With my iPad, the chart scale is mostly unimportant. With a pinch or flick of my fingers I can zoom in or out with infinite divisions and each division changes the scale. The result is that when I look at a paper chart my mind never considers how big something is (island) nor how far it might be. Sure, there are tools to measure distance, but in close quarters sailing, it isn’t important.
Of course I studied the paper charts for the San Juan Islands in way too much detail and worked at memorizing the island names and locations. When traveling from Anacortes to Friday Harbor by ferry I wanted to see how well I could pick them out. What a dismal failure. It was funny. My perception of distances learned from the charts was so far off I was instantly lost. Even before getting on the ferry I just couldn’t wrap my head around how close Guemes Island was. That land right there is Guemes? Opening my chart plotter (iPad, remember?) I was amazed after taking a reading. Half a mile? That’s all?
The ferry ride only confirmed how mistaken my notion of the island geography was. Rosario Strait is less then four miles across! Once out of the strait every island looked like you could hit it with a rock. I sail four miles just getting up the bay to where I anchor. So, I was probably grinning like a fool as we disembarked because I realized I’d been training for these water all along. They are very much like my bay.
I feel the ire of some of you already but, rest assured, my bay is neither sheltered nor current free. The tide changes just as much and just as often as the islands and I plan around them to have a safe and enjoyable outing. I realize deep water and big upwelling currents I will need to learn about and deal with, but it seems a lot more manageable now that I have a San Juan perspective.