June 10, 2010

Motors be damned

(NOW HEAR THIS: They’re letting John Vigor out of his cage for three whole weeks. This is his last column until Monday July 5. Meanwhile, this is your chance to browse through 259 past columns listed over there on the right. Good stuff, believe me. Ration yourself to 10 a day.)

I OFTEN THINK of the late Hal Roth as a kindred spirit. Like me, he was always content to dawdle along at a couple of knots if the wind went light. He wasn’t one to start the engine when his speed dropped below 5 knots, as so many sailors do today. When he was sailing around the wine-dark seas of the Mediterranean in the wake of Ulysses, he once took 6 hours to cover 15 miles in Greece — an average of 2 1/2 knots.

Like him, I grew up in an era when sailors actually sailed. The grumpy old salts I learned from frowned upon anybody who switched on an auxiliary engine just because there was no wind. I was actually quite shocked when an American yacht came past me once on a passage around the bottom of Africa. He was actually motor-sailing, and he didn’t look at all guilty about it. We were making a knot-and-a-half and he was making six. Such bad taste, I thought.

On another occasion I was sailing from the British Virgin Islands to Fort Lauderdale when two American sailboats, Pendragon and Escudo, came motoring past our 30-footer in mid-ocean. They were talking about us on VHF. They couldn’t understand why we weren’t motoring in the very light air. There was a lot of discussion about how much ice their freezers were making, with their engines running all the time.

When the wind hauled aft we were able to raise our twin running jibs. “Well, whaddya know?” said the radio. “The guy’s got his spinnaker up at last.”

“Yeah, slow thinker,” came the reply.

We thought they were very rude. I contemplated hitting back at them on the VHF with some powerful invective or some scornful, withering sarcasm, but in the end we held our tongues and slid over the calm waters leading to the Bahamas in stately silence, as all decent sailors should. Motors be damned.

Today’s Thought
One of the greatest sounds of them all—and to me it is a sound—is utter, complete silence.
— André Kostelanetz

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #63
Electrical wiring. In general, electrical wiring for boats should be tinned and should have at least 20 strands in each wire to absorb flexing and vibration. The insulation should contain no paper or fabric.

“What’s Monica’s last name?”
“Monica who?”


alpine luddite said...

this has no connection to this post but a earlier post(May 9, 2010
Please call it quits ). please see the following link concerning Abby Sunderland;


Anonymous said...

Sweet. I always thought it was called sailing for a reason.