"Why?" Scott asked. "Do you know something we don't?" It was an honest question.
We were underway and just about to enter a narrow cut when they struck up conversation. We knew they'd be coming over...I saw them slow down and eyeball our boat like we were crazy a minute or two earlier. "Why do you suppose those people are staring at us?" I had asked Scott. "I have no idea" he replied casually, concentrating on our charts. I mean, it was a pretty narrow cut, but nothing too crazy. At least we didn't think so.
"Where are you trying to go?" her husband piped up as they approached our boat.
"Through there", Scott pointed, "between the majors". He'd already put us in reverse. We were getting close to the narrow channel and now was not a good time to be in gear without total concentration and all eyes on the road.
"No, no - you can't go that way" the lady was shaking her head. "You'll go aground there... you have to go around" she waved her hand above her head in a circular motion, "We won't even take our dinghy through there!" she finished.
"Well, according to the charts we're fine" Scott replied, holding up our paper charts "We're using the Explorer charts and they show a channel there". Just as he handed the charts over to the concerned couple, a boat was navigating the very cut we were about to enter.
"See..." I chimed in, pointing "there's a boat going through there now".
"Oh...." the gentleman trailed off and paused as he examined our charts, "I see what you're doing now. Okay. Yeah, I guess there is a channel there. We've just never gone that way."
We genuinely thanked them for their concern, and they continued on their way as we safely navigated our way through the channel.
While some people might think the above situation is a nuisance, we actually did appreciate their offer to help. You never know what information people might have and we have been hugely assisted by the information of outsiders before. We're always willing to listen to the advice and information other (well meaning) cruisers might have, even if we don't always take it. It's funny though, part of me wonders if this "concern" comes from the fact that we are obviously younger - and assumedly less experienced - than most cruisers out here?
The truth is, when navigating we are very prudent. Scott is always cross-checking our GPS position with our paper charts and we only use our chart-plotter as a reference - especially in areas where there are coral heads, sand bars and/or any other navigational hazards. I keep a close eye on depth and, together, we always make sure we are precisely where we are supposed to be and -more importantly- where we think we are. Chart-plotters are not infalible and are known to put people off course, omit important navigational details or indicate to people that they are somewhere they are not. The difference between "safe" and "disaster" is often only a few degrees, so we are very careful not to rely solely on one form of navigation, particularly our chart-plotter.
That said, humans are also not infalible and you never know when you might drift off course. In our opinion, it's always good to remain open to the outstretched hand of someone who might know the way or, at the very least, know something that you do not. But... before you can adequately take advice from others, you must have a fair amount of trust in yourself. On a boat, you must know where you are, and where you are going. Always.
"...if you don't know where you are, then you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong."
-Terry Pratchett I Shall Wear Midnight