My favourite philosopher is Anonymous, or Anon as he’s known to his friends. He’s the bloke who said: The final test of fame is to have a crazy person imagine he is you.
It was another of Anon’s pearls of wisdom that sprang to mind as I was pondering how the cruising boat has changed over the past thirty odd years, trying to keep an open mind, trying to see the positive benefits of new materials and designs:
Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.
When I dreamed of setting off into the wide blue yonder I followed the teachings of the Hiscocks, the Pardeys and Bob Griffith. My boat would be simple, rugged and seaworthy. It would carry stout ground tackle, fly hanked-on sails and be worked from the deck not the cockpit.
And that’s pretty much how it was. Adriana was 33’ overall, heavy displacement, a simple sloop rig, boom gallows, a massive bronze windlass to handle the all-chain rode and CQR anchors. She was classically pretty, (being from the board of Phil Rhodes she could hardly be anything else), with long overhangs, sweeping sheerline, wide decks and cramped accommodation.
We planned to navigate by dead reckoning with a compass and a set of charts. We carried a plastic sextant for when we were out of sight of land. Fortunately, GPS became available and affordable at about the time we cast off so my astronavigation was never seriously tested.
We had a shiny new Yanmar diesel engine and this begat a battery bank and a big alternator and this in turn begat a fridge to keep the beer cold and the veggies crisp.
This could have been the thin end of the wedge, or as my mate Anon would have it: If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.
But no, for this long term cruise we managed to stave off any further adulteration of the hair shirt cruising ethos and had the adventure of our lives. After all, as Anon is fond of saying: Footprints on the sands of time are not made by sitting down.
Anon’s camel did shuffle a bit further into the tent when we set off again a few years later – the boat was bigger and the “keep it simple” principle somewhat further eroded by watermaker, forward-looking sonar, radar and wind generator.
The bigger boat served us well but the watermaker, radar and sonar didn’t make it. They failed to live up to their billing: The watermaker didn’t make water, the forward-looking sonar didn’t look far enough forward and the power-hungry radar didn’t earn its keep. I’ve always seen this as justification for my continuing view that avoiding unnecessary complications on a cruising boat is the way to go despite the current obsession with all things electronic, high tech and led aft.
Of course, my failure to keep what would now be considered essential equipment fully functional is addressed by Anon in one of his more profound thoughts: The man who can’t dance thinks the band is no good.
A great little thinker is old Anonymous.