entire recorded existence, humans have been naturally drawn to the sea. Whether
it’s for gathering food, exploring new lands, transporting goods or just for
relaxation, the way we travel the Earth’s bodies of water has evolved over the
past few centuries just as much as any other mode of transportation.
industry itself has changed dramatically over the last few decades as
technology is continually improved and applied to aspects like navigation
instruments, equipment and overall boat design.
History of Technology and Navigation in Boating
early developments in navigational tools, much of sea navigation that took
place while sailing depended heavily on visually tracking landmarks along shores. This method,
while easy and reliable in the right conditions for fisherman and relatively
local traders, limits sailors to staying within sight of coastlines and is
generally ineffective in times of poor visibility and during foggy weather.
sailors developed innovative methods of more accurately determining their
position and bearing while at sea, allowing travel across vast, open waters.
One of the simplest ways sailors determined the trajectory of their ship was by
watching the movement of the sun and stars. By
observing the sun’s shadows during the day, tracking the movement of the stars
at night and recognizing the locations of certain constellations, early sailors
were able to gain a reference on their travel direction.
and mathematics improved, new devices were developed to aid in navigating at
sea and determining metrics like speed, direction and ocean depth:
·Leadlines: These measure the depth of water
under the ship with a lead weight attached to a long rope. This tool was
helpful in safely navigating through ports and along coasts where the depth may
have been unknown.
provided a method to calculate an estimated speed. Chip logs were weighted
lines tied with regular intervals of knots and were cast overboard while
sailing. As the line began to drag, sailors would count the number of knots that
got pulled overboard in a specific time frame.
·Compass: Compasses are magnetized needles
that determine direction using the Earth's magnetic properties. While useful
across all types of navigation, the compass was especially helpful for sailors
in unfavorable weather when they couldn’t rely on the sun or stars.
·Charts: Charts are maps of coastlines,
landmarks, ports, ocean currents and wind directions. Though fairly inaccurate
in terms of navigation, these early uses of compiled data helped sailors communicate
observations to each other and more accurately describe certain routes.
·Sextant: This allows for very accurate
calculations of latitude and distance by measuring the height of the sun or
stars relative to the horizon.
·Chronometer: Chronometers are clocks that
accurately keep time despite changes in humidity or temperature, allowing
sailors to calculate their longitude with much greater precision.
invention of these devices, seafarers have been able to navigate across oceans
and seas relatively accurately. Other advancements, such as the design and
build quality of ships, improvements in medicine, and general expansion in
knowledge and technology have allowed for voyages to extend much longer and
span across much greater distances, leading to the globalized methods of sea
travel we have today.
How Modern Advancements in Tech Have Changed Boating
has been shaping our world dramatically over the past few decades, and this
evolution has carried over heavily to the boating industry. Whether it’s
advanced satellite positioning systems, data-driven computing, or even
artificial intelligence and virtual reality, many of today’s most popular
facets of technology likely have an application on just about any size boat —
from dinghies to yachts to cruise ships.
Modern Navigation in Boating
Gone are the
days of staring into the sun, analyzing inaccurate charts and measuring
weighted lines as they’re thrown overboard. Today’s technological advancements
cater to simplicity and precision, eliminating the need for guesswork and
especially as a leisurely hobby, is increasingly accessible due in part to all
the modern computing systems now included standard in boats:
·GPS: Although GPS units have been
around for a few decades, their accuracy and ability to present easily readable
information is continually improving and is the clear replacement for just
about any manual navigation method of the past. Recently, GPS systems have also
been used in conjunction with Automatic Positioning Systems (APS). Acting as a
virtual "anchor," APS uses GPS satellite tracking to automatically
maintain the boat’s current position just as a physical anchor would.
the self-driving car concept that is all the rage on land, the idea of
self-sailing boats is becoming (and to some degree, already has become) a
reality. Current commercially available autopiloting systems help keep boats on
course without the need to constantly monitor speed and direction. Using
advanced AI and continually updated wind, surf and weather data, the computing
systems of tomorrow will plot adaptive courses based on the
ever-changing nature of oceans and other large bodies of water.
the marine-specific innovations mentioned above, companies and individuals have
found a number of other unique technological advancements to apply to the
Touchscreen Displays: While not a new concept, more and more commercial boat
manufacturers are including touchscreen dashboards on their latest models. Much
like the touchscreen dashboards and center consoles in modern cars, these
digital displays offer the sailor access to a variety of information, from
engine monitoring systems, fuel levels, and GPS positioning to the speedometer,
water depth gauge and even stereo systems.
used by ship surveyors and inspectors, drones equipped
with cameras provide an aerial view that would normally be inaccessible, and
they also play a part in testing exhaust emissions from ships. Drones are also
used by fisherman and general enthusiasts to capture incredible photos and
provide live aerial footage of the boat, offering a birds-eye view of the
surrounding water. Users can monitor this live feed and view any nearby fish
that would otherwise be hard to notice.
Data Analysis and Computing: As technology evolves, so does our ability to track, compile and
effectively analyze data. With this evolution in data and analytics, we’re able
to create systems that better predict weather cycles, understand fluid dynamics
and offer safer and more efficient ways to travel the sea.
Boating Technology Is Still Coming of Age
perhaps never been a more exciting time to be a professional or hobbyist in the
boating industry. As we shed older technologies and embrace the new, expect the
world's waterways to become ever more accessible and enjoyable, not to mention
safer and more efficient for carrying out shipping and commerce.