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Times Have Changed for the Better

May 20, 2015

My first Mackinac Race was 47 years ago with my father on his C&C 31. Our tools for navigation were a combination of paper charts and an RDF AM radio. My dad would ask me if the radio beeped three or four times because we used the beeps to determine where we were on the lake. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best technology then.

Today we have all the information we could ever want available in an instant.  A good Global Position System will determine your location within inches. GPS satellite navigation is perfect in all weather conditions. Another great resource is Yellow Brick.

The Yellow Brick device allows boaters to track their progress and their competitors’ to Mackinac Island. In the past, you wouldn’t know how good your decisions were until you reached the dock. With Yellow Brick you can check your progress every 15 minutes. This is the most important information you can use for decision making.

I recommend looking at Yellow Brick every four hours to see if your plan is working. When using Yellow Brick, first look at:

  • All boats (to see angles and speeds further up the course)
  • Only your class and your position
  • Shore course and Cove Island course

Another modern day convenience is internet weather sites. Once you check your position on Yellow Brick, take a look at the weather on one of these popular sites:

  • Sail Flow
  • Predict Wind
  • XM Erie
  • NOAA Buoy Data

You can take notes or download the weather data.

Yellow Brick and these weather sites can help you decide if your long term plan is working or needs to be changed.

The information above is critical for making the very best decisions up the course to Mackinac, but the challenge is the lack of internet coverage in Lake Huron. Options for improved internet service include:

  • Booster Antenna (not great, but helps)
  • Satellite Internet
    • Pay by minute (expensive)
    • One time pay
  • Iridium Go! – a compact global service that acts as a router on your boat to provide internet service and more.

Times have changed for the better. You now have access to information that was never available before. Take advantage of the information so you can make the best decision for you boat and crew.

By Wally Cross

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