Tuesday 15 February 2011

Kindle eBook Reader for Cruising Sailors

Remember I did a post last year (April 27/2010) on eBook readers for cruising sailors to take with them on their sailboat for their 'adventure of a lifetime'?

I had held back from purchasing one as the only way was online through Amazon. Fortunately a friend of mine had received a Kindle as a present some months earlier so I was able to get it into my hands and have a play. Meanwhile I had checked out several other ebook readers such as the Sony, Kobo and iPad etc., and whilst they were all impressive and all had varying features, the one main drawback for me was that to an item, they all still gave the impression of reading through glass - which as a reader is quite off putting if one is reading for any length of time.

So, to actually hold the Kindle and test this particular feature was what I wanted. I can report that the reading experience with Kindle is excellent. When looking at the page it is exactly like seeing the printed word on paper. I know this is how the Kindle has been promoted but I wanted to see it for myself. And from that perspective it rates 10/10. I am not sure how this has been achieved as after all it is still a glass screen, but nonetheless, that is the final result and to a serious reader, that is what is important.

I purchased one immediately and have been reading with it continuously for a month now. It was instant lust and it accompanies me wherever I go.

It is light weight and very compact, being about the dimensions of a standard paperback but, even with the cover, only one third of the thickness. It can be read almost anywhere except in the dark. You can see yours truly right here, happily reading in full sunlight - and that is the beauty of the Kindle - from a reading point of view (print on page), it is exactly like a book.

I purchased the Kindle online from Amazon for US$139. The closable cover is an additional US$39. The Kindle is now available in 3G and this I bought for another US$50. Total cost US$228. Compare this price to many other ebook readers which are currently on the market, the Kindle is excellent buying indeed. The Apple iPad for example is very tempting with all the apps available for it, but you are looking at a starting price of $600, less portability and still do not have a proper reading experience.

To say I am delighted with my Kindle is an understatement.
The many features can be explored by clicking on the Kindle banner to the right.

Once you have overcome the initial involuntary response of trying to turn the page with your finger instead of touching the button, you are already on your way to many hours of happy reading. All classics and out of copyright books are free or just a few pennies, and all current titles run out at half to a third of normal retail. A range of newspapers, magazines and even technical books (including marine) are also available - this range will increase massively over time. Your Kindle library will store 3000 books plus (and can be backed up onto your computer so you won't lose them) which should keep most readers happy for many years.

Battery life is always a serious question for the cruising sailor and I am happy to report that Kindle have solved this problem as well. Using a lithium battery and keeping the WiFi turned off except for downloading new books or material, the battery will power the unit for up to a whole month before needing to re-charge. You must always remember to slide the 'wake up' button on and off when commencing reading and finishing. This is very impressive when you compare the power requirements of other units.

You will notice in the image to the right a leather strap attached to my Kindle. I went to my local cobbler who rummaged through his off cuts and came up with a nice little leather strip which he then sewed into the seam of the cover. Ten dollars later I picked it up and it has been swinging from my wrist ever since. I had this sewn in to prevent accidents such as dropping it onto the sidewalk or overboard when boarding etc.etc.

No more will the cruiser have to carry piles of dog eared paperbacks half way around the world, wondering where they can be stored, not to mention the additional weight. And might I suggest that if you were planning on buying Kindle you may wish to make it two, so as to avoid any arguments as to who is going to read it!

Just visualise yourself reading in the cockpit under the canopy on a fine downwind tropical day, on a mooring, or tucked up in your bunk at night or in a cafe on a far away shore - bliss.

Check out the Kindle features by clicking on the banner at right and begin your new reading experience of the future.

You can read more about reading on passage and far away places in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website http://www.sailboat2adventure.com/

Monday 7 February 2011

Cruising Sailors Somali Pirate Update

Any cruising sailor making plans to sail or already sailing in their sailboat through the Indian Ocean and along this part of the African coast is going to be acutely aware of this potentially dangerous situation. As is mentioned in the following article, yachts are pretty small change as far as the pirates are concerned, but the crew can be seen as valuable currency.

