Sliding Chart Table

I am certainly aware of twenty-first century navigation technology, GPS, Chart-plotters, radar-sonar-depth-finder thingies that are probably an Mp3 player too. I feel sure these are very valuable, in their own way, and I am not putting them down. In fact we have several hand held GPS on board our friendship sloop and have found this technology gives great piece of mind if we get caught in the fog, however, I still like the process of route-planning and plotting on paper charts. To some degree this is ingrained habit, I learned to navigate at a time when electronic navigation was less reliable and out of the price range of the average sailor. But I also like the tactile process of flipping through charts, and I feel that the process of shaping a course with dividers, parallel rulers and a pencil allow me to have a much better grasp of the navigational hazards. The process of route planning on paper charts also helps me visualize what tides are doing at any given time. I think another aspect of my appreciation of paper charts is that I go to the boat to get away from computers, phones, and the like.
              The big problem with paper charts is space; space to lay them out, and space to store them. On bigger, blue water vessels, built in navigation stations can be both spacious and comfortable. On our sloop (35 feet on deck) we have other pressing space demands below so we don’t have the luxury of extra space for a nav station. Our solution was to build in a slide away chart table over the quarter berth. It allows the navigator to stand in the cabin out of the weather but remain in sight of the helmsman, which makes it easy to relay information back and forth. The table has a built in drawer for charts, a removable fiddle-rail, and can be locked in the open position or in the closed position. When locked open and in use, the navigator stands below and just to starboard of the companionway and can brace himself, or herself, between the chart table and the companionway ladder.       

Chart table closed
Chart table open,locked, and with chart drawer open

              We used heavy-duty stainless steel slides designed to hold up to 100 pounds of weight, realizing that the table would be leaned on and used as a handhold when it is locked in the open position.
              One of our biggest concerns about this addition below was that it would make access to the quarter berth so awkward that no one would want to sleep there. I built a mock up of the chart table and climbed in and out of the quarter berth half a dozen times before finally deciding that this solution was indeed workable. After years of living with this adaptation, I can confidently say that while the table does make the access to the berth a little more difficult, getting in and out of the berth is not the feat of gymnastics that I had envisioned.
              The long and short is that I have had many occasions to bless this innovation, particularly in heavy weather, where the navigator can confidently plot, verify, and look up data, in a sheltered space, but can still easily communicate with the helmsman.


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