Several times in the last few months – at the Annapolis Boat Show, while we were in Glades Boat Yard and by email/Facebook – I’ve been asked some variation of “what am I probably not thinking of in my cruising preparation?”
Boating skills, chart reading, weather, repair, tools, provisioning, cooking and making the boat a comfortable place to live probably make the list for everyone, to a greater or lesser extent.
The skill and/or “equipment” that I find a surprising number of cruisers haven’t thought about? It’s what I consider to be the cruiser’s best friend: Google.
The internet and the ability to find just about anything on it through Google has transformed cruising since we began in 2002. Yes, the internet existed then and there were rudimentary search engines. But nothing like Google (and I’m sure some people have other favorite search engines).
What all do we use Google for?
- Finding owners’ manuals, troubleshooting and maintenance tips, find part numbers and more
- Discovering YouTube how-to videos
- Finding product reviews
- Who sells this part? Who has the best price, shipping, customer service?
- Finding boats for sale and owner groups
- Learning about an area and what there is to do (either do we want to go/stop there, or what is there to do since we’re here)
- Maps – I hear people talking about XX (location), where is that?
- How-to information
- Finding online services
- Phone numbers, government and business office locations and email
- Where’s the nearest XX store?
- Emergency information: the nearest hospital, storm shelter, all-night pharmacy and so on
And lots more . . . I’ve only scratched the surface. Google and Google Maps literally saved Paz’s life (our dog) last spring when she was attacked by another dog and we needed an emergency vet at 9 PM on a Sunday night.
Particularly in the boat yard, I’ve been surprised by the number of people who have told me that they’re really not confident of their ability to use Google and find information that they need. I’ve helped a number of them get part numbers and find settings for newly-installed equipment.
I’m probably preaching to the converted here, since you’re reading this online, but if you’re not already extremely comfortable in finding the info you need, it’s worth putting time into developing your Google skills. It will pay off big time down the road.
A few of my tips:
- Keep looking, go two, three or even five pages into the results. Often the little tidbit you need is buried. Don’t assume you’ll find what you need in the first two or three listings. Once I found a refrigerator seal we needed on page 8!
- Use model names, numbers and part numbers whenever possible to find how-to information.
- If you’re not finding the information you need, think about alternate ways to state your search or make the question a little broader (very helpful on weird boat-related problems – often someone has the info out there but it’s just not using the terms you are). For example, some people call it a toilet, some call it a head.
When one of our friends at the boat yard asked me for tips on Googling, I found this Lifehack article that really covered the bases (and I learned a couple of new things, too): 20 Tips to Use Google Search Efficiently
The other part of the equation is to figure out how to get internet. Free wifi is harder and harder to find (even with a signal booster), is often not secure, and is often extremely slow when you do manage to get on – it seems like there is always someone who decides to stream movies or Skype when sharing a connection! That can work for Facebook and fun things, but is extremely frustrating when you’re dealing with a problem. If you’re in an area with cell service, having at least some cell data is really handy for times when you don’t want to have to go ashore and find somewhere with public wifi and need a reasonable connection. (I’ll admit that having a larger data package is one of our luxuries – we use a smartphone as a hotspot and run my laptop and Dave’s tablet off it. This works well and we haven’t felt the need for a separate MiFi unit.)
Again, learning how to use apps on your smartphone for searching and getting info and/or how to turn it into a hotspot to connect a laptop or tablet to isn’t hard, and will pay off big time when you find a quick fix to what you thought was a big problem.