James Stevens explains which skills are best to perfect while you have plenty of time to do so. This week, get more familiar with your instruments’ capabilities

Get more familiar with your instruments’ capabilities

James Stevens

James Stevens, author of the Yachtmaster Handbook, spent 10 of his 23 years at the RYA as Training Manager and Yachtmaster Chief Examiner

Modern instruments are like smartphones: crammed with hundreds of functions, few of which we regularly use. One of the reasons is that the ‘knobology’ (more formally known, I believe, as the interface) is not intuitive, at least not to me, and there is no printed instruction book anymore. It’s usually a PDF in the ether. On my boat, to check the log against a measured distance ashore, I need to ‘Press the Depth button until you reach the calibration page. Press Trip and Reset buttons at the same time.’ No one is going to work that out without the manual, so you have to arrive with an electronic copy or a print-out of the relevant pages of the manual.

In harbour you can easily spend an hour with the manual, jabbing at buttons and generally getting to know your kit better. How do you calibrate the depth, or choose feet rather than metres? How difficult can it be to correct the wind angle or adjust the backlighting? The bolder of you may even decide to explore and use some of the more esoteric functions for which you’ve paid a hefty price. If someone accidentally falls against your plotter and the screen you need disappears, or indeed goes blank, you stand a much better chance of getting the right screen back on display if you know your way around the buttons.