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Old 06-04-2017, 03:58   #1
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Full sailing automation

Whenever the subject of automation comes up, especially in the context of expanding capabilities, the majority appears to be dubious. The reactions usually fall into the categories of "missing the full sailing experience," and "no machine can do as well as me."

I wonder how many out there really like the idea of independently moving about the globe, taking your home with you, but aren't the least bit excited about sitting for hours on end at the helm with cold wind and spray gnawing at you, all dressed up in 13 layers.

How many of you are out there who would like to be able to manage the boat from nice, inside quarters when the weather is inclement, and only go out to enjoy the fresh air when you feel like it.

I would like my job of captain to be a loose job, like glancing over the screens now and then to make sure everything is operating nominally, as opposed to having my eyes glued on the horizon constantly scanning for threats and trimming the sails, tacking, gybing, etc.

This can all be automated, folks. And I'll bet in many cases a machine can be made that can do better than a human. We've got auto-pilots, amazing new radar that has brought real ARPA to the consumer level, forward scanning sounders, electric winches, and powerful computers in small packages. With the proper integration, it can be done.

And I'd like my boat to be smart enough that if I fall overboard, it knows how to come back and get me.

How about going beyond an anchor alarm, and the boat is smart enough to turn on its engines and do station keeping if the anchor starts to drag and I'm off in port?

I could go on and on.
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Old 06-04-2017, 04:27   #2
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Re: Full sailing automation

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Originally Posted by Maker42 View Post
I could go on and on.
[Yawn].

I could also...

- Fly.
- Watch a documentary.
- Read National Geographic.
- Take a cruise ship.
- Stay home. It's nice here.

There is nothing logical about sailing. I don't think we want there to be.
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Old 06-04-2017, 04:33   #3
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Re: Full sailing automation

That would be nice sometimes...

From my prospective I love sailing and all that comes with it. It is all part of the adventure. You can't "adventure" without some risks and some challenges. I don't like complete discomfort or suffering for the sake of suffering but I also like the challenge of the adventure. This to me is were the satisfaction comes from.

Sailing for me is an adventure. There is an element that you are apart of a special group. Experiencing the world around you in a way that is only available to those willing to embrace the adventure. This is also found in many other forms of experiences. I also like backpacking and it would be impossible to have the same experience backpacking if I wasn't doing the physical hiking and living with what I carry on my back. It is what makes it what it is.

I believe there is a direct correlation-our highest highs are in a direct relation to our lowest lows. Unfortunately you can't have really high, highs, without the lows. It is all about perspective.

In the end I am not against the technology for those that would like it. I am for everyone having the opportunity to experience they way they wish. I just think that there is a reason that it hasn't been done as quickly as our technology would allow. As you said the technology is 100% there and available. I just question if the motivation is there by the sailing community. In some ways this problem has already been solved by people that can afford this type of automation, they hire a crew to do what they don't want to do.

Happy adventuring-Happy life.

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Old 06-04-2017, 04:35   #4
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Re: Full sailing automation

I think this vision is 100% correct and we will see fully automated sailing boats very soon.

There are systems already available that trim sails according to AP input. The AP drives the helm and controls sail trim then. Just sit back and enjoy your drinks.

Probably a good idea to start a business of sorts too.

Cheers,
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Old 06-04-2017, 04:37   #5
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Re: Full sailing automation

Maybe it's because there are 2 definitions of "cruising"

1. Piloting a sailboat across the deep ocean.
2. Living in continuously varying parts of the world, taking your home with you.

If most people use definition #1, why do auto pilots exist?

I prefer definition #2. Am I alone?
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Old 06-04-2017, 04:55   #6
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Re: Full sailing automation

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Maybe it's because there are 2 definitions of "cruising"

1. Piloting a sailboat across the deep ocean.
2. Living in continuously varying parts of the world, taking your home with you.

If most people use definition #1, why do auto pilots exist?

I prefer definition #2. Am I alone?
#2 can be accomplished today by hiring crew for passages. Crew costs for several years probably still cheaper than the automation you're suggesting.

Not taking a stance, just offering alternatives.
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Old 06-04-2017, 05:02   #7
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Re: Full sailing automation

Sailing/Cruising is a process not simply a sometimes demanding/inconvenient means to an end. If you don't enjoy the process, what's the point? Why bother? Take a plane/cruise ship.

Perfectly frankly, all this automation crap has proven to be a pain in the neck. E.g., when one actually had to know Navigation to get from place to place, far horizons were far less crowded.
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Old 06-04-2017, 05:45   #8
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Re: Full sailing automation

Costs - As I'm going through a refit right now this is very dear to me. "I need to add this before I can leave" = $$ (and sometimes $$$$$!). So the more I add the longer I have to work before I can leave. Also, you have to look at the value of adding an automation item vs using that money for something else (do I add self-trimming sail system or get a full scuba equipment set).

Maintenance - More items (and more complexity) means more maintenance. This either becomes more work (if you're DYI) or more $$.

Complexity - You'll need to have a plan for when the system goes wrong, like education on the system so you can fix yourself, non-automated backup systems etc.

Also, I took up photography a few years ago and one aspect of its value is that it forces me to slow down. As I go about my day I'll keep an eye out for places that might be a good photograph at a later date. This has caused me to become more aware of the world around me. Sailing is a similar activity for me.

If budget wasn't an issue and I didn't like passages I'd just charter boats already at locations I want to visit. Remove all the work of maintenance, covering the cost of repairs (outside of normal maintenance) or doing passages.
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Old 06-04-2017, 06:49   #9
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Re: Full sailing automation

It is possible that many are seeing this as a false dichotomy. "If full automation is installed, I could never experience the personal pleasure of planning, navigating, and making the minute-by-minute decisions by myself."
I believe it is possible to have both, with the technology we have available today. Some might choose to engage an AI autopilot for limited periods of time, as an intelligent extra crew member when cruising shorthanded. Others might use AI as a "sanity check," giving it access to read onboard sensors and receive weather forecasts, then make non-binding *recommendations* regarding course, heading, and sail set.
It is certainly possible that few here want the ability to input "DESTINATION: Fantasy Marina Guest Slip 3A" and have the AI autopilot take them there, completely hands-free. There are, however, many uses for an AI autopilot that are not anathema to the fully manual cruising experience. What we need are experienced sailors/cruisers to have input into the decision-making software.
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