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Too busy? Leave yourself ashore

Jan 1, 2003

On a recent delivery from Miami to Portland, Maine, the four crewmembers pictured below did an admirable job of steering the vessel, maintaining watch, playing with the sails, checking the multiple systems and keeping Bonne Étoile a generally happy ship. They required very little sleep (accomplished by plugging into one of several 12-volt outlets) and hardly complained, except that the sun was occasionally too bright for their screens to relay important information to the less than perfect members of the crew, the four humans who did their best to stay fed, well rested and in chipper spirits.In the picture are three Mac laptops and an iPaq hand-held email computer - assisted in their efforts by a Globalstar phone, an autopilot paddle rigged to GPS and radar interface, and a mike from a VHF with digital selective calling. The more fallible crewmembers aboard used these devices for constant weather updates from Jenifer Clark’s Gulf Stream analysis service, first for downloading waypoints for the entire voyage and entering them into the GPS. Near shore the iPaq provided easy access to NOAA’s weather pages, and the Globalstar phone, plugged to a laptop, filled this function offshore. A particular thrill was calling in to Clark while four days out - and 180 miles off Cape May, N.J. - to complain that our boat speed had dropped from nearly 11 knots over the bottom to a paltry seven. “You’re out of the Stream. That’s it; you’re on your own now,” came her reply, clearly as if she were calling on a land line from next door. It was like asking for directions at a toll booth.Voyaging while connected by these devices has never been easier. Yet, if you’re so busy that you can’t take the time to go sailing yourself (presumably working to earn money enough to pay for all these things), the only option may be to send your boat to sea without you.