You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know… but you can try. Buying a former charter boat, even one well maintained, you are likely to need some upgrades before any offshore passages. In our case, that is complicated by the fact that we have never completed an offshore passage… just an overnight sail or two in the protection of Penobscot Bay. So we started the research on what we should have for technology resources as we sailed from the BVI to Maine.
Wow has a lot changed in our 9-months of planning. Back in October, 2022, we started to think about communication and trialing technology on short charters in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and then the Bahamas. “They” say you should have backups… so we planned on Iridium Go and Garmin InReach. But then more and more was being published about Starlink working on the ocean despite the legal fine print, so we decided to give it a go. Fantastic! Our son attended remote classes at Northeastern for a week from SVG and then the adults stayed in touch with work obligations in the Exumas. And while some have complained about Elon changing the rules in recent months, just before many cruisers started their journey to the northeast US, I’m actually grateful. Now we do not need to guess if we will have connectivity with the Mobility plan. Need email? No problem. Full weather updates? No problem. Phone calls via Wi-Fi calling. You guessed it. And even enduring the pain as we watched our Celtics losing in the NBA East Finals. So Starlink with Garmin InReach as a solid backup are great. Starlink went down for some inexplicable reason, I used InReach to message key family and friends… and before they could respond Starlink was up again. Pretty amazing for $250 for 50gb and then $2/gb for overages.
Then we had to think about not running into anything at night. We opted to add Vesper’s Cortex M1 with monitoring capabilities (only on US cell networks) and included their handset which allows for AIS monitoring as well as VHF backup. Now we would see other boats and other boats could see us. Our prior boat had the XB-8000, which is probably more than enough for AIS transmitting and receiving, but we like the additional backups provided by the M1.
But not everything you can run into at night transmits AIS… and what about storms? So up the mast we went to add Raymarine Quantum 2 radar with Doppler. Radar displays are not always easy to read but running this display side-by-side with a chart with AIS makes even our least experienced night watch crew member comfortable and confident. And we opted to add a second Axiom+ MFD at the nav station so it was easy to keep an eye on all data both day and night. We’ve played with the phone and iPad app-based interfaces to the Raymarine network but the hard wired components just simply work. And that is great when tracking a 600ft freighter crossing your bow at night.
Add a PredictWind subscription to this technology as well as forecasting from Chris Parker at Marine Weather Center and we feel relatively confident we have access to information we need. I know some of this may seem obvious to seasoned passage makers, but I really appreciated others sharing what they have learned so I could minimize “what I didn’t know”. And a special thanks to the Salty Dawg Association… even though our schedule did not allow us to join a rally, the information posted on the website, the webinars, and the willingness for other members to share their experience has been valuable. Hopefully a nugget here helps someone else shrink the list of items that they did not know before their first passage.