By Ben Ellison
|Part 2: So much gear seems overstuffed with features we don’t need—someone else does.|
Hillars could fish or sit back and gab with me because this skipper had already figured out his new tools. The captain used the sounder to track where we were in relation to the continental shelf below and the searchlight to find bait bunches. Note that looking sideways with sonar pings is notoriously tricky. As Hillars says, “There’s a substantial learning curve to the image interpretation,” and Eric Kunz, who I spoke to subsequently as a representative of chief sonar competitor Furuno, agrees, noting how searchlight sonar scans much more slowly than radar and at a variable horizontal angle. In our case, that angle had to be set just so to avoid chatter off the surface, and the little baits were still a bit vague even at a few hundred yards. But, by golly, that machine helped catch fish. At least once during my time on the bridge, we got a strike the instant we dragged our own baits through a sonar-located bunch.
I also learned that the skipper had found the sonar effective for exploring Mexican backwaters in search of good places to anchor and deploy the yacht’s flats-fishing tender, but the transducer had to be hydraulically retracted at speeds over 15 knots for its safety. Hillars explained that Simrad can supply low-profile “podded” transducers that are more suitable for gunkholing and collision avoidance. He also said that a SL35 costs around $30,000, which does not include the monitor, but does come with his expert services and a money-back guarantee—less the substantial installation cost, of course.
That’s when I thought to my Scotch-blooded self how difficult it must be for the owner of a boat like this to budget equipment, especially if one’s skipper is as electronically inquisitive as the guy running this high liner. You see, I’d heard him talking about upgrading the already superb sounder to one of Simrad’s ES series, which use a split transducer to estimate target fish sizes, even species and biomass tonnage; and he also wants a CM60 which can automatically build high-resolution 3D bathy maps as he fishes. It seemed that Simrad had found the perfect skipper to show off its gear, but actually more impressive was learning that he had become a fan by his own process of trial-and-error.
For me the trip was full of lessons about using electronics in unfamiliar ways, which in turn suggested why so much gear seems overstuffed with features we don’t need—someone else does. An example besides those “oddly” used plotters included a VHF direction finder, an exotic item I’d only seen before on search-and-rescue boats. The skipper explained how he could use it, combined with radar, to locate another fisherman who might brag, even hint, that he’s on big ones. Tricky! During those hours on the flying bridge, I was also vividly reminded about how important human skills are to a winning strategy. Despite all the fabulous electronics humming away, the truly intense processing—the putting together of screen images and fishing history, even catching the glint of a marlin’s tail—was going on under the skipper’s cap. I believe that’s true whether the goal is catching billfish or avoiding ledges.
Simrad USA Phone: (425) 778-8821. www.simradusa.com.
This article originally appeared in the August 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.