Contents (what's in this issue)
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Happy New Millennium!
(We don't get to say THAT often)
Good Old Boat is heading toward a second birthday already. Thanks for being part of this! Here's the "inside news" from the boardroom at our international headquarters. (Well OK, the dining room at 7340 Niagara Lane North.)
Periodical mailing is coming
New area code, too
About our website . . .
What's coming in March
Want fliers to spread around?
We've heard from quite a few folks who wrote to tell us aboutother
consignment shops, Admiralty Marine, in particular.
Here's the revised list of consignment dealers with the newadditions:
This list was out of date. Please see our consignments page for the latest information.
And while we're on the subject
Merry Christmas, Greg!
Yes, but which good old boat?
Speaking of Folkboats reminds us
Another Folkboat fan noticed
Now I understand!
Do it myself
Changed my mind
More like it
Poor little orphan
Welcome to "the dark side"!
Another project begins
What about the Columbia40?
What do you do with old sails?
Hey! I resemble that remark!
Excerpted from Louis Rubin's book, Small Craft Advisory, published in 1991 by Atlantic Monthly Press, with the permission of Grove/Atlantic Inc.
I used to wonder sometimes why weekend sailors are so dedicated to their art, and yet use their boats less often than other boat owners. I decided that what is most important to them, more even than the enjoyment of sailing, is the symbolism involved in owning the boat. The act of possession - being able to think in terms of "my boat" - is what is crucial. Certainly on any kind of economic scale, even that by which one justifies keeping a boat, most weekend sailors would be far better off with an inexpensive daysailer, kept on a trailer rather than at the dock, considering the amount of sailing they will actually engage in. They could charter a decent-sized cabin craft for the two or three weeks a year that they will actually be able to travel anywhere on a boat. But no, the sailboat must be owned. Chartering won't do, except as a supplementary activity to be conducted down in the Caribbean - in which case it can be a definite plus.
Is it the snobbery of the thing? Is the boat a status symbol? To an extent, perhaps, depending on the circumstances. But most sailboats aren't palatial affairs; if conspicuous consumption is what is desired, expensive power cruisers and trawler yachts are far more effective. Moreover, the older the sailboat, the more primitive its accoutrements, the greater the prestige and respect that the owner commands among most sailboat people. Is it a resurgence of the seafaring instinct, the assertion of long-suppressed seafaring blood? Hardly. I have noticed no particular correlation of sailboat ownership with descent from the time-honored seafaring races. Besides, if seagoing ancestry is responsible for the urge to own sailboats, then why was I so taken with sailing that from the middle 1970s until the sale of the Virginius I had owned five different sailboats, ranging from 15 to 28 and a half feet? So far as I can determine, my own forebears have mainly been landlubbers for the past several millennia; the only really notable seafarer of my ethnic past was a certain fugitive who took passage on a boat bound for Tarshish, was thrown overboard by the crew during a storm, and was saved from drowning by being swallowed by a whale. The truth that lies behind sailboat fever is to be found neither in economics nor genetics, but in metaphysics. For the compulsion toward ownership of a sailboat is ultimately symbolic - but not in terms of status.
Consider that a sailboat depends for her propulsion not on machinery but on air. An engine may be appropriate for getting her away from her berth at the marina and out into the river or bay or ocean, but it is hardly an essential feature of the activity. People owned sailboats for pleasure long before Robert Fulton first thought of hooking up a steam engine to a set of paddle wheels. Once under way, a boat's sails are hoisted, and the wind takes her whither she is bound. The point is that it is an elemental situation - basic, primitive, literally dependent upon the elements. The sailor who takes his boat out on the water is surrounded by flowing water, and is doing no more than what the seagoing folk of earliest times did: using a thin sheet of fabric - woven mat, cotton, flax, silk, nylon, Kevlar, it is all the same - hoisted upon a pole to traverse that water. The boat may be constructed of reed grass, oxhide, cypress planking, steel plates, fiberglass; it is still a floating object.
The sailor, whether bound from a yacht harbor on the mainland to a point downriver or from Cadiz to Hispaniola, is setting out across a body of water, using only the wind to propel him, and how rapidly or comfortably he may attain his destination will depend upon such skill as he possesses in interpreting the tide and wind, selecting and adjusting the sails, handling the tiller, and keeping the bow properly aimed. He is, in short, engaged in bending nature to human purposes, and in a palpable and very direct way.
