ONE OF THE MOST fascinating things about cruising under sail is the vast extent of knowledge required. By that, I mean you have to know at least a little about a very wide range of subjects. Enough, anyway, to keep you out of trouble.
Maurice Griffiths, a sailor and yacht designer who was editor of Yachting Monthly for 40 years, once described it this way:
“Cruising in small craft embraces a very large field of knowledge, and those older men who have devoted the greater part of their lives to its study have acquired a knowledge that embraces weather lore and sky and clouds, a knowledge of deep water and shallow seas, of tides and winds and currents, of astronomy and geometry in navigation, of ropes and ropework, of canvas, sails, rigging, paints and varnishes, of timber and its infinite variations, of wood preservatives and decay, of theory in the designs of boats, and their construction . . . in short, many subjects that competent seamen can discuss for hours without touching on . . . the actual sailing.”
To that list we can now make additions, of course, including the field of electronics, from GPS and chart plotters to wind, and speed instruments, depth sounders and fish finders, radar, AIS, radios of all kinds and, in the field of chemistry, the various uses of urethanes, polythanes, epoxies, polyesters. And then there are the fields of diesel mechanics, steering hydraulics, electrolysis, and the fancy synthetic cloths and lines that are now the backbones of modern sails and rigging. In short, there is a lifetime of learning here if you are so inclined, including such subjects as cooking, first aid, anchoring, and much more.
Another famous yachting editor, Thomas Fleming Day, of The Rudder, got everything in perspective, though. He knew very well that no-one can be an absolute expert in every phase of cruising under sail.
“Know this,” he said, “that three-quarters of what you read in trade papers and technical magazines is written by people who don’t know any more about the subject they write about than you or I do.”
The true secrets of the sea cannot be learned upon the shore.
— Captain F. G. D. Bedford, The Sailor’s Pocket Book, 1898
From the Associated Press:
LONDON — A former meerkat expert at London Zoo has been ordered to pay compensation to a monkey handler she attacked with a wine glass in a love spat over a llama-keeper.