Pactor Babe's Got Her Ears On
"OK," she said resignedly. "You win, Fatty. Do you want a GRS or NOGAP GRIB?"
"Both," I said, as I thought about the weather brief I'd put together for Jim, "and I wouldn't mind some NADI text, too."
"You got it," she said, and she heaved her lovely self out of the bunk.
The reason we were both tired was because we'd roared ashore in the dinghy at 0200 to a fancy resort on a tiny island called Mala, in the Vava'u Group of Tonga, to watch the America's Cup, sort of. Actually, it was a live computer simulation of the Cup via the web, which was as close as we could get, technologically, to the action in Valencia. It was fun-but what a horrible groan went up at the bar full of rambunctious Kiwis when Team New Zealand ripped their chute and then hourglassed its replacement during that fifth race.
I'd wisely preset the alarm for early so we could help out our buddy Jim Sublett (see "Alaska Jim," On Watch, December 2007) and I could still get to writing at my normal time of 0800. The reason I was being so stern with myself was because I'd been assigned a rather difficult article. Normally, I write exactly what I want, and editors can lump it or leave it, but occasionally I'm so greedy that I take formal assignments-and I'd been asked to write a treatise about tribal communications in the Pacific.
Damn, it sounded boring even to me!
But first we had to help out a friend.
Our modest nav/communication station is opposite our small galley aboard our 38-foot sloop, Wild Card, so as I brushed my teeth, I was able to watch Carolyn whirl her radio dials and punch her laptop keyboard.
First, she checked radio propagation via our bundled Airmail software. This allows us to determine, from any spot on earth at any moment, the best frequency to contact any other spot on Earth. Next, she typed in the commands that would let our computer tell someone else's computer just what it was we were looking for. Then, she fired up our Icom 710 SSB radio along with our German-built Pactor digital modem, roamed for a clear station, and hit "enter" with authority. Soon digital packets of information were whizzing back and forth between our vessel and the Internet via an SSB shore station. Computer windows started popping open. These wind charts, text forecasts, and razor-sharp digital weather charts (known locally as "fleet codes," a holdover, strangely, from World War II) provided us with an astounding amount of cost-free, location-specific, "almost real time" weather information at our digital fingertips.