Part 3: Two underlying virtues of this new way are immediately apparent.
By Capt. Bill Pike — March 2002
Two underlying virtues of this new way of doing things are immediately apparent. First, a quick, highly organized presentation of information results. And second, an uncluttered, simple look engenders ease and confidence. To get a handle on the first point, consider a colorful electronic chart on the center panel of a multiscreen glass-bridge array, right in front of the helm chair. Is there a need for the skipper to leave the chair to check latitude and longitude on a paper chart or remote plotter before calling up a ship to make traffic arrangements on the VHF? No! All he needs to do is read the numbers straight off the appropriate window on the cartography in front of him, perhaps momentarily superimpose a radar image from another screen to confirm the identity of the ship, and then make the call with confidence.
To get a handle on the second point, consider how much simpler and even safer a glass bridge is to operate. More to the point, with switches for equipment like windshield wipers, spotlights, navigation lights, air-conditioning, and stereo all melded and exquisitely organized into a row of computerized touch screens, the chances of making a big-time fumble while trying to accomplish a small-time task in a darkened wheelhouse are virtually scotched.
I’d be remiss if I concluded this ode to glass bridges without underscoring the fact that developments that make navigation easier, safer, and almost aggravation-free in no way absolve the navigator from paper-chart work and other traditional watch-standing responsibilities. Nor does it absolve boatbuilders from providing redundant systems that offer rudimentary navigation and shipboard functions in the event of a catastrophic electronics failure. Such a failure, incidentally, is about the only downside I can see to modern, fully integrated bridges.
Unless, that is, you count the potential for sedentary weight gain among helm chair-bound, glass-bridge skippers.
This article originally appeared in the February 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.