GOOD OLD BOAT
NEWSLETTER

FEBRUARY 2000

Contents (what's in this issue)

(Click on the Good Old Boat icon to come back to the top of this page.)

How to contact us
 
Good Old Boat Magazine
7340 Niagara Lane North
Maple Grove, MN 55311-2655
763-420-8923; 763-420-8921 (fax)


Karen Larson, Editor
Jerry Powlas, Technical Editor
Brent Ostbye, Editorial Assistant

 

http://www.goodoldboat.com/


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

We've been working hard to comply with the complicated postal regulations that will enable us to mail our magazines to you as periodicals rather than as junk mail. It's the difference between third class/bulk rate mailings (which we have had to do) and second class/periodical mailings (which we hope to do starting with the March issue). The new status should get our magazines to you faster and more accurately. Some of the hassle we've had and you've had with magazines arriving late or not at all should (we hope!) magically disappear. The post office doesn't make this easy, but we have high hopes. We've filed an application and will be undergoing an audit soon.
That's where you come in. The audit will focus on whether the people it's mailed to have requested this magazine or whether they're getting it unsolicited in much the same way you receive your junk mail. If you should receive an official-looking postcard from the U.S. Postal Service, please answer their questions about your relationship with Good Old Boat magazine and return the card. It should go better for all of us once we've cleared this hurdle. If you are among those selected for the audit, we thank you in advance for helping out.

New area code, too

It's not just the post office. The telephone company has changes in store for us also. As residents of the northwest Minneapolis suburbs, we'll have a new area code by the end of February. It's changing from 612 to 763. Both numbers will be operational for about a year while we adjust to the change. Many of you have been through this upheaval. We can handle it, too, without whimpering.

About our website . . .

It seems that as soon as we make things smoother in one area, something else pops up, often in an area we thought we'd already smoothed out. Know those little heads at fairs and kid's playgrounds that pop up all over the place and your job is to beat them back down with a mallet? Well, such are the realities of starting a business. We started out with a simple website, but as it's grown in sophistication and complication, we've had repeated problems with our ISP. This company went through a recent merger and can't seem to monitor the computers which host our site to make sure they haven't crashed . . . again. So our site (or a couple of the live interactive parts) die for hours at a time. If you've been confused or inconvenienced by this, we apologize. There aren't many providers equipped to offer all the services we need, unfortunately, but we're shopping for a new one.

What's coming in March

The March issue is at the printer. Here's what's on its way:


Want fliers to spread around?

Good Old Boat is still the best-kept secret around the sailing community. But with your help, we shall overcome. We've just received 5,000 new fliers offering a free sample of our magazine to anyone and everyone. Want some fliers to spread around at boat shows, marinas, club meetings, rendezvous, chandleries, etc? Let us know how many and where to send them, and we'll get them out to you along with our sincere gratitude. We're still doing most of our marketing the guerilla (read: cheap) way!

Marine consignmentshops

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

We heard from Mark Van Egeren, who is interested in starting a consignment shop on the western shore of Lake Michigan. He wondered if there are any shops in the Midwest and particularly in eastern Wisconsin. We don't know of any. If you do, please let us know, and we'll add them to this list. Also let Mark know before he makes too many business decisions based on the belief that there are none in the area. His phone number is: 608-224-0372, email: vanegere@itis.com.

Merry Christmas, Greg!

We also heard from Greg Stebbins, who sends the following:
"We just returned from a visit with the grandparents and while there, my father gifted me with boxes and boxes of OLD sailing hardware. Some of this stuff goes back to the '30s and is all-bronze. If you know of anyone looking for something, please feel free to give them my email address, and if I've got it, we'll try to work out something. I don't think I'll ever have an opportunity to use much of this stuff although some of the oak snatch blocks and oil-burning running lights are going to go on display. Please, no hustlers or resellers but someone who can put this stuff to real use on the kind of old boats I grew up with. My boat is a true stainless steel wonder, and I could just kick myself!
Greg Stebbins
Gstebbins@aol.com


Mail Buoy

Yes, but which good old boat?

