I have been accused of owning every gizmo gadget, and doodad that is electrically powered possible by some of the traditionalists in our marina.
I think that is an overstatement.
I mean, sure I carry a GPS on board - but so does everyone else in the marina, and I have to admit that I did run out and buy an anchor light that automatically turns on at night, but that is just being safe. And I have spent hours trolling the Catalina 25 owner's forum while sailing in my mind, but I cannot say that I am totally teched up.
So when I saw this contest to win a laptop, I thought, what would the perfect on-board computer do, and what would it look like?
First the components would have to be tough enough to survive the conditions inside the boat while I wasn't there. Searing heat in the summer, and horrid cold in the winter. Hardened components would definitely be required. The system would have to be waterproof enough to handle the moisture that can build up in the hull, and be daylight viewable for the days cruising and at anchor.
Batteries would have to be long-life. Really long life. The battery would have to be able to survive a long crossing of the lake - 8 hours plus, while running GPS software.
Speaking of software, the laptop would need to double as a chartplotter, while also keeping a running inventory of gear aboard - especially food and first aid, fuel and water. I wonder if I could hook up a blue tooth probe to monitor fuel and battery levels. Hmmm.
Of course in systems monitoring, things could get really cool. In light of the recent Clear Lake Trial it would be good to have the laptop automatically turn on the running lights at sundown, and it would be groovy to have it log when it did it.
Of course racing software would have to be run constantly, maybe with a display on a remote monitor in the cockpit. Where is the mark? What is our tacking angle? How long till we get there? Can we go faster, stronger, higher? Man, I should join the Olympics.
Finally, what I wouldn't want. I wouldn't want the system to sail the boat for me. I still regale against autopilots and I still believe a race involves hand sailing and deciding for myself when to pinch and when to fall off. I don't want a computer making those decisions for me. In my professional life, we call this positive guidance. You can tell a person what is going on around them, but you never tell them what to do. Its the difference between a sign saying "Construction Ahead" and a sign saying "Follow Detour." One message gives you information to make the right choices, while the other makes the choices for you.
The most important thing the computer could tell me is to relax and enjoy myself, and remind me to take time to look at the sunset, share some appetizers, and enjoy the company of friends.