The Cruising Life: Women’s Perspectives. Part 7: Technology Must Haves

In this day and age, technology is everywhere. Access to some things, like the internet, for example are harder to come by in some places. Electronics can break down quickly in the salt air. A lot of us are bloggers or even work online to keep the cruising kitty full. So for this week’s question:

Technology stuff: What would you consider crucial for YOUR cruising life? Why?

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Abyni @AbynisYoutube I’d have to say that the two most important things are 1) my ipod, because if I didn’t have the ability to listen to music, or message with my friend back on land, I’d probably lose my mind. 2) My laptop is pretty nice to have. I don’t have internet, of course, but I can download tutorial videos to learn new music or techniques on the guitar and that’s how I spend most of my free time! Oh, and probably our video camera, since that’s what I use to make videos for my YouTube Channel.

 

Alexandra @SVBanyan We use a few different systems and apps and are plenty pleased with their performance. And truly, they are all specific to what you like/don’t like, type of computer you have etc.  So will sway away from those discussions and say instead that we are both absolutely thrilled with our Wirie (wifi router/booster). In all of the anchorages in all of our four years of cruising, it has worked beautifully. Living this lifestyle is awesome but one of the downsides is finding that wifi connection. Although that connection can be slow at times (compared to what we’re used to), at least it offered up a signal on the boat without having to go ashore every time.

 

Barb @HartsatSea 

i. AIS radio. Ours was purchased too many years ago when the US Coast Guard suggested that private boats should not transmit. Bad idea. We will correct that before leaving. At least we were able to contact container and cruise ships to negotiate safe passage. They now expect every boat to transmit AIS and are not watching radar. That’s pretty scary.
ii. Pactor Modem and SSB. For weather and the opportunity to at least communicate via short email messages. I could actually submit short blog posts from sea via the Pactor. We got weather information, communicated with Chris Parker, and kept in touch with other cruisers through the SSB.
iii. Multiple pcs and the iPad and the navigation software on each of them
iv. During the last year of the five, I finally got phone cards and hot spots to work and that let us communicate via email without taking the laptop to shore. Now that we are in St. Augustine for a couple of years, that has become vital.

 

Barb @SVMelindaKay My cellphone with unlimited data – we have TMobile

 

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Carla @SVMahi Most essential technology on Mahi relate to boat safety, weather, communication and navigation.  We added AIS (send and receive) and a new Garmin Chartplotter (in addition to OpenCPN running on 2 lap tops.  The iridium Go! Coupled with our PredictWind subscription allow us to see four weather forecasting models a week out.

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We also added a new EPIRB, individual AIS PLBs, and a Handheld inReach PLB, which also allowed us to text during the hurricane when cell and internet were out.  This is backup to the Iridium Go!, which pairs with your smartphone to make calls.  Also have 3 VHF radios, plus an SSB  for additional communication capability. Oh yes, a radar, too.

For navigation, besides the Garmin Chartplotter and Open CPN, we also have good old fashion paper charts and local guidebooks.   Redundancy is a good thing on a sailboat when you need it.

Carly @SVSaltyKisses A watermaker. With 3 kids we would have to do water runs every week. We already felt like our lives were based around where to get food and how to get there without a tantrum and our wallets intact. A watermaker takes one more chore off the table.

CJGrabens @SVRagnarok Technology: we used my iPhone with seaiq and active capt to navigate so far. I do keep up a blog, so my computer and video camera (it broke, have another on the way) are important. And we just did a big safety upgrade. We got an epirb and a vhf with ais and dsc built in. And I guess our solar panels are technology? The technology that powers the technology lol. I would LOVE a water maker and maybe a designated chart plotter and a fridge but they’re on the maybe one day list.

Cheri @SVConsort  Reasonably regular Internet connections to keep track of family. And our B&G chart plotter. Love it!


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@MakeLikeanApeMan  GPS – I just don’t know how anyone ever sailed without GPS.

Jenny @SVRocketScience  I have a Garmin GPS watch. It makes me feel like I have to workout, and it doesn’t let me slack because I get into a competition with myself while wearing it. Because it is so easy to get lazy when you can’t work out in the space you live (our boat really doesn’t offer any space for exercising).

