Thursday, March 22, 2012

Charting Our Future

A few weeks back, we had the great treat of a visit from our Sydneysider friends Alex and Diana.  They let slip at one point that they had a complete set of charts for New Zealand, including the New Zealand subantarctic, that they had no use for.  And could we use them?

So, a few days after they had returned home, a very large box arrived at the marina.  With the madness of our annual haulout behind us, we just got around to organizing them yesterday.  And oh, the joy.  The expense of charts means that sailors are in the habit of photocopying each others' charts, and we more often than not find ourselves navigating with black and white copies on unsubstantial photocopy paper.  These charts of New Zealand are the real thing - original, government-produced charts in color, on heavy paper that is a tactile delight to work with.  In the coming months, as our plans for New Zealand and the subantarctic come together, we'll be referencing these charts, bringing our next dream to life on their traceries of shoreline and soundings.

Alisa and I have always navigated with paper charts exclusively, but we find that as the digital revolution plays out in navigation it's getting harder and harder to find other people to trade charts with.  On our first Pacific crossing, in 2008, we found that even if people didn't actually have any charts to trade, they would insist that they had a complete set of paper charts to back up their electronic navigation.  It was considered a taboo of proper seamanship to admit to not having paper backups on board.  But in this last crossing, in 2011, we found that people were much more willing to admit to carrying only a few small-scale paper charts, or none at all.  Not only is the revolution here, but it appears to be nearly complete.

We'll be using electronic navigation ourselves when we set out from Tasmania.  It's just so easy to set up a chart plotter on your laptop, and the benefits are many.  But we remain committed, for the foreseeable future, to having the paper chart for every place we go.  

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