April 23, 2013

Your boat reflects your character

THOUSANDS OF SMALL BOATS make ocean crossings every year — and we never hear of them. They come and go without fuss or bother. They are the safe passagemakers.They create no headlines, no drama, no collisions, no dismastings, no strandings, no snot and tears.

You can tell them apart as soon as they enter port. The gear they carry on their boats tells you what sort of persons they are. And, indeed, you in your turn will be summed up by your fellow cruisers. They will soon know whether you are cautious and sensible, or gung-ho and foolhardy; prudent and frugal, or well-heeled and reckless.

Here is a guide to the gear that gives the game away. There are endless clues that enable you to judge a sailor’s character by the stuff he puts on his boat,  but here are 10 alternatives to get you started.  (I’m presuming that almost all boats have VHF radio these days, and engines rather than sculling oars.)

1. Self-steering wind vane or electric autopilot?

2. Fridge/freezer or icebox?

3. Water maker or extra water tanks?

4. Life raft or inflatable dinghy?

5. Outboard motor for dinghy or oars?

6. SSB for maritime mobile or ham, or satellite phone?

7. GPS or sextant?

8. Roller reefing foresail or dedicated storm jib?

9. Parachute sea anchor or dedicated stern drogue?  

10. Radar or AIS?

You don’t need half of these items to cross an ocean, of course, but your choices will reflect the status of your seamanship and your knowledge and experience as well as your timidity or confidence in your ability to handle anything Nature throws at you.

Today’s Thought
Character is what you are in the dark.
— Dwight L. Moody, Sermons: Character

A Scottish soldier in full uniform fell asleep on a train from Glasgow to Edinburgh.
He awoke to find a little old lady staring at him.
“Tell me,” she said, “what’s that thing on your lap?”
“It’s my sporran,” he said.
“Oh, thank goodness,” she said. “I’ve been trying to feed it doggie treats for the last half-hour.”

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


Aaron Headly said...

Replace every 'or' in that list with an 'and' to get really serious. ;^)

Anonymous said...

OK I give. Being a complete amateur sailor with aspirations heer is my choices from that either/or list :

1. Self-steering wind vane

2. Actually have neither

3. extra water tanks

4. Both. But are suggesting dingy over liferaft ?

5. oars

6. SSB for maritime mobile or ham

7. GPS

8. dedicated storm jib

9. Parachute sea anchor

10. trasmit/receive AIS

John Vigor said...

G'day Anon:
You seem to be well prepared. Many have crossed oceans with less safety gear, and neither fridge nor icebox.
Your choices of a wind vane rather than an electric autopilot, and oars rather than an outboard, indicate that you know what you're doing.
The parachute sea anchor is not as necessary as a stern drogue, in my opinion, as it is difficult to deploy in strong winds.
As for the liferaft, they don't have a good reputation for saving lives in extreme conditions when launched from small boats. A half-inflated rubber dinghy stowed on deck would probably be just as useful (without those steep maintenance costs) and you'd know exactly what you were taking with you in your grab-bag. Some life rafts are very short on essentials
such as water and food.
Nevertheless, your choices indicate a high order of seamanship, and I wish you fair winds and good landfalls.
-- John V.