April 7, 2016

The stuff you DON'T need

I’VE OFTEN THOUGHT that the three most important attributes for a long-distance cruising sailboat are seaworthiness, strength, and simplicity. Of the three, simplicity seems to be the most difficult to attain.

There is a lot of pressure from one’s peers, and from marine manufacturers with goods to sell, for you to constantly upgrade your boat with the latest gear, often in the name of  safety. But safety, in my book, is often a serendipitous by-product of simplicity.

For instance, here is a list of stuff long-distance cruisers don’t necessarily have to have on their boats:
Full-length battens
Electric bilge pump
Boom brake
Non-drip propeller shaft seal
Loose-footed mainsail
Dutchman mainsail control
Mainsheet traveler adjustable under load
Self-tailing winches
Anchor winch (capstan)
Jib roller furler
Folding (feathering) propeller
Extra-large (after-market) alternator
Digital voltmeter
LED lights
Three-stage “smart” regulator
Masthead anchor light
SSB radio
Laptop computer
Outboard motor for the dinghy
Chartplotter GPS
Cabin heater
Fresh water maker
Pressure water
Water heater
Gimbaled cooker
Halyards led to cockpit
Chart table
Entertainment center
I know people who have crossed oceans without any of the equipment listed above. I myself have cruised the wilderness Pacific Coast of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island for six weeks at a time without any of that equipment. This doesn’t make me a hero but it doesn’t make me irresponsible, either. Simplicity has many rewards. And it makes coming home to a hot shower and a cold beer so much nicer.

Today’s Thought
Blissful are the simple, for they shall have much peace.
—Thomas Ā Kempis, De Imitatione Christ

“Why did your algebra teacher confiscate your rubber-band pistol?”
“She said it was a weapon of math disruption.”

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


JP said...

Slocum did manage to sail round the world with only the basics, but then again he finally was lost at sea. An EPIRB might not necessary most of the time but that changes when the boat is sinking under you. A lot of ocean sailing is about risk management, and having some sort of comms, whether SSB or satphone, can help reduce that risk. It also allows you to provide support to other yachts that might need it. I have sailed to the arctic circle in a 32 foot boat without heating or hot water but made sure we had EPIRBs and an Iridium phone.

The Unlikely Boatbuilder said...

Actually, I think that if you make the decision to sail to the arctic in a 32 foot boat, you shouldn't expect to call for help if you get into trouble. Just my opinion.