The reverse of the coin though is that in percentage terms of the number of cruising vessels sailing through these seas, the chances of being approached and possibly attacked are very slight indeed. However, as in all things, forewarned is forearmed and Colin Speedie lays out a timely summary of the current situation:

'For most cruising yachtsmen there are few more beautiful, peaceful or congenial places to down a cold Tusker beer, than on the Kenyan shore of the Indian Ocean. Such places form the backbone of the dream for so many, and it’s not hard to see why.

But outside in open waters things are less idyllic, due to the presence of Somali pirates patrolling the sea, looking for vessels to hijack.

Generally their interest lies in bigger cargo vessels, but fishing vessels and yachts have also been taken. And the payoffs can be enormous – a record ransom of $9.5m was recently paid for a South Korean supertanker and her crew (plus $170m of crude oil cargo). As a result, despite a much-increased military presence from the navies of the world, the problem is growing fast. By late 2010 NAVFOR (the EU anti-piracy task force) had intercepted over 120 pirate attacks in the area, up from 21 in 2009. At the current moment the pirates are holding 31 vessels and over 700 hostages. And it’s reported that around $238m in ransoms was paid to Somali pirates during 2010 – it’s a huge business.

An Expanding Problem - largely as a result of the increased naval activity, the problem has spread contagiously throughout the region; the pirates, using captured fishing vessels and motor vessels as motherships, have expanded their range to evade capture. The Maritime Security Centre/ISAF guidance for yachts for the region (Gulf of Aden, northern Indian Ocean and southern Red Sea) suggests that the area affected goes down to 15S and 78E, but one of the most recent attacks was at 21 38S and another was close to the South coast of India. This is a colossal problem over an immense area, and almost impossible to control through force, as a senior NAVFOR officer recently admitted.

Yachts, of course, are small beer for the pirates, and with only one attack on a yacht recorded in the region during 2010, it’s worth keeping some sense of perspective about the scale of the problem. But the ransom paid for a UK couple last year was reported to be in excess of $750K – hardly a pittance, although far less than the $7m originally demanded. And it has recently been reported that a ransom of £10m is being sought for the release of a South African couple captured aboard a yacht in the 2010 attack. Big ships might be worth far more, and the yachts themselves may be worth nothing to the pirates, but the crews certainly have a potential value.

Is There Any Defense? So what can be done if you have to travel in this region? Some local sailors suggested that day sailing close to the coast is relatively safe, and that may be one option for part of this huge area. Others transiting the area to and from Suez are often opting to travel in convoys, seeking security in numbers, although with the current unrest in Yemen and Egypt to face along the way it’s no sinecure. And whilst the multinational naval presence will provide surveillance and security for yachts where possible, understandably the force prioritizes big ships. Yachts coming from the East now face the long voyage down to the Cape of Good Hope via Mauritius to stay out of the expanded pirate zone.

Ship your yacht by freighter? Well, this January Somali pirates seized the M/V Beluga Nomination carrying a cargo of yachts from Malta to the Seychelles, with the tragic loss of three crewmembers’ lives. As it stands, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that before too long this whole vast area might become a no go zone for yachts.

A Global Problem - And it’s not only the Indian Ocean – 445 pirate attacks were reported in 2010 globally, and included such cruising areas as the Caribbean, Central America, Papua New Guinea and the South China Sea.

We hope to visit West Africa in Pelerin, our Ovni 435, this coming autumn, but increasingly there are disturbing reports of terrorist activity targeting westerners in the Sahel countries. Ultimately we don’t have to go there, and we may simply decide, with great regret, that it’s a risk too far – a pity for us, and a loss of legitimate revenue for the countries concerned.

In this internet age, keeping news of such lucrative piracy under wraps is impossible. So, with poverty rife in many ‘pristine’ parts of the world, maybe others in those places are also weighing up the possibilities for conducting their own local wealth redistribution policies. And, although we, like many readers of this website, love higher latitudes, we still have to get there in the first place, and hope to enjoy many tropical places along the way. But that seems to be becoming more complicated by the day, and it seems our cruising world may be rapidly shrinking, and not just in small increments, either.'

Excerpt article Colin Speedie, images courtesy Colin Speedie and Google

You can read more about Pirates in the Caribbean (Columbia coast) in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website http://www.sailboat2adventure.com