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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

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales: A Review on Second Read

By Laurence Gonzales

If you're not afraid, you don't appreciate the situation.
-- Ambrose Curry, big surf instructor [Quoted in Deep Survival]


Most of us sleep through the test. We get in and out and never know what might have been demanded. Such an experience can make us even more vulnerable, for we comee away with the illusion of growing hardy, salty, knowledgeable: Been there, done that.

The maddening thing for someone with a Western scientific turn of mind is that it's not what's in your pack that separates the quick from the dead. It's not even what's in your mind. Corny as it sounds, it's what's in your heart.
-- From Deep Survival

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why 
by Laurence  Gonzales
A Review on Second Read

Deep Survival explores what it is that survivors do in the approach to crisis, during and in its aftermath.

Via heart-stopping accounts of life, death and the sometimes hairbreadth boundary between, Gonzales guides us through vistas at once familiar and alien. Where children under six are a demographic with a high incidence of survival. Where 'Rambo types' are the first to go. It is a surprising journey.

We find ourselves, lost in the World. Vast and chaotic. At once predictable and utterly beyond prediction. Absolutely consequential, yet hinged on chance.

We map the world in our minds, plotting our futures as best we may. Yet correspondence between map and mapped is imperfect. Discrepancy alone can lead us astray. Under stress we tend to "bend the map", such as it is, imposing what we wish or fear upon the lay of our surrounds. Our very expertise can blind and mislead us with unwarranted assurance and unlooked for Pavlovian response.

We are introduced to conflict and accord between amygdalian imperatives - our ancient brain center urging freeze, flee or fight - versus neo-cortical overrides - more recently evolved, in hot pursuit of rational pattern. Gonzales writes, "The amygdala would urge instant action without thought. It has the chemical authority to do that, too. So it takes energy, balance and concentration to shift control to the executive functions of the neocortex."

Yet the 'rational' neocortex can be anything but... micro-managing, rationalizing, derailed, overloaded, distracted. Or dead wrong. It's a system whose bugs are still being worked out under the none too gentle hand of natural selection.

As Malcom Gladwell put it, "Choking is about thinking too much. Panic is about thinking too little." [Quoted from Deep Survival]

Somewhere in the mix - its nature and origins as yet mysterious - is the 'heart' to keep going in the face of overwhelming odds.

Heart is the the central theme in Gonzales' fugue on survival. Survivors may react by reflex to save themselves. They may override the blind and sometimes disastrous impulse to beeline for safety. They may let go of expectation to accept their situation. They may organize their resources and small steps toward survival. But it is what's in the heart that gets and keeps them going.

That's good news and bad news, maddening to this writer's Western scientific turn of mind.

The good news: with heart (and luck), anything is possible, to the point that survival may seem super-human. The bad news: heart isn't easily acquired if you don't already have it. Worse, one really doesn't know if one has it or not until crunch time.

Heart is habitual, according to Gonzales, and I have litttle reason to doubt him. It is the habit acquired in meeting the crises and challenges of everyday life. It may be sought and even cultivated. It can be acquired, but only through long practice. That weekend or week or month long survival course, of itself, won't do it. At best, heart is exercized and strengthed in each step of one's every day. At worst, we float half-alive through our days and our atrophied heart is AWOL in our hour of need.

So Deep Survival doesn't turn out to be a toolkit of strategies that can be learned, though it offers some of those. It doesn't impart skills though it values them. Nor resolve the conflicts within the mind, though it makes suggestions. It doesn't promise easy mastery or make guarantees. But it informs. It illuminates. It sets before us a series of koans to unfold. It encourages the accumulation of expertise without loss of  beginner's mind. A Tao of Survival as useful each day as it is in the pinch.

Gonzales leaves us with Rules of Adventure, his distillation of advice and survivor practice/attitudes. I've dumbed them down for my own use, and present them here, along with my strong recommendation that you read the book in it's full glory.

One day and every day, it might save your life.


Be here now.
Prepare yourself as best ye may.
Be open to wonder.

Get busy living, or get busy dying.
Be confident, yet humble.
Be boldly cautious; cautiously bold.
Surrender, but don't give up.

Go get 'em, Grasshopper!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Barge Yacht: A Thousand Words to Paint a Picture
Garvey Houseboat (Kissin' Cousins to Barges)
Designed/Built/Owned by Chris Cunningham

 No need for us, even in the tiniest boat, to wear sackcloth and ashes merely to be tough and seamanlike and brave.