Nature is inextricably involved. The wind, the water, the sun are not only unmistakably present; there is no way that anyone can pretend that they do not matter and need not be reckoned with at all times. At home the sailboat person may drive to work in his automobile and not be overly concerned with whether it is raining or blowing or snowing. He lives in a sturdy house, safe from the elements. But once he ventures out in his sailboat he must pay vital heed to them, for not only his comfort but his safety depend on what is going on with wind and weather.
Sailing, therefore, is an experience - not the only kind, but one kind - that can allow one to exist and function under conditions that speak to one's basic situation as a human being. Aboard a sailboat the boatman consults, and seeks to use, wind and current. What he does - tightening or slackening off a sail, steering a course, allowing for tidal drift, staying alert to spot and take advantage of a gust of wind moving across the water, pointing just off the wind, coming about - will directly affect his progress. He moves along without machinery; there is no engine grinding away, but only flowing air and rushing water.
What owning a sailboat offers, I think, is a kind of symbolic reunion with the natural world, a reassertion of basics. No matter that in actuality the sailor will venture no further from his boat's dock than a few dozen miles, and then only on infrequent occasions. When he casts off the lines and takes his sailboat out on the water, he has placed himself in a situation that is about as independent of the complex social involvement of modern life as is possible. He can experience a self-sufficiency, an elemental freedom, that is otherwise lacking in his life.
It is scarcely coincidental that so many sailboat owners live at a considerable distance from the marinas where their boats are kept - which is of course why sailboats are actually used comparatively rarely. It is precisely because he is able to get to his boat only occasionally that he must own the boat. His job, his family, his community responsibilities, the regimen of his daily life keep him caught up in their constant demands on his time and energy. It is therefore of great symbolic importance to him to be able to feel that, a hundred miles away down on the coast or at the lake, his boat is there, waiting for him, so that he can break away from his routine and take it out on the water, away from land, to deal with wind and wave and tide on his own - so that he can be self-sufficient.
No, the pride of possession involved in owning a sailboat is not so much conspicuous consumption, sublimated sexual symbolism, and so on, as the assurance that one can regain access - can flee, if you will - to what is basically and inescapably natural and real. Subject to the elemental restrictions of the natural world, and with the aid of those natural forces of wind and tide, the sailor can control his life, choose his destination.
But is this not also true of powerboats? Well, to an extent - but ultimately it is not the same. One steers a powerboat; one sails a sailboat. The involvement is far greater. The sailboat will be able to move through the water precisely in ratio to the skill with which the sails are tended and the bow kept aligned. It is that very primitiveness that is so attractive.
The sailor is thoroughly engaged with what he is doing. He must constantly exert himself, stay alert and observant. He must hold the tiller or wheel, keep on course, constantly check the trim of the sails, the direction of the wind, the action of the waves. Such daydreaming as is possible must be tentative and wary; there is too much reality around and above and underneath to permit the attention to wander from the here and now for very long. Abstract theorizing, extended cogitation - these are for later, when the sailboat is at anchor or back at the dock and the sailor can relax on a berth in the cabin. While sailing, one is always busy.
There is nothing in powerboating (which however has satisfactions of its own) that is really comparable, for example, to the act of tacking. True, when steering a powerboat in rough water one sometimes alters course to quarter the oncoming seas rather than meet them headlong, so as to reduce pounding. But when one tacks a sailboat one is using the very contrariness of the wind against itself The sailor cannot proceed directly into the face of the wind, so he alters his course just enough to force that oncoming wind to propel him, however indirectly, toward its source. Depending on the direction from which the wind is blowing and the course that the sailor selects, he sometimes gives up actual forward progress in order to gain it back in greater measure, by sailing on a losing tack, so that he can then come about and get closer to his destination.
What a skilled sailor who knows the capabilities of his boat and the way of the wind and water can do to maximize his progress and minimize the adversities of the weather is remarkable. One need only watch the progress of two sailboats of approximately similar construction and sail area, one of them sailed by a tyro and the other by a skilled sailor, to see the difference. As they zigzag back and forth before the face of the wind, first on gaining and then on losing tacks, each will appear at times to be overhauling the other - and measured as one measures distances with a powerboat, straight ahead from point of departure to destination, each boat will at times be nearer to the destination than the other. But gradually it will become evident that with each action of tacking and coming about, the gap between the boats is widening.