 

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Katy @SVKlickitatII VHF radio, EPIRB or similar, SSB radio, computer/tablet with navigation software, cell phones, GPS/chart plotter, and AIS. Some of the above are critical for safety, some like the SSB have a safety and informational (weather, etc.) component but has also been great for building community, and the computer and cell phones are good either for entertainment or communication/information (when within range.) I can’t imagine boating without the electronic charts on the GPS. Just realized I forgot the auto-pilot – a must-have for long distances. Our wind vane has steered us through seas we were glad not to be hand-steering through (following seas, which flummox the auto-pilot) so it joins the list as well. We’ve only had the AIS one season, but when approaching the shipping lanes near the Panama Canal, we were most grateful to have it.

 

Kerry Preston I loved our Bullet – it was a wifi aerial at the top of our mast – it allowed us to access wifi via cafes or yacht clubs. We also had a 3G modem to access internet, I also loved our satellite phone to keep in touch whilst on passage – SSB radio also a must to get weather updates, grib files, emails and contact family and friends. In the final year we also purchased ipads with anchor watch and charts – made for a complete back up system to our Furuno chartplotter, which had previously failed on our first passage from Capetown to Antigua. Goes without saying you need an unlocked mobile phone…purchase SIM cards from different countries you visit.

 

Laura @FortunesAfloat Having cruised with and without it, I would consider the chartplotter to be our most crucial piece of equipment. Close behind that is the autopilot, depth sounder, refrigeration, solar panels, water maker, and smart phone. Notice I didn’t mention radar, SSB, air conditioning, or Spot?

 

Liza @SVInspiration When we bought our boat it had only been used as a day-sailer, with very little in the way of electronics and systems. This served us well as it was a “blank canvas” – a bonus when buying a fixer upper. We added AIS – to both receive and transmit – which we love, because it’s not only useful to us on board, it also allows friends to track us and our movements: a handy feature. We have a chart plotter with backup paper chart most of the time. Of course, we have a VHF radio. Other than that, we don’t have too many gadgets. We check weather ashore when we have wifi.

This is probably a good time to explain that we have very few automatic systems on our boat. My husband believes that the more systems on board, the more there is to break, and then to fix, only to eventually break again. At first, being new to this, I had no choice but to follow my husband’s minimalistic ways. It didn’t take long to fully understand his logic. Going into our fourth year in the Caribbean, we cross paths with many cruisers who always seem to be making repairs, or seeing to the upkeep of their various “high tech” systems. Hey, I’m not saying that we don’t have stuff that breaks! Of course we do! But I’ve learned that my hubby’s concept has merit. 

So take fresh water for example: we do not have a water maker. Instead, we catch rain water, or fill jerry cans ashore at a water spigot (which is typically ‘free’, or in exchange for a donation to the community). In three years of cruising we’ve only spent about $300 USD on water compared to the thousands of dollars a water maker would have initially cost. Although we have pressurized water, I stick to our manual foot pump which saves tremendously on water consumption, power usage, and the wear and tear of the electric pumps. 

Realizing that many cruisers out there want to feel the comforts of “home” while living a life on the water, I understand why they choose to have numerous automatic systems to make their lives easier. We just choose to view it from another angle: Less repairs and upkeep mean more time to enjoy ourselves, explore new places, and have fun.

Having fewer systems makes my cruising life, perhaps, a bit more of a challenge, but one that I accept, and now appreciate fully.

 

Melinda @BurnettsAhoy Good Wi-Fi, or at least cheap SIM cards!  Not all people who cruise want to be loner nomad hermits.  Also, our microwave and the power to run it.  I have trouble remembering to take stuff out of the freezer to defrost it!  Wetsuits for the whole family.  Skinny kids get cold!

 

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Melinda Taylor The phone apps available now. Navionics, weather apps and the fabulous Ovitalmap, which has allowed me to take the boat into places I wouldn’t have thought possible.

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Melissa @SVSlowDancing  The most important technology for me is the ability to stay in touch with our family anytime, anywhere using whatever device you need based on your location.

Sarah Gayle  ipad pro and ipencil – as an artist, a big concern initially was what mediums could I take and easy use/store on the boat.  I had resisted going digital, having been trained in a very classical way, but so many other boat related tools were available for an iPad (totally our perfect chart plotter, tide charts, timer, alarms, and of course contact to others.) it seemed like the time to try it for my art too and it turned out to be the perfect solution.

