Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The price of sailing and independence

One of my daughters bought me a subscription to one of those glossy sailing magazines. I’ve enjoyed the gift and have even learned some useful sailing hints from it. Sailing is relatively new to me, so any source of information is greedily consumed.

The exotic locations and expensive boats are fun to read about, but 90% of the articles have little to do with the way I sail. The obvious difference is that most sailing in those magazines are done on a budget orders of magnitude bigger than mine. That’s fine. After all, if it wasn’t for those high priced advertisers none of those magazines could be published. That’s the nature of business, but it’s no wonder some of those articles appear to be little more than advertisements themselves.

I could never afford most of the things advertised, even simple things like anchor chain. My big heavy duty piece of chain (attached to a budget anchor) is something that fell off a logging truck.
Even if I could afford one of those big new boats, I have a lot of problems with them. Too many appear to be nearly impossible to fix or service without the full facilities of a good boatyard. High labor costs, combined with specialized parts make that a high dollar operation.

That bumps against one of the things I love about sailing: freedom. When we headed out from the dock recently, my lovely wife looked at the huge expanse of ocean all around us and said, “We could go anywhere!”

That’s the promise of a sailboat, the potential to go anywhere. Of course, there are practical considerations, but even in my tiny sailboat, many thousands of miles of the watery realm are open to us. Anywhere with water and wind is our domain.

Of course, that only works as long as the boat can be repaired and maintained. Go to any good sized boatyard and gaze upon a multitude of boats not going anywhere soon. Some are waiting for parts. Others are waiting their turn with some specialized equipment or highly trained expert. Some boats may be waiting for their owners to get the money together to do the work.

Is it any wonder that I’m attracted to those who build their own boats? The ones that really impress me are those who build the boat, then load all the tools into the boat. Any leftover fasteners, glues, paints, and materials also come along for the ride. They have the knowledge and equipment to completely rebuild a boat from the keel up. Imagine that level of independence. Imagine that level of freedom.

It’s not necessary to build your own boat, but being able to do most of your own work is a big plus. Having a boat without a lot of specialized parts is useful. Knowing how to repair a damaged hull, torn sail, or sick engine keeps a person on the water. It also keeps them out of the poor house.

Those slick magazines are nice, an enjoyable read, but don’t let them sucker you into buying a boat that won’t deliver on that freedom promise.



  1. as long as one can build it, and maintain it, fix it, or make a replacement has been my view for over many years

    of all those fancy expensive yaughts, one wonders who got stiffed for the other to buy one

    as for now, stay south and enjoy it

    from Wildflower in the freezing north

  2. I bet you have a lot less worry and a lot more fun than the owners of those big ole expensive boats.

  3. That's why I like the George Buehler school of thought on boat building. Common, easily (and cheaply) obtained materials. Galvanized wire rigging. Simple engines. Lumber yard wood. Galvanized fasteners... Better to have a boat that gets USED for 10 years then falls apart than one of those magazine centerfolds that just grows an oyster reef on the bottom sitting in a slip!

  4. Small Craft Advisor is probably more your speed.