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Sailing With Charlie: Simulator

Graphics by Bob Nock
Graphics by Bob Nock

‘In order to move forward we need to remember the past’. This well known philosophy is often applied to political history but it can also be applicable to just about anything. Charlie remembers the fledgling bareboat industry in the BVI in the early 70s. Yachts had no electric anchor windlasses; dinghies had no outboards (except perhaps the temperamental Seagull, if you were lucky). Berths were often one up/one down bunks, quirky alcohol stoves were the norm, refrigeration was non-existent, instruments were basic at best; the depth was found by a lead line. Luxuries like a GPS were not even on the horizon, so to speak, and air-conditioning was but a dream.

Recently, Charlie was captain of a chartered catamaran that had everything – except electric winches – and this was a major cause of disappointment. Noises came from the father of the family of five that the 15hp outboard could have been bigger in order to tow his three kids even faster in their inflatable donut. There was also the lamentable fact that there were no iridescent underwater lights for fish viewing at night “like that boat over there,” as he pointed to a mega yacht across the harbor. During conversation Charlie discretely brought up the subject of how far the charter boat industry has come in a mere 40-years, but this was met by how much the prices have increased in the same timeframe. The charter finally ended successfully but it was food for thought concerning the advances that might be expected in the next 40-years—enter the simulated charter!

More and more controls on a yacht are becoming push-button easy. There are now two-way electric winches for easing sails out as well as trimming them in. There are whistles, bells and buzzers on navigation systems that make sure you’re going in the right direction. Microwaves provide instant gourmet meals and satellite phones keep you connected to home base anywhere in the world. It won’t be long before sails will reef and trim themselves automatically. But it’s all rather expensive, so could charter companies provide a simulated sailing holiday in the future. Perhaps it would go something like this: A large dome shaped room is placed next to a pool representing a gorgeous tropical beach complete with pink sand and waving palms. The room comes with surround sound and all-round visuals of sea, sky and islands passing by.

The simulated yacht heels to a steady trade wind breeze. A squall approaches, winds howl, sails reef right on cue, salt spray flies across deck, yacht starts pitching, vomit (simulated) lands on cockpit sole … Then the sun comes out, yacht bears off on a comfortable reach, gorgeous hostess brings mango daiquiris; Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Changes in Attitudes’ emanates from quadraphonic speakers mellowing the scene, handsome captain regales guests with stirring sea stories. Sometime later, sails come down automatically and anchor chain rattles out of imaginary hawser. Guests dive in and are greeted by simulated turtle … Then it’s off to the kite surfing simulator.

Well, perhaps you can’t quite see it now but who could have predicted two-way electric winches, sat phones or even GPS 50-years ago? Could this be in the future: ‘Sail the Caribbean Islands’ in a simulator, in downtown North Dakota, in February?!

Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

 

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