How FaceTime wrecked a sailor’s dream


Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple’s video chat feature FaceTime has bridged the miles for families, sparked a ton of romances and probably shattered a few marriages.

This may be the first time it’s ever shipwrecked someone, though.

John Berg was sailing off the coast of Kona, Hawaii when a FaceTime login request started messing with the navigation app on his iPad. Although sailing apps on smartphones and tablets so popular they’re credited with having sunk the market for Garmin products,  imprecise navigation has been a concern.

He was almost at the finish line for the journey of a lifetime: Berg, who is blind, and crew sailed for 21 days covering 2,800 miles from Banderas Bay in Mexico to Hawaii in a 40-foot-boat dubbed the Seaquel.

An app called iNavX on Berg’s iPad guided the Seaquel’s GPS. As they headed for the night’s waypoint, the screen was taken hostage by a system request to log in to FaceTime. And then another request to log in to iCloud. Berg and crew couldn’t figure out how to dismiss the request and log back in to iNavX. Things spiraled down into an All is Lostscenario when it turned out that although Berg’s iPhone had the app installed, the waypoint wasn’t set.

The vessel, a Nordic 40, cracked open on the jagged reefs just three miles from its destination. Fortunately, neither Berg nor the crew were injured and swam to safety. The boat is a goner, though.

Berg, who had lived aboard the boat for 12 years with his daughter, only blames himself.

“I just want to make it crystal clear that it was my boat, I was the captain, and it was me who screwed up. Even though I had sighted crew with me, it was my fault we lost the boat,” he told magazine Latitude 38.

Even so, it’d be nice if  some Apple fan had an unused boat for Berg to call home now.

Via Latitude 38

  • Christopher Morris

    He said it himself, it’s his fault that his ship is trashed. It should be his responsibility to buy another if he wants one. Why should we give charity to people who do things like this? It’s like saying someone should give me a car that they are not using because I wasn’t paying attention while driving and wrecked it.

    Is it because you feel sorry for him because he’s blind? It sounds like he doesn’t feel sorry for himself and neither should you.

  • Phil Navarro

    FaceTime did not wreck this mans dream. He made it Crystal Clear that he was to blame.
    I spend a lot of time on boats. As a convenience, I use a few apps on my iPhone to save waypoints for dive spots and offshore anchorages. This makes it easy to take my information from boat to boat.
    I would never trust an iPhone on an open ocean voyage, and would only use it as an emergency backup to my backup. Mounted GPS (main), Handheld waterproof GPS (backup) and lastly iPhone GPS.

  • David Talbot

    Yep, about the first thing they teach you and then repeat constantly as you learn to sail is you don’t keep going if you are unsure of your position, plenty of things you can’t see can sink you!

  • It’s forbidden to talk on the phone while driving, why shouldn’t it be the same for FaceTiming while sailing? Completely his fault. If you are using an electronic device to navigate a boat and especially when you are blind, you should keep it distraction-free meaning no FaceTime, no messages, no emails.

    • Facetime can be easily turned off in Settings on the iPad and iPhone, however, how was he to know there would be a problem with it and his navigation app? I’m curious that if the guy couldn’t dismiss the Facetime and iCloud requests, why didn’t he just do a force-quit and relaunch his navigation app. Seems the simplest and easiest thing to do. It’s sad that he lost the boat, but it seems negligent that he didn’t have any backup or other GPS system available on an open ocean voyage like this. When your life is involved, it’s even more important to have backup systems in place.

      • lucascott

        If something is mission critical you have a backup solution. And you make certain that there is nothing that can cause interference. If you aren’t certain if something might, you assume it will.

        This is what he knew and why, despite the hit whoring headline, he isn’t blaming the iPad or FaceTime etc

      • Does it really matter? Electronics glitch all the time, software by huge corporations gets bugs, is it so weird that a navigation app crashed in a non-multitasking operating system?

        Call me whatever you want, but I believe that blind people should not operate vehicles, not only for their safety, but for the safety of others. Electronics can only help that much.

  • Aannddyy

    I would also like to join in and say that this is his fault. Oh that feels good. I love pointing out when a disaster is someone’s fault. And, it was made easy by the sailor’s own admission, but I still would like to jump in and ‘rub it in’ because it’s easy to do so and like I said before, I love love love pointing my finger at someone after an accident, wagging the finger, and saying ‘that was your fault’.

  • Kr00

    My question is, if he had a crew that could see, why didn’t they alert him of the rocky shoal ?

  • yarly

    Versatile hardware like iPhone/iPad are very weak if used for time critical tasks. It’s just clogged with all of the fancy stuff and behave like child with attention deficiency.

  • herbaled

    Gotta laugh at the arm-chair sailors who are so quick to point out what he should have done.