Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Technology Creep

I tend to be a late adopter of most technologies. There are exceptions to that, but they are special cases.

First of all, to be clear, I'm old enough to predate GPS, cell phones, the Internet, and satellite communications in general. When hiking through the woods, the height of technology was a map and compass. When I went out in the woods,it was assumed that I would be out of contact for the duration.
Back then we carried a copy of AMC's Guidebook to the White Mountains. It covered a much larger area than just the Whites. There were detailed descriptions of hiking trails with estimates of hiking times. The back of the book had sleeves containing an assortment of very good topographical maps.

I happened to love the isolation. Some people would bring a transistor radio hiking not to lose track of what was going on in the world. For me, it wasn't worth the weight. The world could go on just fine without me. The first time I saw a cell phone out in the woods, my impulse was to rip it from the guy's hand and toss it over the cliff. I held back from doing it but I knew the glorious isolation was gone.

I just watched a YouTube video of someone who's about to take their boat through the Everglades. That's the land beyond cell phone service. When I went through there in 2015 on my sailboat, I didn't get cell service until we had crossed Florida Bay and were hitting the Keys. We had a short range VHS radio that also provided weather broadcasts. Navigation was with a simple handheld GPS, compass, and paper charts.

The boaters in the video were pretty freaked out about being out of cell phone range. Their solution was to purchase a Garmin inReach Explorer+ Satellite Communication device. It provides tracking, electronic charts, and two way text capabilities. They will never be out of contact.

There are gains in safety, but the world is just a little smaller and a bit less exciting. Except for me, as my pockets aren't deep enough for such a device. I have to watch my budget to run a new coax cable up the mast for my base VHS radio. 99% of the time the little handheld radio is sufficient, but the larger in-boat unit with an antenna on top of the mast gives more range.

Will I ever get a satellite communication device? Not in the short term, but prices are dropping all the time. At some point I might have one on board just for the extra bit of safety. Although most of the time I'm not even using the electronics I do have. I turn on the GPS, get a compass bearing, then turn the unit off until the next way point. No need to wear out the batteries.

Personally, I really respect those Polynesians who could navigate the sea just by observing the world around them. The sky and sea told them everything they needed to know.



  1. The Tahitians crossed the Pacific to Hawaii using the stars for navigation. Could anyone do that today? Very, very few, if any I think. Especially in such small boats or canoes.

    1. I think there are only a handful of people left in the entire world that could do that.

  2. I pretty much went with what you use.
    Although my failsafe was an EPIRB , expensive but it was nice knowing that once you triggered it , the Coasties would respond.

  3. Most folks can't handle being anywhere that it's just them and God.

    1. Some of us need the peace and quiet once in a while to stay sane.

    2. Yup and middle of next month , the wife and I will go out on our yearly month stay in the woods n swamp.
      Living in a tent camp , going out on daily hikes to chase deer and hogs with our bows n arrows.
      Been too long since I've been able to walk much !
      Sure gives us good practice for real bugging out though. That and being stealthy in the woods. Damn straight if ya can sneak up on a can a man...

  4. I am told the Polynesians also could read the wave reflections from islands ahead in the waves they encountered.

    I wonder if anyone can do that today?

    1. There are few westerners who've studied and figured out how to do it. -a very few.

    2. I once had the entire Sawtooth Wilderness Area , north to south. Without maps or compass. Covering about a hundred fifty miles and over fifty thousand feet in elevation change.
      So yes , the primitive skills still exist. Just not as common now days.