Saturday, 22 December 2007

Rowing by satnav

I celebrated the Winter Solstice by going rowing from my new favourite slipway, the ferry hard at Itchenor. It is close to the harbour mouth and is usable at all times, but its great advantage is that access is closed off to vehicles, so only small boats can launch there. The path to the slipway from the car park is rather long so my new kayak trolley comes in very handy.
The weather was crisp and completely calm, lovely for rowing, and a great day to try out the Satmap Action 10 handheld satnav that I have got to play with.
Most portable satnavs either show just the coordinates and heading, or a basic map. Car satnavs are completely useless when you're not behind the wheel because they don't show anything except the roads. The Satmap has the real deal - Ordnance Survey maps with all the detail. It is mostly aimed at walkers and cyclists but it is useful for boaters as well, because it shows rivers, coasts, channels and rocks.
The unit sits nicely in the hand and the display is bright enough to read easily except in the brightest sun. It is controlled entirely by pressing buttons, not by touch screen, so it can be used with gloved hands.
It is also waterproof, which is a joy. My non-waterproof camera is kept in a lockable plastic bag, and it is a major pain to haul it out every time I want to take a pic.
The electronic compass seems a bit wayward, and difficult to find despite a generally fairly self-evident menu system.
The Satmap leaves a snail's trail of red dots on the map to show where you have been, which is slightly alarming as it showed how much I was meandering over the water. But hell, this is supposed to be fun and the harbour was particularly lovely today, full of wildfowl and almost devoid of boats. The Pilsey Island seals came out to play.
I would have downloaded the track in a .gpx file and put it on Google Earth for you, but I haven't managed to work out how to do that yet.
Just after taking that pic, an attractive fleet sailed past towards the harbour entrance, with sails up but only for show - all propulsion was being provided by the engines.
A great morning on the water, but then I misjudged where to get out and got my boots stuck in the mud. There is nothing nastier than driving home with your boots full of water and muck. Damn.

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