June 19, 2009

Stuff I don't really need

MY 27-FOOT CRUISING sailboat was built in the early 1980s. Life was very simple in those days. The emphasis was on plain seaworthiness and ease of maintenance. But it’s very hard to keep things simple these days. The peer pressure to “upgrade” is strong and relentless. The boating bulletin boards are awash with posts explaining how to install three-stage “smart” regulators or patented dripless shaft seals.

Luckily, I am very resistant to work that doesn’t result in any observable benefit, and I hate change. So my boat has stayed nice and simple. I have learned to ignore the questioning looks of visitors who imagine this plainness to be the result of dire poverty. I know that 90 percent of the “improvements” people make to their boats do not make them easier to sail or cheaper to maintain. The very opposite, in fact.

Here’s a list of all the stuff I don’t have on my boat, in no particular order:

Full-length battens
Electric bilge pump
Boom brake
Non-drip propeller shaft seal
Loose-footed mainsail
Dutchman mainsail control
Mainsheet traveler adjustable under load
Self-tailing winches
Anchor winch (capstan)
Jib roller furler
Folding (feathering) propeller
Extra-large (after-market) alternator
Digital voltmeter
LED lights
Three-stage “smart” regulator
Masthead anchor light
SSB radio
Laptop computer
Outboard motor for the dinghy
Mapping GPS
Cabin heater
Pressure water
Water heater
Gimbaled cooker
Halyards led to cockpit
Chart table
Entertainment center

I know people who have crossed oceans without any of the equipment listed above. I myself have cruised the wilderness Pacific Coast of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island for six weeks at a time without any of that equipment. This doesn’t make me a hero but it doesn’t make me irresponsible, either. Simplicity has many rewards. And it makes coming home to a hot shower and a cold beer so much nicer.

Today’s Thought
Blissful are the simple, for they shall have much peace.
—Thomas Ā Kempis, De Imitatione Christi

“Why did your algebra teacher confiscate your rubber-band pistol?”
“She said it was a weapon of math disruption.”

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