Pilot’s bag, part 1
That’s Skip Strong making his way down Nor’easter’s twisty pilot ladder, as seen from the bow of the Penobscot Pilot. Man, that move must get the adrenaline pumping, say, on a dark night with a big sea running. (Capt. Ryan told me that they can manage a ladder like this in up to about eight footers, sometimes getting the ship to turn toward the ladder and using the flatter turbulence created inside the turn). At any rate, Strong, who is a bit of a geek (and I mean that in a good way) has quite the electronics in that bag he’s toting.
Below you’re looking at a Raven Portable Pilot System. At right is a mini GPS/differential beacon combo antenna (nicely accessorized with clamp and cable organizer). It attaches to the middle box, which contains a sub-meter dGPS and a WiFi transmitter. The small box is a wireless pilot Interface that gets attached to the pilot port of the ship’s Class A AIS. Those of you who’ve hassled with yacht interfaces may appreciate that these pilot ports are notoriously flaky. In fact Raven’s box is equipped with a switch that will reverse data flow, and Skip carries a special patch cable that will ‘fix’ another common wire mix-up (more on that story here).
Once set up, a background application on the little laptop collects all this information (and private Raven-formatted boat info off the Internet if desired), and can then both record it and deliver it to charting applications like Nobeltec Admiral and Capn Voyager (which, by the by, Maptech now packages with a ship load of data). Mostly, though, the hardware is used to feed Wheelhouse II, an interesting pilot-specific program we’ll look at in part 2.