By Captain Kevin Deerman
Two things constantly changing our industry are technology and innovation. Fishing will always be fishing, but with all of the advancements there are many more crews traveling farther, faster and more comfortably and easily than ever before.
It’s amazing to hear stories from the late 1600s to early 1700s where merchant ships, navy ships and privateer ships—many of the latter becoming pirates—seemed to effortlessly navigate the shallow waters of the Caribbean and the eastern North American coast.
These crews would travel thousands of miles to their destination or to find a particular ship using only a leadline for checking depth, compass for direction, hourglass for time, a quadrant or astrolabe (early celestial instruments) for position, and a common log (rope with equally spaced knots) for speed. It wasn’t until the mid 1700s when the sextant (which is still used as a backup instrument) was invented that sailors were able to determine latitude and longitude more accurately.
I can remember starting out as a captain thinking of how much easier it was for us to navigate with Loran-C. Anywhere not covered by Loran-C we would use a Furuno Sat-Nav, which would receive a satellite fix every few hours. By the end of the 80s we started using our first GPS, which gave us our current position. However, we were still using our paper charts to plot our course. Finally, by the mid 90s, many boats were installing GPS chartplotters. This brings us to the touch screen versions that we now have. These are interfaced with everything from your autopilot to your weather radio.
I’m not complaining but with modern technology navigating today moreso resembles playing a video game than actual plotting of years past. In the past we would still carry paper charts as a backup. Now we can simply download them all to an iPad if we need them in a crunch.
We now have plotters that can follow a route and give us realtime weather and sea temperatures, more reliable power both for inboard and outboard boats, gyros that can keep everyone comfortable (which will probably keep more people fishing), ice machines capable of keeping your catch chilled, sonars to find the bait and fish, and watermakers that can produce a spotfree wash on the way to the dock.
Some of these recent products have made a huge impact on the sportfishing and boating industry combined. It’s hard to imagine what the next new innovation will be. But there will surely be improvements to those that we are using now.
In summary, embrace the technology. But be grateful to the captains of the past. For they have laid the groundwork for the innovations we all use today.