We are well into week 1 of spring break and it’s fitting that today marks the official start of the spring season. Progress with the expedition has been good. As I enter into the final two months prior to departure there is a lot to consider, wrap up and procure.
The boat itself is officially seaworthy and ready for sea trials this weekend. Getting the hatches to seat correctly and seal themselves has proved trying, but only after a water test will I know for certain that they will indeed keep the cargo compartments dry. The first order of business once on the water will be to set the oars, set the grip length and inboard. The length of the oar, along with other variables like spread (distance from the centerline of the boat to the oarlock), blade size, blade type, inboard (distance from the handle end to the collar), catch angle, and so on, determine the boat gearing aka ‘rig’. The gearing/rig setup effect is no different than changing gears on your bicycle, the latter obviously achievable whilst on the fly.
Transporting the boat is another easily overlooked logistical item. Fortunately, owning a truck makes this easier but not without adding to the already existing headache rack by having a rear rack built and mounted to the truck bed. This will ensure safe transport of the boat as well as leave me access to the truck bed itself.
Sponsors for this expedition have been fantastic to work with and have been very supportive. One of our product sponsors, Garmin, provided a wearable GPS marine wrist watch titled the Quatix, as well as two digital VIRB HD video cameras. The beauty of this setup is the ability to capture multiple angles of the same subject matter but the real magic is in the control. Without needing to touch the cameras once they are set, I can remotely control their recording ability wirelessly from the watch itself.
Despite the beauty of technology and the obvious convenience it brings, there is still an investment of time required to understand certain operations and usage limitations. Case in point, I have used Google Earth (GE) to plan my route around the island. An absolute invaluable resource that enables me to prematurely ‘see’ what I would other wise only see in real time once on site. It has enabled me to chart waypoints based on the location of islands, reefs and coupled with marine atlas’s the means to preview a beaching area. With each added ‘placemark’ within GE, I can quickly obtain its lat/long coordinates and give it an appropriate name or title. The challenge then, becomes exporting this data in such a way that I can import it into my GPS units.
Without getting overly technical, GE exports the data in a .kmx/kml format. Garmin, as is the case with most GPS units, will except the data in a .gpx or .fit format. Thankfully, a quick google search turned up free conversion software that enables one to create .gpx files from the GE format(s). Simply plugging the GPS device into a computers USB port and treating it like any other external device or drive enables you to simply click on its drive location, click on the Garmin folder and drag and drop your .gpx file into it. Once disconnected from the computer, you need only restart the GPS and it will autoload the waypoints to its internal database/memory.
I will be using a Garmin Oregon 300 colour GPS handheld as my primary unit with a Garmin eTrex Legend as my monochrome backup. With my recent offering from Garmin in the way of the Quatix watch, it now offers me even more redundancy as I can preload the watch with my route as well.
Communications will be limited to my cell phone whenever I have service, but for the most part will only be turned on when a call is needed to be made. I will also be carrying a handheld waterproof and float capable VHF marine radio. This will enable communications to passing vessels but more importantly the ability to monitor weather channels and keep up to date with what mother nature is serving for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In case you’re wondering, my intent IS to use it right side up!
The last piece of kit, and arguably the most important, is my SPOT beacon. I often refer to it as the cheapest life insurance but equally a means to communicate. It affords me the ability to preload an ‘OK’ message online which the unit will transmit to up to five individual cell numbers and email addresses whenever the OK button is pressed. Within the message will also be a link with my present location. For an added expense, the live tracking ability can be set automatically so that updates are sent at predetermined time intervals. It also has two other buttons, HELP and 911. HELP is also enabled with a preloaded message of my choosing and when pressed, will relay the message to the same contact list as the OK button does. It essentially speaks of a situation that is not dire, but requires assistance or help. Pressing the 911 button alerts not only the five listed contacts, but also Search and Rescue and indicates the situation is life threatening. Here’s hoping my OK button is full of grime and sweat by the trips end and that the other two buttons are still pristine white 😉