For thousands of years man has depended upon the stars for navigation. The development of the sextant and its forerunner, the astrolabe made the fixing of latitude (north and south) much easier, but the determination of longitude could not be plotted without an extremely accurate method of keeping time. John Harrison, a British clockmaker, was the first to produce a workable and reliable chronometer for his purpose. He was scoffed at, for the most part, until he proved his machine would do the job. This was back in the mid-1700s.

Today, with electronic navigation, the mariner still depends upon heavenly bodies, and super-accurate timing continues to be part of the equation. The difference is that the heavenly bodies are placed there by humans, and the time is kept using cesium or rubidium atomic clocks. With the various methods of electronically navigating a vessel or aircraft over the surface of the earth, Global Positioning System (GPS) has become the standard in the world.

THE CAP’N, a Windows-based navigational program on the market since 1990, was intended to be used by any mariner anywhere in the world where charts exist. In 1990, not all areas had paper charts (some areas, such as the extreme Arctic and Antarctic regions of the globe still have some “holes”).

THE CAP’N’s home office, and the corporate headquarters of Nautical Technologies, the parent company of THE CAP’N, are in a small house on a side street in suburban Bangor. Since 1990, over 10,000 copies of the program have been sold worldwide. CD’s are burned as each order comes in, so any updates are included. Including a free World Wide Light List, List of Lights downloadable database and downloadable patches, the current upgrade price is $79.00.

Anywhere that paper charts are available on the planet, there is an electronic equivalent available. THE CAP’N seamlessly mosaics charts into one big chart. (In the first version of THE CAP’N, electronically speaking, you fell off the edge of the chart when you reached it. With the newer, proprietary program, charts are connected in a fashion that is not distorted, nor even visible.)

THE CAP’N tracks the position of a vessel using a GPS signal.

A few features make THE CAP’N user friendly. The instructions are simple; the size of the buttons on the screen make it easy to see and acquire with a mouse or trackball. The owners of THE CAP’N and the producers of the program, being familiar with marine navigation, realized that people using this program would not be youngsters with perfect vision.

In the event the GPS unit dies (which all electronics are capable of doing) one can shoot visual bearings via magnetic compass to known charted objects and create a fix on the electronic charts using a “Manual Bearing From Ship” feature.

To use THE CAP’N, the program has to be loaded into a Windows OS computer.

In addition to THE CAP’N, there is a second, less expensive version called THE 1st Mate. This program is similar in many ways, but it doesn’t allow the saving of a track. THE CAP’N allows any person who purchases THE 1st Mate full credit toward THE CAP’N if they wish to upgrade at a later date.

The program, as purchased, includes U.S. Planning Charts, DB-9 Serial Port Cable, Elec-tronic Bowditch (Government Publication), and a free mini-region of charts. Additional electronic charts can be purchased. THE CAP’N has all the charts for anywhere on the planet. Route-specific plans can be customized if requested.

THE CAP’N’s website is .