The world is divided into those who do, and those who don't. Personally, I do...

The world is divided into those who do, and those who don?t. Personally, I do.

But I know plenty of people who don?t. Whether it?s because they?re too idle or too disinterested, they just can?t bring themselves to do it. Or maybe I do it because I?m a total saddo.When I buy a new gizmo (and believe me, I buy lots) I have to read the manual. To my mind, there?s no point in having some clever gizmo if you don?t know what it will do, and don?t know how to get it to do the things you want it to do. My mobile, my iPod, my GPS, my PDA, my multi-function digital chronograph, the five boxes that sit beneath my TV? I?ve read the manuals. I actually like reading the manuals. Even the manuals that make no sense, like the one for my KTM that was written by an Austrian with a very warped grasp of English.

For me, the manual is a way of finding out exactly what the gizmo will do, and finding out how to do the things I want it to do (while ignoring all the things I don?t want it to do). It makes sense. Knowledge is power, and all that. Sure, I don?t need every function on every gizmo, but if I can find out how to download my emails with my voice-activated, Bluetooth-enabled, hands-free electronic toothbrush, so much the better. Okay, bad example, but the ability to edit playlists on the iPod, recall important waypoints from the chart plotter, and speed-dial my urologist from the mobile is important to me.

And it probably should be for you, too (except for the bit about my urologist). The story in our Waypoints section on p94 about radar-assisted collisions has a bearing on all of us. The piece concerns the col-regs and how it is every skipper?s duty to use whatever means are at his disposal to prevent bumping into things at sea. That means being fully conversant with the electronic gadgets you have on board, and using their clever features if conditions demand it. So if you have a radar on board, you have to know not only how its basic functions work, but also how more advanced features such as Arpa (automatic radar plotting aid) work, too.

If you don?t, you might get a slap from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch or (worse) find that your insurance isn?t valid if you didn?t take all reasonable steps to avoid a collision. And that?s not a position you want to be in with a 30,000-tonne tanker bearing down on your half-million-pound pride and joy at 25 knots in fog. At that point, it?s far too late to start thinking about reading the manual.