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Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.

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Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Upside of Engines

Leftover slop, no wind
Oh I don't mind coming and I don't mind going,
But I'm some damn tired of rowing!

From Gordon Bok's Old Fat Boat

In my previous post, Why Sail Without an Engine?, while hamming up our answer, I came down a little heavy against. But I'm not. Today's post follows up in a tone a bit less flip.

We choose against having an engine, presently, on the basis of economics (poor payoff for us, in terms of time and energy, measured only partially in terms of money). And okay... we're tree huggin' types.

But we sailed our first years with an outboard, and would do it again.

Our access to sailing instruction was poor. We sort of felt our way onto the water, learning to translate what we'd learned from books. It went reasonably well, but having another, redundant system to move the boat was a back-up to our nascent seamanship.

We told ourselves, if we could sail for a year without the use of our motor, we'd be ready to sell it. We'd fire it up and run it under load once a month, to keep it from going stale. We had our scrapes and scares, but even on a lifeboat-to-gaff conversion, tired and cranky, nothing exceeded our growing abilities. We worked our way up to gales; rowed through the calms. Learned all the faster for never motoring. Threw a party when we sold the engine. We may throw one again, later in life, if we ever feel we want to pick up another.

So, in the larger picture, you could say that we do sail with an engine.

Motors make all the difference to some beginners, commuters, workboats, those on tight schedules, and to all who feel that an engine pays, with its necessities and chores. Engines are a resource, to be evaluated as one would electronic charts; in terms of cost-benefit, redundancy, and their inherent qualities and limitations.

Motors have a learning curve of their own, which must be observed. They are NOT a substitute for seamanship. They DO put an amazing amount of energy into your hands.

Sailors on a given vessel have a number of resources at their disposal. It is seamanship that deploys those resources in concert to keep the vessel and her crew safe. It's true that winter's grim PAN PANs and MADAYs mostly stem, in our area, from engine failure. It's true that engines inspire sometimes unwarranted confidence. It's not true that seamanship guarantees safety...

..with or without internal combustion.

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