Sarah @YoginiSailor I guess my iPhone since that is how I communicate with family and friends. I really don’t miss technology so am happy to leave it behind!

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Susie @Wanderings  Sat phones for weather forecasts when at sea; it gives a sense of security when you know what’s coming and can prepare in advance for bad weather.

Stacey @SVSmitty I could not live without internet access in order to stay on top of weather.  We also heavily relied on it for accessing up to date info on shoaling and other issues when we traveled down the ICW last year. Lastly, I don’t think I would be able to still be out here doing this without internet access to keep in touch with friends & family.

Tammy
@ThingsWeDidToday The iPad has been our most valuable piece of equipment.  It is my life!  While they say that you should not depend upon electronics for navigation…it has never let us down.  We use the Garmin app and so far it has been surprisingly accurate.  I use the companion app to our Delorme inReach tracker for sending out texts via satellite and I use the iPad for creating electronic logs and statistics using MotionX GPS HD. The best thing about the later iPad models is that they will accept a SIM card wherever we go.  We can buy a local prepaid data plan for Internet access, which is invaluable for planning and information gathering about the islands we visit.  You must have the iPad with cellular capability in order for the internal GPS to work.  You can buy one without a cellular plan and buy a prepaid data plan in the US and in other countries.  But even with no active data plan, the previously downloaded iPad apps and charts will work far from any cellular tower… out in the ocean!

Byn @OhSailYes

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Technology is a big part of our cruising life. A large part of the reason I personally wanted to do the liveaboard cruising life was because I wanted to create a YouTube channel and learn video editing skills. Cruising is my husband’s passion, but my passion is more on the creative side. I LOVE being able to create our own little “reality show” channel and track our progress on this adventure. Looking back on photos and home movies has always been something I really REALLY enjoy, so that is my passion on this journey.

So my answer might not be typical, but I consider good camera gear to be essential to accomplish what we want to do (we use our phones Motorola Droid Max & Samsung Galaxy S5 a LOT for both photos and video, a Canon T3i DSLR and a cheaper Canon video camera that is mostly used by Abyni for her YouTube videos), I especially love underwater capable video cameras (We do have a generic GoPro-esque camera, but the Olympus Tough is the BEST underwater camera we’ve ever had. I can’t wait to replace ours that got broken by a slightly too rambunctious teenager).

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This was taken with the Olympus Tough TG-4

 

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In addition, good editing software is a MUST for me. I’ve tried the free programs and they just don’t cut it for what I want to create… and in the future I’d really like to make short films and amazing music videos with Abyni, so I feel like this is a good way to learn to use the editing programs. I use Adobe Premiere Pro for editing. AND in addition, a good, solid laptop for video editing. I currently have a Lenovo Edge 15, but we are planning to upgrade soon and gift this laptop to my middle daughter, who also does YouTube. I need something with a better battery life, so that I can work for more than 20 minutes after the solar is done for the day!

That being said, I’m sure my husband would have a different answer, because his techie stuff is all sailing related and probably more relevant to most cruisers than mine.

On the actual SAILING side of things, the Delorme Inreach was a SANITY SAVER. When we had the catastrophe, our sails fell off in the middle of nowhere (and the starter was DEAD), we couldn’t reach anyone on the VHF for a long while. The Delorme allowed us to reach our towing company AND send messages to our kids. That was SUCH a relief and I would NEVER want to be without it!!! We also were able to change our plan during Hurricane Matthew so that Patrick could keep in touch with us back in the US just in case cell service went out. Yet again, SUCH a relief to have!!! I consider that to be absolutely ESSENTIAL.

Editor’s Note:

A lot of cruising women were awesome enough to contribute to this blog series about women who are living/lived the cruising life. Whether they’ve been cruising for 6 months or 30 years, these are the perspectives of various women from different parts of the world. I know I’m already learning from their stories, I hope you can learn something new as well! I’ll be posting a question from this series every Wednesday and Friday for the 10 week series, so keep an eye out for our posts! The topics range in topic from typical cruising questions, to more personal anonymous stories that might make you feel like you’ve met a kindred spirit.

If you are a current or former cruising woman and would like to contribute to future posts, please email me at bynsfb@gmail.com with the subject line “Cruising Questions from Byn” and I’ll send you the list of questions. Answer as many as you like and return with a few photos and I’ll add your contribution as we go!

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