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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Seaworthy? It's Complicated...

It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; 
but the sincerity of his conviction can in nowise help him, 
because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. 
He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, 
but by stifling his doubts...

-- From The Ethics of Belief
  by William K. Clifford

Seaworthy? It's Complicated...

Is it seaworthy?

This question rolls about the bilges of every discussion of every design. Armchair sailors, and not a few who should know better - weigh in with passionate conviction, armed to the ivories with 'facts'.

This boat is seaworthy. That boat is not. Pfah, says I.

Whether a boat is seaworthy or not is a question that can only be answered in context. No answer is possible, beyond that context. Yup... I'm out on a limb here, making an absolute statement, for once.

No answer is possible, beyond context.

What is its intended use (row or houseboat, cruiser or racer, cargo or lighter)? Where is its intended use (rivers, lakes, tropical islands, rocky, deepwater coasts, open ocean, the arctic, etc.)? Who are its crew (their capabilities, character, experience, number, condition)? How is it constructed, outfitted, maintained?

The cumulative answer to these and a thousand other questions may get you close to an answer.

As a rough, callous rule-of-thumb, I'd say that, if you have to ask, your vessel isn't seaworthy.

That sounds harsh, but I mean it in a manner dripping with the empathy of my own path. What I mean is, until you can answer that question by yourself, for yourself, you don't yet have what it takes to command the vessel in question in manner safe and sound.

We - each of us - have to find a course along which we find the answer to our question.

No one can answer for us. Some will say YEA, and others NAY... how shall we choose among them, save by our own judgement? Judgement earned and refined to our own satisfaction. It is the only judgement - in the end - that matters.

That being said, the final arbiter is the sea.

Not all vessels that survive are seaworthy, by any reasonable standard. Nor are all vessels that founder unseaworthy. Luck can see the one through and exceed the limits of the other.

Too much obsession with perfection, and we stay anchored to shore. Too little, and we risk becoming a bottom feature. We seek a balance; the reasonable mean.

In my view, this can't be done by polling opinions, no matter how informed. To stifle doubt under press of favorable reviews; to fret and chafe under collective 'wisdom'. Neither avail.

We must earn our own opinion.

Read the books and digest their content. Learn from those willing to teach. Start small - take our baby steps with searoom to fall and fail. Pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and take another step. Practice our maneuvers, review them and learn. Practice some more. Learn to reach. Learn to run.

The bad news is that this process - for sailing - never ends. The good news is that it never ends!

So. Is our vessel seaworthy?

I dunno... are we??


Here's a bit I wrote to accompany a design for the proposed AiT (Around in Ten: round the world race in ten foot boats). All vessels were considered, by many, to be unseaworthy, by definition. Maybe. Maybe not.

Do I recommend an attempted circumnavigation in this or any other ten foot boat? No. These are boats that are small for reasons which I find, frankly, frivolous. They lack the redundant resources that a larger boat can bring to bear, along with safety margins of which larger vessels are capable. But neither would I forbid the whole shebang (in Coastguard terms) as a ‘manifestly unsafe voyage’.

Whatever fanfare and festivity sees the racers off, this is no light-hearted adventure. The undertaking is a solemn one. There’s a very good chance that lives will be lost in the course of this race. Any attempt to gloss this fact over will only increase that likelihood. Each of those who enter – and those they leave behind them – must look that hard chance squarely in the eye.

As engineless sailors in SE Alaska (which can get brutal), we’ve often been accused of terminal stupidity. We occasionally meet those who feel “there oughta be a law”. Well... there are laws; too many, in my opinion. Ironically, for a land of ‘freedom lovers’, the passage of laws prohibiting persons from engaging in consensual activities seems to be a national pass-time.

We each have our one, precious life to spend as we please. Sailors face the Sea – a gestalt of forces which dwarf the human scale – with every ounce of resource, skill and courage we can muster. Whether our boat be ten feet or a thousand, the ratio of boat to sea is vanishingly small.

We are all in the ‘same boat’. Sooner or later, one of those situations we face is going to overwhelm us, whether lying abed, crossing a street or at sea.

Give me the sea.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cultivating Partnership

Susan and Eric Hiscock
Partners under sail

“....though modern Marriage is a tremendous laboratory, its members are often utterly without preparation for the partnership function. How much agony and remorse and failure could have been avoided if there had been at least some rudimentary learning before they entered the partnership....And that statement is equally valid for all relationships.”
― Leo Buscaglia from
Loving Each Other

Cultivating Partnership

For those of us who sail with a partner, partnership is serious business.

We who live aboard together must get along in a tiny space with few alternatives to one another's company.

