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Do You Trust Your Electronics?

Captain Chris Yacht Services
Do You Trust Your Electronics?
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Your boat talks to you. Did you know that? But sometimes we aren't really listening.

Sure, we have the latest in vessel communications. Some of us can even check our boat when we are thousands of miles away using one of the many computer apps that allow us to monitor our boat when we cannot be aboard. But as the saying goes garbage in, garbage out.

(Before you stop reading or go so far as to call me a technophobe please invest a few more moments and I promise you will see the value of your consideration. At least scroll through the photos below before you totally give up.)'re still here! Thanks for the vote of confidence.  

First, you must understand the basics of the electronic technology. What do you want to accomplish? Do you really know the limits of each piece of equipment?

Having a fundamental comprehension of navigation for example is essential before you ask for waypoints around the follow like a road map. Yes, we have been asked that very question as we attempt to teach the basics of navigation to a novice who believes everything he reads.

Following the magenta line on a chart plotter will at some point lead you astray. Your equipment may be top of the line in accuracy but it's not always that accurate as some of these photos below will show you.

And then there are the gauges, notorious for failure in many marine applications. My favorite is the black water holding tank that goes from 1/2 empty to FULL in one flush. But it's a 40 gallon tank you say. 

Next, try to ascertain what is being measured and from where on the engine or tank. Before you trust the information you must first be certain that it has been installed properly and is giving you accurate information. A terrific example of this is when you think you are pulling from one tank and can't understand why you have a list to the other side. Did you know that unused diesel fuel is returned to your fuel tank? Just not always the same one from which you are pulling fuel in the first place. 

Trust but verify! Ask Captain Chris about the FUNdamentals of Cruising and how to understand all your Boat Systems. So when your boat can listen and hear what's really being said.  

Your chart plotter tells you that your boat is on land when your depth sounder shows 13 feet...and you are floating.
Ever heard of quilting? In the chart plotter terminology it means two charts have been placed one over the other. Unfortunately, at certain zoom levels one shows more/less detail than the other. Makes for some quick adjustments while underway.
Which screen should I believe? The GPS shows me aground yet the RADAR has me smack in the middle of the channel. Good thing I have these two side by side instead of an overlay. That would be really confusing!
Confusing like this...this RADAR overlay shows the islands but not the NavAids which are marked on the chart plotter. The yellow blobs (RADAR) covering the islands are quite similar in shape to the chart plotter. Maybe the NavAids are gone?
Enough about GPS. Let's look at the water tank gauge. It shows we still have some water but nothing comes out of the faucets. Take a look at the next photo and you will see why...
That's why! The pickup tube is located a few inches ABOVE the bottom of the tank. So we will NEVER get to use all our water. That's quite a few gallons we were sure we had but can never use.
Brand new boat with new electronics show negative 1.2 feet. A temporary install of another depth sounder, complete with blue tape, got us to our final destination while we watched the original sounder bounce between bad numbers and a black screen.
We love this disclaimer: It's not our fault that you don't have the latest update.
When all else fails, a clear understanding of your location DOES help. Writing your Lat/Long, time, speed and other considerations while on watch supports you when the technology fails...and it will. But it's cool to use while it works!
And then there's this: All boats tied to the dock but still have their AIS transmitting.  Lovely clutter that means nothing and potentially will obscure something important. Too much to interpret and no value.

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