This story is somewhat embarrassing to admit but it demonstrates a very important lesson; with so much technology available today it’s easy to ignore the obvious! It also highlights that if a moron like me can set sail around the world, anyone can do it!
First let me set the scene in regards to relying on a plotter (GPS navigation system)
Our plan was to sail from Santa Maria de Lucia, Italy to Palaiokastrita, Corfu in Greece. The journey was estimated to take about 12 hours. We left our anchorage at 2am so to give us ample time to find a mooring in Corfu in the daylight. My husband and cousin got up while I stayed cozy in bed. Around 7am I took over and enjoyed a fantastic sail all by myself. It was bliss to be alone with the open sea all around me. It was also the first time I sailed our boat alone – yikes!
The weather was overcast, the seas were flat and the journey was quiet
Fortunately there was enough wind to have both sails out and achieve around 4 knots.
At one point I had two tankers lined up to eventually cross my bow. I couldn’t figure out how to work the plotter. There’s a way to look up ships and it will tell you if you’re on a collision course or not. It also tells you when the ship will pass and how many miles it will miss you by.
Well, I just couldn’t figure it out – perhaps because I was still waking up – so I diligently watched these two tankers that seemed miles away eventually pass in front of me about ½ mile away. If nothing else, it gave me something to do.
Suddenly, all the computer systems started beeping
From what I could make out, we lost GPS signal for a minute and then it came back. I just pushed buttons on the plotter and several of the other computers – things eventually stopped beeping. I then noticed that our estimated time of arrival (ETA) got longer or remained the same. When I took over my helming stint the ETA said we had around 5 hours left and an hour later of sailing it still said we had 5 hours to go.
I felt as if my efforts to get us to Corfu were useless
Looking at our speed, and relying on a plotter, we were doing 3.5 to 4 knots but our ETA wasn’t reducing. I started to panic slightly and thought, ‘OMG, we must be going backwards – perhaps there’s a tide or current pushing us?’
Being a naïve moron, I pulled in the headsail (it’s not hard – there’s a button to push!) and started the motor so to use our engine to reduce our ETA
I didn’t want to be floating around the Ionian Sea all day! A while later the ETA still remained around 5 hours. My husband woke from his rest, joined me in the cockpit, pushed something, said, ‘Did you loose signal?’ and then the ETA dropped to 2 hours!
Apparently, when we lost signal the tracking system stopped
My husband then asked me, ‘why are we motoring – there seems to be enough wind.’ I had to tell him that I’m a goofball and didn’t realize that our ETA was incorrect – I thought the tide, or something, was pushing us further away. Ironically, I noticed an island next to us come and go so that should have proved to me that we were certainly progressing in a forward manner.
I learned a big lesson – if the equipment doesn’t seem to be giving you accurate information, check it out before using it to base your decisions on!
That reminds me of a funny video you can watch on YouTube. It’s about a US naval ship radioing what seems to be another ship telling them to divert course. The other vessel keeps coming back on the radio saying that they can’t move. It goes back and forth for a while with the naval officer becoming increasingly annoyed (and trying to throw his power about) and then the naval officer discovers that the other ship is a lighthouse! Hehehe.
My wifi isn’t good enough on the boat right now to play this video but I think this is the right one. Watch below: