Thoughts and Such

Thoughts and Such

There is a lot to do when you plan a voyage – and to be honest, once you have done the whole trip (Vancouver to San Diego, San Diego to the Sea of Cortez)…you realize that it is the tip of an iceberg. Now that we are here, all the work we did seems more like play, although it was pretty expensive play! The hard part is over – for now. We are where we want to be and able to travel around as we please, although not to the extent some of the people we have met are able to. But the future as yet is unplanned, and the next step is a big one. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we don’t really know which way we are going yet, but we know it will be somewhere! Meanwhile, the north part of the Sea of Cortez continues to elude us so I think we will have to take a few more stabs at it…with more time, we will get it done!

One of the things that has made all of this possible, aside from preparation, preparation, preparation, is knowledge. When we read the stories of boats (mostly sail) doing some really radical trips, they did those trips in the 60s, 70s, 80s. Sometimes we shake our heads and wonder how they actually did it and survived! But survive they did, probably because to the best of their ability with the knowledge of the time, they were prepared. Yes, Virginia, a sextant and a good clock and a set of charts and oh my, a compass, could get you anywhere. And still can! Ham and SSB radios could give you information, communication, weather – wherever you were. Satellite phones, cell phones, computers, GPS – didn’t exist for the average sailor bent on cruising around the world.

Technology changed, satellites sprouted like flies in the sky, GPS became something anyone could hold in their hand or even wear on their wrist. Computers became chart plotters and radars morphed into full colour pictures detailing everything to the smallest rock or panga. We learn to trust the digital, sometimes to the point we actually forget to look up and see where we are going. But the upside to this is we can have multiple redundancies.

On Northern Ranger II we have glowing screens from one end of our pilot house to the other; mind you, this is an older boat; although we upgraded to the best of our financial ability it still contains some older but dependable technology. But there is redundancy – a couple of iPads loaded with GPS and charts that give as detailed an account of the lay of the land as you could want – two older radars that work just fine – a chart plotter that is easy to read and pretty dependable… and so on. And charts – down in Mexico paper charts have been notoriously unreliable and hard to get. New and relatively up-to-date (and more accurate…) Mexican charts are coming out now, and we have some of them because when it comes time to plan a few days ahead, a chart is a great place to start. The story has always been look at when the information for the chart was first gathered…sometimes, a very long time ago. Using your GPS and checking your charts, you can find yourself a long way from where you thought you were on the chart. Not such a big deal in the open ocean, but down the inside of the Baja there are LOTS of boulders. And some of them are reefs…unseen lurking below the surface. A few metres can make a difference between safe passage and oops. You want to know exactly where you are.

The other thing we have that sailors and cruisers from 40 or 50 years ago didn’t have was up-to-date cruising guides. At any given time, we will have two or maybe all three of the most recent Pacific Mexico guides open, especially when we are coming into a new anchorage. Nothing beats local knowledge and that is what these cruising guides give you. Charlie’s Charts was one of the first, I believe – basic, simple, and packed full of information. It has been updated and there are numerous publications for other cruising needs. Pat Rain’s Mexican Boating Guide adds to this, with personal stories, more great little charts indicating where to go, and lots of photographs. It was a lot of fun having Pat travel with the Cubar gang this year, it felt like we had a living breathing cruising guide with us! Which we did, when you think about it.

One of the newer additions to the guide book realm is the Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer books. Again, first hand detailed knowledge adds a layer of safety and security to cruising that no amount of chartplotters and paper charts can equal. Their books add another layer of information, and we have welcomed each new book as it has been published. We have bought (electronically) the waypoints mentioned in their books and downloaded them onto our Coastal Explorer Navigation program. Pretty cool technology that can give you some peace of mind when you are entering a harbour for the first time surrounded by reefs and rocks (like last night, at Puerto Los Gatos…still couldn’t wrap my head around it so we left, but it’s a great feature).

Of course, all of this is just one facet of the boating adventure. Understanding, maintaining, upgrading, and yes, even fixing your boat while you are cruising is a huge part of the whole process, but I will leave that for another time and perhaps another author.

The important thing is understanding that it is a process, there is always something to think about and to plan, and the more prepared you are, the better life will be: like our favourite astronaut/author says, plan for the worst and everything will just be that much easier. If nothing happens, you just enjoy yourself…if something dire happens, you already knew it was going to happen and you deal with it! (there’s that personality thing again – I mentioned it a few years ago – I am the pessimist and Lawrence is the optimist. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t)…