by Marcia Talley of the Femmes Fatales.
Regular readers of the Femmes Blog will recall that two weeks ago, I was “at sea.” Literally.
Twice a year – in October and again in May – my husband and I venture out into the Atlantic Ocean, sailing to and from our little cottage on Elbow Cay in the Bahamas. A distance, as the seagull flies, of 820 miles.
Unfortunately, we are not seagulls so our trip is a couple of hundred miles longer.
Venturing into the ocean on a vessel the size of your average American bathroom can be a daunting experience – we’re in the Bermuda Triangle, after all! So before heading out, we study the navigational charts, plan the route, and check and recheck NOAA’s comprehensive weather reports. We invite competent crew to join us.
While we are enroute, however, family and friends worry. There’s freighters out there, Mom, and oil tankers. There’s cruise ships! That’s why AIS – automatic identification system – was invented, I say. Better than radar, AIS sends mariners the name, position, course and speed of any nearby vessel and displays it as an icon on your navigational screen.
What if you run into an iceberg? Hardly likely in the Gulf Stream waters off Florida, but occasionally a vessel plows into a floating shipping container, and the results aren’t pretty. My granddaughter worries about pirates; my grandson about drug runners.
What to do? There’s no cell phone signal in the middle of the Atlantic. No Internet. No Facebook. No Tweeting.
Enter Spot! A battery-powered gizmo the size of a pack of cigarettes, Spot uses GPS technology to talk to satellites. It works where cell phones don’t. SPOT notifies friends, family or (yikes!) an international rescue coordination center with your exact GPS location. With a push of a button, a message is sent via email or SMS to up to 10 pre-determined contacts, and your waypoint is stored in your SPOT account for later reference. Each message includes a link; family can click and zero in on our current location via Google maps.
And at the end of the trip, Spot gives us a map of everywhere we’ve been.
If all goes as planned, on Sunday, we will be sending our last Spot of the season from Iolanthe’s berth in Whitehall Creek, just outside Annapolis.