor Joe Cooper asked whether inventions that purport to make sailing easier, such as “electronic sail trim,” are what sailors really need.
This is so correct. When I began sailing it involved me doing things: coordination, timing, analysis, figuring out where I was, and so on. It was pretty low-tech compared to what we have today, but at the time I thought Loran C was awesome and I still had to plot on a paper chart. Fast-forward to plotters and routes and dog knows what else the new electronics provide. I do have an autopilot, but one on which I program the heading, not some GPS. I don’t use routes because I sail and fetch one mark at time and 99.999% of the time I have ample time to set the next waypoint. My electronic ADDs are more or less “crew” for me.
And as I get older and I am not the physical person I was years ago, these crew allow me to sail as I once did. “Allison” the AP steers…I tack the headsail. Her tacks are not perfect, but we are not racing and it hardly matters. Not having to plot and having position awareness on a small, in-cockpit plotter means I don’t have to go below without watch and where I usually sail there are too many boats to do that safely for very long. I have all chain and an electric windlass, with a cockpit remote switch and can anchor effectively singlehanded. Without “Max” the windlass I would be spending lots of money on a chiropractor!
My latest electric crew acquisition is “Millie,” a cordless Milwaukee drill with a winch bit. Millie’s only task is to hoist the main while I tweak Allison keeping us head to wind. Up goes the big Hood main…and then we can sail. I doubt we will see an end to the electronification of sailing…but probably most will take a pass…thankfully. I do expect more digitally-based real time data to become available…currents and wind of the region we sail in, not just the 1,500-foot (more or less) radius around the boat we can see with our naked eyes. I do not want my sailing to be a video game. But then again, I don’t play video games.
Jeffrey Sandor, via email