Thanks to the fully integrated “glass bridge” today’s navigation is easy-chair easy.
By Capt. Bill Pike — March 2002
Operating a boat’s a lot of fun, for the most part. Certainly, when viewed from the grand perspective, the ability to safely deliver a vessel and crew from one bit of coastal geography to another is one of the most rewarding skills a person can possess. Not only are the technical and artistic aspects of the task immediately satisfying, but the need to occasionally show a little courage, creativity, and/or character under duress often results in pride and confidence that last way beyond the end of a voyage.
But there exists a much narrower, more prosaic, and realistic way of looking at running a boat seldom mentioned in the tomes that expound upon the subject. When viewed from this angle, the enterprise sprouts more stingers and zingers than a Portuguese man-of-war. Not that every maritime jaunt is fraught with character-building hardships and clarion calls to heroism. But to be truthful, virtually every passage entails at least a few navigation- or system-related vexations, none life-threatening but every one aggravating as hell.
Or at least this was the way things used to be. Today an increasing number of skippers have it way better than skippers of yesteryear. A whole procession of technological advancements is responsible for this lovely chunk of progress, but there’s one in particular that over just the past couple of years has skyrocketed to prominence: behind-the-scenes black-box electronics teamed with computerized, dashboard-mounted touch screens, a synergy often referred to as "the glass bridge." This development, and a few others related to it (like highly evolved electronic cartography and ruggedly marinized Pentium-equipped computers), is so sweetly organizing and facilitating life in the wheelhouse that, except for the vagaries of weather and onboard cuisine, there’s hardly an aggravation worth griping about anymore.
This article originally appeared in the February 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.