May 21, 2013

The heavy price of ice

SOME TIME BACK, a man who had just earned a university degree told me he planned to take two years off before he started his years of plugging away at a career. He had scraped together enough money to buy a 25-foot International Folkboat, which he wanted to sail around the world.

His problem was that he had been told it was impractical to do long ocean passages in a boat that lacked a freezer or even a fridge.

I assured him you don’t need a fridge or freezer to cross an ocean or even to sail around the world. Hundreds of people have done it already, perhaps thousands. If you can train yourself to do without ice for a couple of years while you act out your plan, you will be much happier and more relaxed than the cruisers around you who are saddled with perpetual refrigeration problems.

And consider this: the bliss when you finally step ashore and down that first cold beer or soda after an ocean crossing will rank as one of the great experiences of your life.

Refrigerators have two disadvantages on small boats. The use a lot of power and they break down more frequently than your reliable old kitchen Frigidaire because they have to work in such atrocious conditions.

Those faults make the cost and bother of refrigeration unacceptable to many sailors from countries whose cultures are not centered on ice cream and cool drinks. While most North Americans have an ongoing love affair with ice, there are still plenty of sailors who have learned to live without it and who are buoyed by the thought that they have to make that sacrifice for a fixed period only.

If you are a permanent liveaboard, rather than a cruiser purposefully following a planned schedule with a visible end,  then of course, you will need refrigeration — and you will pay dearly for it, one way or another.

But if your plan is to go fancy free and iceless, you will undoubtedly feel a delightful rush of schadenfreude when you drop anchor in a port where your frustrated neighbors have been searching vainly for a refrigeration engineer or waiting for weeks for spare refrigerator parts to be flown in from the States or some other far-flung part of the world.

It’s true that in the relentless heat of the tropics, nothing brings greater joy to the heart of a hot and sweaty sailor than the sound of ice tinkling in a tall glass. The exciting challenge for somebody on a Folkboat is to track down the source of that tinkle and, looking very pathetic, to get invited on board.

Today’s Thought
Every one carries his own inch-rule of taste, and amuses himself by applying it, triumphantly, wherever he travels.
— Henry Adams, Education of

The average man flirts with the girl he wouldn’t marry, then marries the girl who wouldn’t flirt with him.

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

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