Communications in the 21st Century – A Benefit or a Curse?

Benefit or Curse? Steve and Linda write about 21st century cruising communications.

It boggles the mind, but in the 21st century the vast majority of cruising boats we’ve met in the Caribbean have some form of reliable, relatively fast communication with home.

From single side band radio based e-mail systems like SailMail, ham win-link, or commercial operations like PineOak and WLO, to satellite systems such as Iridium (now back in operation), Globalstar (which we just tested), Sat C (text only) and mini-M (voice and data) there is a huge array of options. Throw in cell phone usage as you travel – usable of course for voice and e-mail, plus the plethora of Internet cafes now close to the water around the world, and you can always be in touch.

Is this a good thing? We’re not sure. It is nice to be able to easily communicate with the family – and this does allow the cruiser to stay on top of business issues if he or she so wishes. But it feels like we’re now missing a certain level of serenity – part of getting away from it all – that used to be part of cruising. We know that for ourselves, if we can communicate, we will.

This instant ability to know what’s going on in the outside world dilutes the pleasure of the precious mail package from home – delivered now with reliability by DHL, Federal Express, or UPS. In some respects this is a lot like navigation in the age of GPS. There used to be a sense of accomplishment (and relief!) with each safe landfall when we had to dead reckon and celestial to find our way. But would we give up our GPS? Not a chance. And the same applies to the ability to hear daily in some form or other from family and cruising friends around the world. I guess we’re stuck with this 21st century communications revolution – like it or not.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 2, 2001)

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