-- Maurice Griffiths from his Arrow Book of Sailing

Barge Yacht: A Thousand Words to Paint a Picture

In my early readings of the watery world – long before setting hand to halyard – I ran across a description of small barge yachts that had been converted from bridge tenders (wooden barges used as platforms for bridge maintenance). I've not been able to find that passage, but I'll reconstruct it from memory as best I may:
Their owners were inordinately fond of them. Most were gaff yawl rigged and often sported leeboards. In most cases a small, homey looking cabin had been fitted. One would frequently encounter them lying tucked up the shallow reaches of some remote estuary, a curl of woodsmoke rising from her stack, pretty as a picture. Their presence in such distant, hard to reach corners bespoke long passages and unlooked for capability.
These words spoke loud and clear to my soul. But alas, by then my head had filled with second-hand and somewhat knee-jerk opinions. I read voraciously and, for a long while, vicariously of 'facts' drawn from 'history'. But facts are slippery li'l devils, and wriggle in one's hands.

Broadly speaking, small, sailing workboats led to an aesthetic for yachts, whose owners' interest in racing petrified preferences into the 'facts' we speak of. Shoal draft isn't seaworthy. Flat bottom boats pound and can't be made to sail. Deep keels and sloop or cutter rigs are the best or only way to get to windward. Junk sails won't sail to windward.

Let's take 'em, point by point:

Barge/Scow Hulls - Not often the fastest kids on the block, but shine in every other way. Economical, roomy, capacious, shoal of draft. Sit flat in the mud. With all that, what's the rush? Oh. And PDQ off the wind! Actually, given the way we rig and sail, windward ability of box barges remains largely unexplored by us. Even we can trudge slowly but reliably to windward up to about 45kt in heavy slop. Beyond that, data is hard to come by.

Alternatives to 'Marconi'/Bermudan Rigs
  - Quadrilateral sails (Gaff, Lug, Junk, Sprit) have many advantages over triangular ones. Stresses are reduced and distributed. More sail can be spread per foot of mast height. Centers of Effort are lower, and shift less when reefing. Generally lower, more robust masts mean a fail safer rig throughout.

Alternatives to Sloop and Cutter Rigs
- Multi-masted rigs (yawls, ketches, schooners) tend to be more expensive, more to handle and are less efficient. BUT. Expenses are offset by lower stresses throughout, requiring lower tech solutions and less wear-and-tear on cheaper gear. While controls are doubled, what they must control is lessened, so handiness is enhanced. Having two Centers of Effort, maneuverability and balance options abound. Because the rig is handier, non-racers are likely to keep her sailing at her best for overall efficiency gain. As a bonus, having an extra mast is great, on-board insurance.

Alternatives to Deep Keels - One still hears that deep keels are a must for blue water sailing, and by implication, any serious sailing. This despite contrary evidence accumulated pretty much across the Age of Sail. Leeboards, centerboards and daggerboards have all proven themselves time and again, arguably riding out storms at sea with more comfort and safety than others with a deep, ballast keel. With the advantages of easy retraction (reducing risk of rock-strike and broach in heavy seas), they're a more than viable alternative.

Leeboards - A specific note, here. Even the great Phil Bolger characterized them as 'ugly, loud, needing tending (raising and lowering between tacks) and prone to collect floating sculch (floating debris)'. Ugly? A matter of taste, I suppose, but I sure see a lot of art that disagrees.. Loud? A little fire-hose padding quiets clunk (only an issue in a calm). Need tending? A preventer outboard of the 'lee'board keeps them from winging out to windward, so they can be left down all day. Sculch? What doesn't? Leeboards have the advantage of being exceptionally easy to clear. Unlike center and dagger boards, they require neither a hole in the hull nor a complicated trunk. more of their area provides lateral resistance (if wung out a bit, count from the waterline down), so can be smaller for the same effect.

Shoal Draft - Well, suffice it to say, you don't see many deep draught boats 'tucked away' anywhere... miles of shoals and abundance of new harbors open before the shoal hull. Dangers are much more often below hull depth, and if not, generally much more visible. You can hop off and stand next to the floating hull in the shallows, often without o'er-topping your boots. When dried out, it's easy to get aboard.

Biomass Heaters (A plug in reference to that 'curling smoke' )
- Plants are solar collectors and storage rolled into one. Biomass heaters convert that stored energy into thermal energy for cooking or heat. Cost? Stove + installation and gathering. Woodstoves (in woody areas), Rocket Stoves (for bushy/twiggy areas) or Holey Rocket Stoves (for grassy/peat/dung areas). These can be supplemented with Fossil Fuel Heaters, if you wish, but the ability to burn biomass helps cut the ties that bind.


A fella giving a talk once stated that a boat's primary purpose is primary. He fielded a number of butwhuddabouts by simply repeating the question what is its primary purpose?

The primary purpose of our boats has been to provide an economical mobile home, far from the madding crowd. The hull and layout, rig, outfit and stores are all designed to get us on the water quickly and economically, ease us down the road, and once there, to stay out as long as possible.

One by one, alternatives to the standard picture of the boat one must have if one is serious fell into place. Anke and I found ourselves tucked into those distant, cozy corners with a warm fire ablaze. Seriously.

Barge yachts. Their owners were inordinately fond of them. Unlooked for capability.

Gotta love it!

Pretty as a Picture!