Peace with the Ocean

When out at sea, it is imperative to forget all the typical drives of shore-based land. Schedules, times, dates, they all whither away as you are lulled into the peacefulness of the ocean.

When coastal hopping, even offshore, we used to have our navigation equipment on. We had a route plotted and knew a speed we needed to maintain in order to arrive at the correct tide. We were sailing from one port to another and in a rush to make the passage as quick as possible.

All that changed when we left to cross the Atlantic Ocean. We left the United States from the Lake Worth Inlet and pointed the bow of the boat due East. As soon as the water depth increased to 60 feet, we figured that our chances of bumping into a shoal were nil, so we turned off all of our navigational equipment.

It felt so weird to turn off the chart plotter, a screen that was always illuminated is now dark and blank. For the past three thousand miles, that screen has told us where we are, where we are going, how fast we are moving, our coordinates, and our battery voltage. Now it stands there quietly as a ghost that it once was.

Why turn it off you may be wondering? Simple, the unit draws a lot of electricity, and that power could be better used to run the fridge or power our navigational lights.

It's not that we are floating around aimlessly in the ocean with no clue where we are. Instead, we use other methods of determining these facts. For instance, our location is found at local apparent noon, when the sun is directly overhead and we can sight it with the sextant. I plot our sighting position and compare it to the GPS readout on our radio. This lets me know how far we have traveled from noon to noon, as well as tests my skill with the sextant.

For direction, we have the compass. For our course, we know we want to move east, so we simply aim the bow at good weather that is located east of us. As we cross the ocean, the weather will change and we will alter course to keep in the good graces of the weather raging around us.

While it is nice to know how fast you are going and if a sail change or trim improved your speed, but the truth is, it doesn't really matter. Simply trim so that the bubbles go past your boat as quickly as possible and then sit back to relax. At the next noon sighting, you will know what your distance made good was that day and how fast your average speed was.