Eventually, as the two boats repeatedly pass each other going in opposite directions, the one boat will be farther ahead, closer to the destination even though never actually sailing toward it. Ultimately, even at the extremity of its losing tack, the boat sailed by the skilled sailor will be farther along than the other boat is at the apogee of its gaining tack. A few hours later, the leading boat is out of sight, or at most a tiny object on the horizon.
He who would do good must do it in minute particulars, quote the poet Blake, and that is exactly what the skilled sailor has done. Small decisions, seemingly insignificant in themselves - exactly when to come about, to tighten or loosen mainsheet or jibsheet just a trifle, to vary course a few points to take maximum advantage of an oncoming gust, to give a sail more belly or to set it a little more tautly, to adjust the position of the slide on the traveler, to increase or reduce heeling and exactly how much - add up to a sizable advantage.
In general one uses a powerboat to do something - go fishing, take a trip, observe wildlife, look at scenery, explore creeks, bays, islands, waterways. The chief use of a sailboat, by contrast, is for its own sake, for sailing. How often do you see a sailboat anchored somewhere so that its occupants can fish? There is certainly no law against fishing from a sailboat; and although such things as stays, booms, and lifelines make it rather less convenient to use a rod and reel than is true of an open-decked powerboat, it can be managed with reasonable competence. But very few people with sailboats ever use them for fishing, for the simple reason that the act of sailing the boat itself is all the recreation and activity anyone needs.
Compared to what sailors must do and know, powerboating is relatively undemanding. I do not mean, of course, that in severe weather it does not require considerable skill (which is why I take care to avoid severe weather). But the fact is that so long as his engine is functioning the powerboat man can cope, while without it he is helpless - and the reliability of that engine does not significantly depend on the skill with which he operates it. Either it runs or it does not. By contrast, the sailboat not only admits of degrees of flying canvas - from full sail to storm trysail - but is designed to function in conditions of wind and wave that would soon swamp most powerboats of comparable size. It is not foolproof against all wind and wave action, but it can survive horrendous blows - if the sailor knows what he is about. It is no wonder that sailboat people, being human and therefore susceptible to the sin of pride, often tend to look down upon those who use powerboats as lesser creatures, and to employ such terms as "stinkpots" and "gassers" to designate the craft that such lesser breeds utilize. Human motives are rarely pure. I sometimes think that sailboat people are not guiltless of wanting to own and operate sailboats in order to feel themselves superior.
There is also a certain element of masochism involved in sailing, a positive taking of pleasure in doing things the hard way. How otherwise to account for the contempt with which no small number of sailboat people view such conveniences as roller reefing, electric-powered raising and lowering of mainsails, Loran-C, fiberglass hulls, even the use of Marconi rigging rather than the demonstrably less efficient gaff rigging? In this sense, perhaps, they resemble antique automobile enthusiasts; but the person who restores and drives a 1923 Maxwell or a 1932 Ford V-8 does not, so far as I know, affect a disdain for drivers of late-model cars. So while the joys of antiquarianism are involved in sailing, there is considerably more to it than that. Rather, it is a kind of primitivistic impulse, reminiscent of the impulse that led Henry David Thoreau to live alone in a shanty next to Walden Pond. And just as there is a good deal of ostentatious self-righteousness in Walden, so your sailor of sailboats sometimes tends toward the sin of pride.
Payload (Why many boats sleep 6 and cruise best with 2)
Much of the following is from The Sailor's Assistant:Reference Data for Maintenance, Repair, & Cruising by John Vigor. Published by International Marine/McGraw-Hill; Camden, Maine.Soon to be republished by International Marine as Boatowner's Handbook: Reference Data for Maintenance, Repair, Navigation, and Seamanship. Reprinted with permission.
There are ways to estimate how big a boat you need. Naval architect Dave Gerr says in ballasted monohull cruisers the weight of crew and stores should be about 7 to 9 percent of the true loaded displacement. In his book, The Sailor's Assistant, John Vigor offers this method of estimating designers' published displacement (the two are different, and some published displacements are . . . well, fudged, usually on the light side).
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Published Feb 8, 2000