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* The Raymarine `Chart-Plotter' that came with SV Tsunami ... 2004 *

This is my most valuable piece of equipment aboard, just eclipsing the `Auto Pilot’. The system links to a Global Positioning System (GPS), which has the amazing capacity to pick up electronic signals from 8/10 satellites overhead … and the machine on board then calculates to within about 3-6 meters, the exact location of your craft anywhere it may be on the face of this planet!  How about that?  (Like a sat-nav in a car only better?)

The attributes of the system are many and I don’t mind admitting at this time I’ve only learnt about 15% of what the system is capable of.  For those who have no idea at all what an `Electronic Charting System’ is, I will attempt to explain. 

The system is an electronic version of paper charts which outline in great detail the contours of a coastline, the varying depths of water, locations of islands and reefs etc.  Very roughly it takes approximately 250-300 charts to plot the coastline of Australia … and each chart cost $30.00.  I’ll let you work it out but that comes to a lot of $$$ … and where does one store 300 charts of about 1000X750mm in size?

* The swallows seem to think they own everything on the yacht .. that's OK, until they turn in the other direction an `shit-on-the-screen!! *

The Electronic Charting System has the identical data on 4 discs (about 20X20mm each) and displays the data on a monochrome (green) screen …  (some rich people have colour screens) in my system about 80X60mm, with an image of the location of the yacht `blinking’ and superimposed over the electronic chart!  Therefore, the system will tell me `exactly’ where the yacht is in relation to the coastline and all obstacles around me!  Not bad eh?  It does a lot more besides and I am slowly trying to take it in.  The brain can only absorb so much before it stalls and says … `enough’ already!

My latest assault on the set up is to learn how to use the Routeing System which allows me to construct an electronic trail on the chart, which when engaged … and linked to the Auto Pilot will automatically steer the yacht along the trail I have made.  Sounds fantastic doesn’t it … and it is!  Must admit it has taken many hours of reading complicated manuals, plus trial and error, to get it all together.   Erica, Cousin Elaine and Geoff experienced some of the wild rides, during this process. 

Just yesterday I plotted a route across Lake Macquarie and the system worked to perfection, taking the yacht along the planned route, exactly.  Hooray!   A note of caution … you must always be on lookout of course, as your planned route may take the yacht through a moored fishing boat or similar solid object, with unimaginable consequences!!  

But apart from that, it’s very smart and an enormous time saver.  At every way-point an alarm sounds and the skipper must give permission to the system to continue, by pressing a button.  This is a safe-guard to force the skipper to look around to ensure the path is safe and clear before giving the system the go ahead to continue! 


This system comes in a very, very, close 2nd to the `Chart Plotter’ system as the most valuable system on board.  Though I sail alone (one-up) very frequently, I have to admit I couldn’t do it without the assistance of the auto-pilot … it’s the equivalent of having another person on board willing to work 24 hours a day, without complaint and capable of sailing a straighter course than any human being.  And they don’t have to be fed and watered! 

* The `Auto-Pilot (the grey ring bolted to the steering wheel) takes orders from the Chart-Plotter and automatically steers to a point I nominate!! Just GREAT! *

The wonderful relationship the Auto Pilot has with the Chart Plotter makes it ever more valuable with every new trick I learn about the two systems.  Coming into Cape Hawke Harbour, I was able to tell them both to `Go-to’ a point just off the Cape, from 15 miles away … and the boat was automatically steered straight to that point!!  Magnificent!  

Sailing can be really tough! 


Anchored in Cape Hawke Harbour, Forster-Tuncurry (two towns which had their names linked) in a narrow channel with fast flowing tidal waters, an annoying vibration started up that was new to me.  I got out of bed twice, say, 11:30, 01:00 … and finally 03:00 to finalise this matter once and for all.  It proved to be the tidal waters creating a vibrating effect on the `bridle’ attached to the anchor.  I can hear your mind buzzing … asking yourself … what the hell is a bridle?  Catamaran yachts, because of their wide beam (width of yacht) as opposed to a narrow beam on a mono (single hull yacht) swing at anchor much more than a mono.  This can cause some discomfort if the yacht swings side-on to the breeze.  A bridle is a type of yoke, or `V’ shaped rope leading from the bows (pointy ends) of each hull and attaching to the anchor chain 3-4 metres out from the bows … and reduces the swinging effect dramatically. 

* The anchorage at Forster-Tuncurry is a narrow fast-moving channels, with sandbar, with Pelicans! *

Now where was I with the Black Night drama?  All right … when leaning over the front crossbeam, (the large 300mm diameter aluminium beam which connects the two hulls) through the lifesaver lines, in pitch darkness (apart from my Dolphin torch) to inspect the bridle … my big head caught on a line and my `Timberland’ spectacles, with titanium rims, multifocal lenses, with auto tinting and scratch free glass, were ripped from my face and dropped into the 4 knot tidal waters … never to be seen again by human eyes, maybe the occasional fish will scratch it’s head at this strange inedible item on the seafloor.   $500.00 into the briny!  A very `Black’ night which left me with a very `Black’ feeling for the rest of the day … and onwards.  Plus, how does one see clearly now?

* This Boy had a MUCH WORSE day than me! The Skipper badly mis-judged the strong current … which swept the yacht under the bridge! *


Replacing the glasses in Brisbane proved to be a $560.00 exercise … too much for a moment’s inattention!!  These glasses will have a cord from each ear piece from which will be hanging a small float.  Really, these are on the market and this customer has been `given’ one by OPSM!



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