I have subscribed to your magazine since May. I think it is wonderful, and I know you like to show how each boat is truly a good old boat in its own way, but I would like to buy the best good old boat I can, but I am not sure which one. I am looking for a full-keeled sloop, 30-35 feet in length to sail on Lake Michigan. Typically, the sailing will be daysailing with weekend trips, and an occasional weeklong trip (as time permits) with the hopes of someday leaving the Great Lakes on a longer trip. The current list includes the Alberg 30 and 35, Luders 33, C&C Corvette, Bristol 32, and the Cape Dory 28. I was hoping to get some input on the strengths and weaknesses of each boat, or if there are any that should be crosssed off the list or any that should be added. I was wondering if you knew how I could get the information I need to make an informed decision. I was thinking a discussion list on your site would be a good way to find out about these wonderful old boats. I would appreciate any assistance you could lend me.
Thank you for your time, and keep up the fantastic work.
Mike Roberson
Grand Haven, Mich.
We have no plans for a discussion group at our site, although there are many others on the 'Net where this sort of thing could be broached. I've looked at your list of boats, and although I have very limited, or in most cases no, first-hand knowledge, the boats you have selected enjoy a pretty good reputation.
The choice of a full keel is a personal one. If you are familiar with these boats and that is what you want, so much the better. If not, I personally think that for daysailing and weekends on Lake Michigan, a fin keel is more than adequate and has, in fact, several advantages.
Full keels tend to be on deeper hulls with slack bilges, and fins tend to be on flatter-bottomed boats with hard bilges. Full keels are generally thought to be better seaboats, but often this is more to do with the deep slack-bilged hull than the keel. The deep hull (usually found on a narrower boat) gives a better ride in rough weather.
Full keels tend to hold their course better, which is a nice way of saying they are harder to turn. They also tend to develop more weather helm when they heel. Many full-keeled boats are quite difficult to steer in reverse, and they are generally slower in light air where wetted surface is more of a factor.
Finned keels are generally easier to steer in forward and reverse. If they are combined with a spade rudder, reversing can be very controlled indeed. The course-holding ability of a finned-keel boat can be quite adequate.
Most finned-keel boats are beamier. An exception would be the C&C Redwing. The added beam makes sailing more comfortable in some ways because the boat will sail well at only moderate heel. These beamier boats are also roomier inside. Beamy hard-bilged flat-bottomed boats (the common collection of characteristics) tend to pound more in rough seas and so give a less comfortable ride. At least some, (our C&C 30 is one) have trouble steering a broad reach in very high seas. On our boat this requires a fair amount of wheel turning to hold course. I think full-keeled boats are less sensitive in this matter.
All in all, these are just choices. If I had to buy another boat for coastal cruising, I'd buy a fin keel with spade rudder. I like the type. They are fast and more comfortable in the kind of sailing we do most often.
If you stick with full keels, don't leave out the Bristol Channel Cutter unless you've eliminated it because of cost. If you mostly daysail, you might want to open it up to include the fin keels, too. They are good coastal cruisers. Some are reasonably good ocean boats as well. Our boat is not a good ocean boat, but she is a very fine coastal cruiser.
It's best to buy the boat that does well what you do most often.

International Folkboats

I recently learned of your publication from Frank Costello whose International Folkboat, Espresso, was included in the January 2000 issue. As a IF owner myself, I was quite excited to learn that an English-language boating publication was going to cover the IFs, so I quickly requested my sample issue. It just arrived and needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the review along with the photos. My compliments to all involved. I enjoyed the entire issue and wondered how I never heard of Good Old Boat before. At any rate, I will be subscribing since I let my subscriptions to a couple of other sailing magazines expire. I'd much rather read about boats and voyages that are within my reach than to read the same old stories on how the other half lives. Plus, I like the concept of community you are encouraging.
Ken Kurlychek
Edgewater, Md.
Ken, by the way, maintains an "all things Folkboats" website at <http://www.gallaudet.edu/~kkurlych/IFboat.html>. Check it out!

Speaking of Folkboats reminds us

We were recently introduced to your wonderful magazine. Although we are now living in a log home on Vancouver Island we find it very difficult to get away from talking about and remembering times past spent cruising the Atlantic and Pacific. Your nice article on the Folkboat reminded us of the day after transiting the canal we were anchored at the island of Taboga on the Pacific side. Looking in the direction of the LosPearlas, we noticed a small dot on the horizon slowly getting larger. After many hours and just before dusk we saw a Folkboat with a singlehander on board rowing his boat to the anchorage. How is that for simplicity? Lots of luck with this great magazine.
Pearl and Walter Critchlow
Vancouver Island

