September 8, 2011

An ounce of preventer

THERE’S AN OLD SAYING that an ounce of preventer is worth a pound of cure. Well, okay, it’s not exactly like that, but you know what I mean. There’s nothing better aboard a boat than a preventer for preventing things that, if they happen, are difficult to cure.

Preventers prevent things that shouldn’t happen, from happening. What is a preventer, exactly, you ask? Well, it can be almost anything that prevents; but on sailboats it’s usually a bit of rope, used with forethought and intelligence to prevent the worst from happening.

For example, a preventer can prevent the mainsail from jibing accidentally and injuring someone or causing the backstay to snap and making the mast fall down. Preventers lash dinghies firmly to the cabintop, so they don’t get washed overboard in storms.

Preventers act as backups to lines under great strain, and minimize any damage that might occur. Preventers turn major catastrophes into minor inconveniences.

Preventers are mostly small lengths of wire or rope, intelligently placed and artfully attached in the right place at the right time to stop something awful from happening.

Some, such as the topping lift, are permanent and known by proper names. Others are temporary and not dignified with permanent names. But the best ships carry the most preventers because wise skippers know preventers are worth points in the Black Box, the best preventer of all. And if you don’t know about the Black Box, you really owe it to yourself to find out.

Today’s Thought
Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.
— Cervantes, Don Quixote

“I hear poor old Fred got run over by a road roller.”
“Yeah, right, he’s in the hospital.”
“Where do I find him?”
“Wards 4, 5 and 6.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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