Elec­tron­ics train­ing ben­e­fits the cap­tain and crew.

Boating - - ELECTRONICS - By Jim Hen­dricks

A say­ing goes: “Give a man a fish, you feed him for day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life.” The same prin­ci­ple holds when it comes to a cap­tain teach­ing crewmem­bers to use marine elec­tron­ics, ex­cept the cap­tain can also ben­e­fit from the ef­fort.

Con­sider this real-life ex­am­ple. Garmin’s Ken Cir­illo was vis­it­ing me last spring in Cal­i­for­nia from his home in Mas­sachusetts when we de­cided to go fish­ing off Santa Catalina Is­land. On the cruise back to Long Beach, dense fog closed in about half­way home. This oc­curred in an area where com­mer­cial ship­ping lanes con­verge to fun­nel traf­fic in and out of the United States’ largest port.

I slowed the boat and fired up the radar. Cir­illo vol­un­teered to serve as the elec­tron­ics op­er­a­tor. “Sounds like a good plan,” I said. The marine elec­tron­ics exec’s pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence as op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer aboard a NOAA re­search ves­sel in Alaska more than qual­i­fied him for the task. As the dis­play filled with radar re­turns and AIS targets, Cir­illo ap­proached his task in earnest, call­ing out rel­a­tive bear­ings, speeds, clos­est point of ap­proach (CPA), and time to CPA of pos­si­ble threats. He also sug­gested course al­ter­ations to avoid hazards. As a re­sult, I was able to pi­lot the boat with fewer dis­trac­tions and greater safety.

Cir­illo’s as­sis­tance so­lid­i­fied my idea of teach­ing my reg­u­lar fish­ing bud­dies — mostly my three sons — how to be pro­fi­cient with the elec­tron­ics. We be­gan to re­view the op­er­a­tion of ev­ery­thing, from the chart plot­ter, fish fin­der and AIS, to the au­topi­lot, radar and VHF ra­dio, un­til each crewmem­ber could run the elec­tron­ics.

This paid off when fog once again socked in the Catalina Chan­nel, ex­cept this time it was at night and we had the en­tire pas­sage ahead of us. Just as with Cir­illo, my mid­dle son, Joshua, mon­i­tored the elec­tron­ics, call­ing out radar re­turns and AIS targets. Thanks to the train­ing, we were bet­ter able to nav­i­gate safely and con­fi­dently back to Long Beach, de­spite the gloomy zero vis­i­bil­ity.

Teach your crew how to use the elec­tron­ics, and it will make them bet­ter sea­men and help you im­mensely when dark­ness de­scends and fog blan­kets the water.

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