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Commercial yacht captains- how different are they? A tech survey

by Nancy Knudsen on 26 Sep 2012
Superyacht captains - how different are they? .. .
Recently The Triton, publication aimed at the crews of superyachts, conducted a survey on the software that captains and crews used while they were at sea. Some of the results will be of intriguing to the cruising sailor.

One captain, with more than 15 years experience, asked: 'Why is my $800 iPad, with an $80 app, more accurate, faster and easier to use than the $100,000 of electronics on my bridge?

'I love it (the iPad). I can plan trips from an airport or monitor weather from anywhere. And take all this from boat to boat. The iPad, combined with a waterproof case can go on the yacht, tender, dinghy, paddle board - or anything that floats for that matter and give me full functionality as found on my bridge. Go Apple.'

This was amazing news to me, as it will be to others who have not tried to utilise an iPad for serious weather and/or navigation.

And, the Triton survey further discovered when asking about the Mac/PC issue, while there are still a lot of boat-issued desktop computers in the captain’s office (about 60 percent), more captains use their personal laptops (66 percent) and, even here, personal tablets such as an iPad are catching up (nearly 45 percent).

A number of captains pointed out the huge value of GPS's for their phones or laptops. 'Stand-alone GPS receiver for laptops,' said a captain in yachting more than 30 years. 'My Casio Commando phone also has the Navionics and a built-in stand-alone GPS.'

The captain of a yacht 120-140 feet commented. 'I would prefer to have all Mac, but there are still too many industry programs that are Windows based.

'Navigation software and ship’s monitoring is on PC; ship’s computer work is done on the Mac, iPad and my iPhone,' said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet.

Then what about the inevitable question about paper back-ups?:


Only 6.1 percent of the yachts were found to be completely paperless, and this didn't seem to depend on size. When Triton looked at this small slice of paperless yachts, they were one each in nearly every size range of yacht, including less than 80 feet and larger than 220 feet.

They also looked at this question by tenure of the respondents to see if newer captains retained less paper or if veteran captains retained more. They didn’t. The percentages were about the same when looked at by length of time in the industry.

While some of the digitizing and paper back-ups could have been be dictated by the yacht owner or manager, Triton wondered what the captain thought, so they asked 'How important is it to you to retain the paper back-ups?'

The largest group at 44.6 percent said the paper back-ups were vital to them.

The next largest group, at almost 35 percent, said it was important.

About 15.7 percent said they were not really important, but nice to have.

'Paper back-ups are not required as long as you can print it if needed,' said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet in the industry more than 10 years. 'But if you do not have the ability to print, it is quite important.'

Only 4.8 percent said paper back-ups were not important at all. Again, this sliver was all over the chart on vessel size, from less than 80 feet to 140-160 feet. All of the respondents from the largest vessels (over 200 feet) also varied on the value they place on paper back-ups, falling fairly evenly among 'not really important', 'important but not critical' and 'vital'. None thought they were 'not important at all.'

Here's one that we at Sail-World thought interesting: When they looked at this question by longevity, they noticed that the longer the respondent had been in the industry, the more likely he/she was to see the paper back-ups as vital.

Overall, 44.6 percent said paper back-ups were vital. Among the respondents in the industry more than 20 years, 53.8 percent of them agreed paper back-ups were vital.

Most respondents -- 61.5 percent -- agreed that technology was a blessing, at least most of the time.

'Technology is a blessing,' said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in the industry more than 10 years. 'Life is much easier even if we do have paper duplicates.'

One Captain added (that there was), 'Too much reliance on high-tech items with little thought to practicality or the possibility that it may fail at a critical time. Simplicity is very desirable in a bridge system and we are moving away from that(too much reliance) very quickly in the industry.'

Another Captain added, 'The more things a boat has on it, the more things there are to break.'

Did that comment sound familiar? There are some things that just don't change, no matter the size of the boat or whether the skipper is paid or not.

For the full survey go to http://tritonpubs.com/edirectory/article/on-sea-and-on-land-yachties-prefer-pcs.html!The_Triton

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