Another Folkboat fan noticed

I wanted to say thanks to the Good Old Boat staff for doing the article on the International Folkboat. It was a good one and did a pretty good job of describing the boat's various abilities and shortcomings. I have a 1974 International Folkboat with an inboard Yanmar 6.5-hp engine. Darlene and I sail in the Gulf of Mexico and the waters surrounding Pensacola. In fact last month we spent Christmas and New Year's Eve on the boat. (It's warm here, and I thought I'd rub it in a bit).
I am a new subscriber and wanted you to know that part of the reason I subscribed to Good Old Boat was your informative articles like the one about the whisker pole in January's issue. I like to know about ideas/options for doing things without having to buy or use the off-the-shelf/canned fixes. I had already figured out the option described in the article on whisker poles. I have been using a PVC whisker pole for quite some time, and it works just fine while saving me a couple hundred dollars in the process. I know the do-it-yourself fixes aren't for everyone, but many of us are sailing good old boats because we can't or don't want to spend the money for new boats and gear. There are plenty of catalogs and magazines (that I don't subscribe to) that promote and advertise the newest boats/gear without needing Good Old Boat's help. What is needed are descriptive ideas for cost-conscious sailors to sail and maintain their boats without going broke buying every new gadget that washes ashore! With articles like yours, we can make informed decisions with prior knowledge of our options. Thanks again, and keep up the good work.
Pat Johnson
Pensacola, Fla.

Now I understand!

After seeing the photo in your last issue (January 2000) of the captain (Don Casey) sawing the engine stringers, I now understand why the large number of pegleg skippers. I'll use a jigsaw for this job every time. Great magazine.
Robert
Robert's note got separated from his subscription check, so he'll remain just "Robert" for now.

Do it myself

All I asked Santa for was a new main. Although I did leave this invoice and my free copy of Good Old Boat around the house for weeks, I guess no one took the hint, and I'll just have to do it (subscribe) myself. Soap on a rope, indeed!
David Timmins
Etobicoke, Ontario

Changed my mind

I've always owned good old boats. I thought it was because I couldn't afford new ones. When I read your magazine, I realize that I own them because they're great, like your magazine!
Marv Koellish
Wallingford, Pa.

More like it

It is good to read realistic articles about real people using boats I see every day of the season. The big glossy magazines are about the expensive mega boats that are fun to "wish for." This magazine is more my speed.
Steve Genett
Biddeford, Maine

Poor little orphan

Annie (24-foot boat built in the Arundel Yacht Yard in 1980) is our 9,000-pound orphan. She's been on the cover of WoodenBoat, a center spread in Maine Boats and Harbors, and in countless calendars. She had a full chapter in White and Mendlewitz's Wind, Water & Light. But she's really our time warp into an era when life was not only simple, but also romantic and manageable. She has two captains: myself and Janie (because anyone who does all the varnishing Janie does can be anything she wants).
Fred Bauer
Marblehead, Mass.

Welcome to "the dark side"!

Sign me up! I spent last summer cutting up a 1936 24-foot wooden boat that couldn't be saved. I replaced her with a 1965 Columbia Sabre 32.5 and felt guilty being a master woodworker heading over to the dark side of GRP just so I could sail a bit. Gone were the dreams of my completed project pictured in that well-known wooden boat magazine, but NUTS this old fiberglass boat made so much sense to me.
Then I found your magazine and discovered I wasn't alone nor a traitor to maritime tradition. I was now part of a new breed of folk who are creating a tradition of keeping plastic classics alive. Keep up the good work.
Norm Kerth
Portland, Ore.

Thanks!

I wanted to include a thank you with my subcription renewal. I own a '90 Seaward Fox, a good not-so-old sloop that I spend hours obsessing over - sanding, refitting, upgrading, you name it. It's wonderful to share in a commuinity of sailors who truly appreciate their "classic plastics." It's even more wonderful that a magazine like Good Old Boat exists as a resource for these dedicated individuals.
Brian Sweany
Indianapolis, Ind.

Another project begins

I am a very recent subscriber and have only perused 3 issues . . . and with no real purpose either, as I don't even own a boat. But now things are changing. I live on the Columbia River in Portland, Ore. Today I have been given the option to adopt an old boat whose background is unknown and whose shape is even more suspect. I figure I can give it a safe moorage, keep it from sinking, and perhaps begin a project.
Mike McAvoy
Portland, Ore.
Oh my, sounds like congratulations might be in order (we think). If you want help identifying your new adoptee, send some photos. We'll post them on our website on the photos page. Someone always knows the identities. We've had phenomenal success (or should I say those who own "mystery boats" have had phenomenal success at getting identification. We've really had little to do with it other than offering a place to post photos and ask questions.)

Who sez?

