Thanks Jim, that's fascinating info.
I remember the HP41. I managed to convert all my junior engineers to RPN and HP, and one of them went the whole hog and splashed out on a 41. That sounds like a sweet routine, and a good piece of team-tag (human and silicon, each doing what they do best).
I suppose there is one thing I liked about freehanding a bell curve: I'd always have an idea which shots were "sweet" and which were less so, and plotting them as points, and then assessing where they lay in relation to the possible curves, felt to me as though I was both better equipped to apply some sort of nuanced weighting, and more able to build on that understanding, over time, of what a good shot actually felt like.
The more I used apps, the more I felt like a data entry clerk rather than a navigator, but I realise that's going to sound like a romantic affectation.
I remember being delighted, on a big cruising yacht I was navigator for, (whose satnav had packed up, which is how I got the job) when the owner's fancy sight reduction calculator's printer stopped printing. Whoever wrote the app (package deal with the calculator) hadn't thought to include the option to redirect the output to the display, so although the calculator knew the answer, it had no way of telling us! Ha !
I know what you mean about poring over the chart table, too: I'd try and do my curve fitting with a chinagraph pencil on a plastic laminated sheet of graph paper abovedecks, where I could enjoy the fresh air and keep one eye on the horizon.
But my first ocean passage
was on a boat with SatNav, at a time when they were still beyond most budgets. Although the rest of the crew were mostly pretty excited about this magic box of tricks, I was already feeling a bit let down when we got to our first landfall after 4000 miles, and the little box was continually telling us where land was and what time we'd get there.
Sure enough, it turned up exactly where we were looking, at the time we were looking there. A bit of a let-down; I wish I'd had just ONE landfall the 'old school' way ... and once the tech is available, it just feels artificial to turn your back on it.
I'd hauled my sextant
along, as had the skipper
, but neither of us actually got them out more than twice. The skipper
was a consummate seaman and navigator, the best I've ever sailed with, and I think he, too, found it a bit unsatisfying.
There are safer and more convenient (and cheaper!) ways of crossing an ocean than a sailboat; I wonder sometimes just how safe and convenient we have to make it before it just doesn't make any sense at all.
For me, part of the answer is the ability to go places unreachable by other means, but I am a bit perplexed by people who sail only between population centres, already well serviced by airlines. I've been a hired hand on vessels like that, and I wasn't convinced the guests were having as much fun as I was, 'cos at least I had something meaningful to do (eg navigate).
And the technology trends seem to me to lead in the direction where (unless or until the tech craps out) we are all going to end up guests (or consumers, perhaps) on our own vessels, with nothing important to do, because everything which matters has been outsourced. "For our comfort, safety