July 29, 2014

Selective breeding for boats

WHY DO BOATS always have to be compromises? That’s the question from a reader in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Why can’t designers create boats that are both fast AND seaworthy, sleek AND roomy, strong AND light?” he wants to know.

Well I don’t feel confident about answering that deep philosophical query. All I know is that some things are incompatible. We can’t have day and night at the same time, for instance, We can’t have cat and dog in one pet. We can’t have beer and champagne in one glass. (No, really, we can’t.)

I think the best I can do is to refer my reader to a column I wrote about three years ago, which defines the limits of my rather sketchy comprehension of the subject:

Breeding the perfect boat                                                                              

I CAN’T THINK of anything that mankind has made that resembles a living creature more than a sailboat does. When you stop to look at a beautiful sailboat bobbing gently at anchor in a quiet bay, it’s hard to convince yourself that she’s not alive. It’s not difficult to believe that she has a soul — and is frequently as obstinate and hardheaded as any human being you’ve ever known.

Indeed, the language of the sea indicates how much like human beings boats can be. Sailors have always invested their craft with living characteristics, right from the early days of recorded history, when young girls were sacrificed and their heads placed on the bows of new boats at their launching. This was done to provide the boat with a soul, and the belief was that when the head eventually fell off the bow (usually on the maiden voyage, of course) it was a sign that the gods had accepted the sacrifices and the young girl’s soul had entered the ship. After a few centuries of this, and some rather withering criticism from the fairer sex, men stopped using young girls and substituted figureheads instead.

But the practice of regarding the boat as a living creature continued. Boats are still presumed to be female, at least in English-speaking countries, and designers try to draw them with pretty buttock lines. Boats breast waves and naval boats bear arms. Racers sail on different legs of a course. Hulls have bottoms and ribs, and sails have heads and feet. Blocks have cheeks . . . and so on.

All of which causes one to wonder what boats would be like if they were, indeed, living creatures and therefore by definition capable of reproducing themselves. Could we crossbreed different kinds of boats to make our personal favorites?

I mean, your boat might be good and seaworthy, and she might be really capacious and comfortable below. But she might not perform too well to windward and her sheerline might not win any prizes for aesthetics. What if you bred her with a slim, pretty little performer with a slim waistline?

What would we get if we crossed a Westsail 32 with a 30-Square-Meter, for example? How much would a bug-eyed Flicka be improved by an infusion of gorgeous genes from a Folkboat?

The large variety of dogs that have evolved from the basic wolf have shown us what selective breeding can do. And we can all dream, can’t we? Close your eyes and think about it. What two boats would you like to crossbreed to create your absolute favorite?

Today’s Thought
Life seems to me like a Japanese picture which our imagination does not allow to end with the margin.
— Justice O. W. Holmes.

“Why did you shoot your wife with a hunting bow and arrow?”
“I didn’t want to wake the kids, Your Honor.”

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


Jack said...

Guinness & Champagne in a pint glass goes well, (honest!). That's if you're feeling flush and have the green-backs to support the habit.

The mixologist's call it a "Black Velvet"..... but you would know that being a Plymouth lad.
Cheers, Jack. Devon, U.K.

Gary Underwood said...

Boats have different jobs to do. Just like a house ,car, truck or any TOOL you will name.

John Vigor said...

Yes Jack, I do know about the Black Velvet but to tell the truth I've never thought of Guinness as beer. What kind of beer has dried fish bladder (isinglass) in it?
According to Guinness:
"... we do use isinglass, a by product of the fishing industry, for fining all Guinness brewed beers. Isinglass is used widely in the brewing industry although it is extensively refined before use. Its sole purpose is as a fining agent to help remove yeast from our beer, while we accept that some minor traces of isinglass may subsequently remain in the finished product."
There's no dried fish bladder in Newcastle Brown Ale, I can tell you.


John V.

Jack said...

Dear John,
not to split hairs etc. It is claimed that NBA has been found to contain caramel coloring. Class 3 and 4 caramel coloring is made from ammonia, which is classified as a carcinogen. “The one and only” beer with cancer causing qualities. Fish fining's claim to be natural Ha!
May all your problems be in the bottom of your glass! Cheers, All- in- moderation, Jack

John Vigor said...

Well, Jack, in that case I'm doomed. Mind you, we all are, aren't we? It's just a question of time.

I'll drink to that.


John V.

Don P said...

Jeez! A post on boat sex and the Brits can't get past the beer!

Actually (on the boat sex), at my marina I once saw a lovely wooden ketch trying to mount the transom of a broad arsed fiberglass cruising boat. It just messed up the topsides and bright work and neither owner was pleased. There was no issue from he entanglement.
Seriously, John. How would you react if Old Wassisname's ferrocement barge were to bring it's bowsprit nosing around your taffrail?
Cheers,Don P.

Jack said...

Dear Don P,

Sex, boat or no boat is vastly over rated. Beer isn't.
Best Regards, Jack. ;)