We just noticed in the February 2000 issue of Sail magazine, on Page 12, something they call the "sailometer," telling what's "hot" and what's "not." One item states:
Hot
New boats - Roomy and fast, with systems and gear that make yesteryear's boats look like, well, yesteryear, new boats are the rage this year - the hard part is getting one this year.
Not
Old boats - Tired sails, outdated electrics and electronics, bumps, bruises, scratches, cracked hoses and rusty hose clamps, someone else's boat name on the transom - what you save on up-front costs, you pay for in sailing time.

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Encore boat names
I collect boat names (who doesn't?), and my favorite one is The Royal Flush. It's a fishing boat owned by a plumber.
Pat and Ed Carlson
Satellite Beach, Fla.
 
Many years ago, when I was a kid, I was envious of those who had larger, fancier boats that I hoped I would have someday. I remember the name of the boat I most coveted: SASCOAWDI. Supposedly an old Indian name, but when asked about its meaning, the owner was quick to respond, "Saturdays and Sundays come once a week, damn it!"
Rolph Townshend
Annapolis, Md.
 
I'm currently wrapping up a blister repair job on my Columbia 23, and the local nickname for my boat has become "The Epoxy 2000." I had to snicker a little when I overheard a friend tell somebody that I was outside working on The Epoxy 2000.
John Connell
Phoenix, Ariz.

What about the Columbia40?

Some time ago we got a note at the Good Old Boat office addressed to Ted Brewer. It was from reader James Stickley. We don't have a copy of that original letter anymore, but since it opened an interesting dialogue, here's the gist as we remember it: James was interested in the Block Island 40 reviewed in the July 1999 issue of Good Old Boat. He noted that this Bill Tripp design was modeled on Finisterre, the famous racer by Sparkman & Stephens. The July article also mentioned the Hinckley Bermuda 40 as another sleek fiberglass keel/centerboard sailboat inspired by Finisterre. James noted that the Columbia 40 must also have been so inspired because it has the same lovely lines. He went on to mention that the Columbia, which he owns, is so solid that it has been picked up by its chainplates.
Ted responds:
With regard to James Stickley's letter, a bit of history: The BI 40 and the Bermuda 40 were Bill Tripp's answer to Olin Stephens' Finisterre. The Finisterre had exploited a couple of minor holes in the Cruising Club of America handicap rule of that era. With her ketch rig, husky displacement, shoal keel/centerboard and beamy (for those days) hull, Finisterre had a very favorable rating. And, of course, with Olin Stephens' design skills and Carleton Mitchell's sailing skills, she was well able to sail to her rating and won more than her share of silver.
Then Charlie Morgan came out with his version of the CCA keel/centerboard rule beater and that was Paper Tiger (old Chinese proverb: When the wind blows, the paper tiger will sail away!). The rule-beating in the Tiger takes a bit of explanation.
The CCA rule took the ballast/displacement ratio into the handicap calculations so a boat with a lower b/d ratio would get a better rating because it would have less stability, or so it would seem. However, if you reduce the ballast and then put the weight into a heavy, steel "structural" pipe low in the hull, you get a better handicap rating as you have a lower ballast ratio, yet you lose little or no stability. That's what Charlie did with Paper Tiger, and it paid off with a good handicap rating and a nice collection of silverware.
The Columbia 40 was simply a commercial venture to exploit Paper Tiger's and Sabre's racing records and, in her day, was a fine performing yacht. I would be more than a little concerned about her steel backbone and chainplates today though, especially on a boat that had been kept in salt water. I wonder how many of those are still around?
As to lifting her by her chainplates, that is de rigeur in the design of any modern sailing yacht. The force required to heel a yacht to 30 degrees or so is generally equal to and often exceeds her displacement. The rig on one side has to handle that load, and the chainplates are, as a rule, designed to exceed the rig strength by about one third as a simple safety factor.
James responds:
Thanks for responding to my query about the Columbia 40. I now understand more about the "how and why" of its design in relation to existing racing constraints which does not explain why they look so much like the BI 40 and Bermuda 40.
If it is a case of simple plagerism, Charlie couldn't have picked more beautiful subjects to reinterpret. He supplied a gorgeous boat for the average sailor, and I thank him for it. Mine still turns heads in the Sturgeon Bay area. She has been cared for by Palmer Johnson, Inc. most of her life. Thanks again, Ted.

What do you do with old sails?

Michelle Potter wrote to ask what other creative uses other sailors have found for their old sails. We've seen some of these uses (or tried them ourselves). What do you do with sails you've replaced and are sure you won't need again (short of dumping them in the trash)?

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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.

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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