We who face the sea together must trust our partner. Trust the skill of their hands. The courage of their heart.

We who set our course together must come to agreement, whatever the 'chain of command'. Find our common dream and set it in motion. Tend its unfolding.

Sometimes all this is easy. Sometimes not. 

Often, the partnership founders. Usually gone awry between two, wonderful people (they were so perfect together!). Their shared dreams and adventures lost in their wake.

A few partnerships thrive. Long-term partners asked their 'secret' seem at a loss, often repeating some ossified sentiment that side-steps the mechanics (e.g., Never go to bed angry is good advice, but doesn't give a clue as to how to navigate that anger).

Virtually all couples come together in mutual attraction and love. For a while, at least, the bloom is on the rose. For some it lingers; for others not.

So why, then?

I recently read an article on some of the science behind the make or break of partnerships. Though many details arouse a number of quibbles, much of it rang true to me, and got me thinking about how it might help inform us as sailing partners.

The theory/findings that rang my bell are a theory of the Gottmans (researchers specializing in relationship dynamics).

They found that a partner makes a number of bids for the other's attention / participation. Invitations to look at something noteworthy. The sharing of thoughts or news. A question. A joke or tease.

The other can respond by turning toward (an I-hear-and-engage response that is interested and supportive, even when not in agreement), or turning away (an I'm-ignoring-you or contemptuous response).

As turns of bid and response cycle over time, those who habitually turn toward one another spiral together. Stars are born! Those who habitually turn away spiral apart... darkness ensues.

It's as simple as that!

Partnerships are formed under a honey moon. We are drawn to one another for reasons.

Let us seek to be mindful of our partner in our moments of distraction. Re-mindful of what brought us together. Seek out their beauty and skill and wit and courage, to admire and bask in their company. Seek to be generous with praise and appreciation. Seek to be gentle and patient with their struggles; grateful for theirs with ours. 

Cultivate the habit of turning toward one another, rather than away...

Cultivate partnership.

PS.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Assess, Address, Appraise

by Robert Weber

I failed my way to success.

-- Thomas Edison

Assess, Address, Appraise

We often use little phrases as mnemonics... simple reminders to do certain things in a certain order. Especially when spray is flying and panic threatens to creep in from the edges, numbing the mind.

One of the most useful and often used is assess, address, appraise.

Whether approaching the morning stove for breakfast with coffee... whether leaving anchor... whether skirting a suddenly lee shore... This phrase reminds us to size up the situation and make a decision. Execute that decision. Then review the results.

It's not necessary to do things in just this order. We might cycle through each several times in the course of even a simple project. But it reminds us to take those steps, rather than just wing it.

These three sit well with us, though any alternative would work as well. Dig it, do it, review it?? Anything you can and do remember works.


Look the situation over.

What is the challenge? Brainstorm solutions and winnow them out. Does everything work together? What are our resources? What's on hand, and what's to be gathered? What's the order of approach? And so on and on.

This phase can drag out, in complex situations, for months or years. Or it can be accomplished with a glance, especially as experience grows. In an emergency, sometimes a glance is all you get. But take what you can.

One point we constantly remind ourselves... assessment IS moving us toward the goal. It may look like taking a nap, or sitting around doing nothing. But this is where one determines what needs to be done, and how we intend to go about it.

Speaking for myself, I prefer not to rush it.


Here's where we roll up our sleeves and leap into action! Put the plan to work. Git 'er done!

When the assessment is thorough, address rolls along with dispatch. If not, it can be a stop-and-start affair, interleaved with reassessments. That can be okay... suits some tasks better than others.


Anke and I spent several years in and around a town, where we served on Emergency Medical Services teams.

After each deployment, the whole team would get together to appraise our response. What went well? What went not so well? What can be improved? Do we need more training in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? Do they need revision? How can we do better?

Appraisal helps to identify mistakes or deficits, and to learn from them.

Mistakes are part of our landscape. If we let them, they can teach us. Without them, our procedures remain narrow and inflexible. They show us where we need to focus, and often, what to do to remedy them.

Mistakes and their appraisal have nothing to do with fault or blame, and everything to do with nudging ourselves toward improved performance. Extended ability. Heightened efficiency...

Procedural, not personal.


These three work together in synergy.

Any one of them, alone, is fairly worthless. All plan is a pipe dream.  All do flounders around. All appraisal is pointless.

Any two is an improvement, but still limited. Assess with address doesn’t learn from mistakes. Assess with appraisal doesn’t accomplish squat. Address with appraisal… hmm… on appraisal we should’ve assessed!

Three's the charm.