Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Can you afford to go?

During the winter, with my boat laid up ashore in Massachusetts, I tend to read the various sailing blogs and forums where I research gear ideas and try to be helpful to others with my suggestions. Constant refrains include all the questions from newbies and wannabees about various pieces of equipment. I participate in some of these threads, but what often strikes me is how people with very little experience weigh in on the merits or demerits of one piece of gear or another. Anchor selection is always a hot topic, often generating as much heat as light. The "in" anchors are currently the Rocna and the Manson Supreme, and by all accounts they seem to perform very well and have lots of avid followers. But, from what you read you would think that people are risking their boats and maybe their lives if they are using a CQR, a Bruce, or a Delta.

What people have to remember is that others before them, like the Hiscocks, the Pardeys, the Dashews, and the Roths all went around the world and to many places most of us will never visit, and they did not have the option of using a "new generation anchor" because they did not exist. The same can be said for many items that appear to be considered standard equipment by many new cruisers: SSB, GPS, AIS, radar, electronic charting, and even comfort item like refrigeration and DVDs.

I am not saying that this new gear is bad or wrong to have onboard, but that you may be focusing on the wrong questions before you go. For example, anchoring success is not guaranteed if you simply purchase the latest anchor design, electric windlass, and new type of anchor rode. Easily 95% of anchoring success is due to skill, with 5% due to equipment and dumb luck. Someone like Eric Hiscock could safely sail around the world numerous times with a CQR anchor on the bow because he knew how to use it safely, not because it was a CQR. And yet that particular anchor is condemned by many as worthless. Are we no saying that you can't safely sail with a CQR because it has been supplanted by superior anchors? Of course that statement is ridiculous, but you might not get that impression reading some of the forums.

So, do as I say and not as I do, and please read the blogs with a critical eye, and don't believe that just because everyone is doing something that it is the only way of doing it. 


Auspicious said...

"what often strikes me is how people with very little experience weigh in on the merits or demerits of one piece of gear or another"

This becomes even more frustrating when those without any real basis for their comments begin to quote one another for substantiation.

It serves us all well to beware of "cut and paste" sailors.

John J. Kettlewell said...

Yes, there can be a real "group-think" problem using the Internet for your cruising advice. I also see this with regard to navigation information. Down in Florida groups of sailors will sit for weeks and weeks waiting for some mythical perfect weather window to cross to the Bahamas, but nobody will actually look at the NOAA weather themselves. They all just talk to the weather gurus in the fleet or chat away on the forums.