Monday, February 7, 2011

On the use of 'crutches' and the objections of 'purists'

We have been investigating the idea of eventually putting a bow thruster on Brigadoon. It will cost about 8-10 grand, the boat has room for the system, it will improve close quarters handling and possibly make the boat safer, especially for single handing.

So, let's address the main argument against such folly.

"Having a bow thruster is a crutch. Learning how to handle the boat you have, without a bow thruster, will make you a better sailor."

While I can get completely behind not relying on crutches to master walking, I see no reason not to use reasonable tools available to me. For instance, I may be an excellent climber/walker, with miles and miles under my feet. That doesn't mean I won't use a belay line, a walking stick, or crampons on ice if I feel they warrant the situation -- and if they improve my safety.

So why am I willing to 'cheat' by installing a bow truster?

I could be able to read wind and current as well as Slocum, sail like Dennis Connor, dock like a Mississippi pilot boatman in heavy current, and master Brigadoon within an ounce of her 22,000 lb full keeled design. All of that may not be enough in some situations and I see no reason not to use a tool to increase my safety and ability to handle my boat. It isn't 'cheating' any more than a Max Prop (which Bob said will improve backing) would be.

Purists *are* right when they argue you should not rely on actual crutches, and instead, should develop a deep and comprehensive set of skills in your chosen pursuit. Purists are also dead wrong when they label reasonable advances in tools, especially those related to safety, as somehow not living up to our potential as experts in our chosen pursuit.

My first few motorcycles had drum brakes? Should I not have graduated to disk brakes when they came out?

Why use chart plotters when charts still exist. Why use a GPS when you can learn to use a sextant and compass? Why rely on weather fax when you can learn to read the skies?

I do have paper chart, compass, and some weather skills kept aside, by the way.

The same purist argument can be made against many improvements in capability and safety. That doesn't mean those argument are always valid.

So, we are considering an eventual bow thruster install on Brigadoon. Until and if then, I'll *also* learn to master all the skills I can to handle her, such as reading wind and current, correct application of the throttle and other skills like using spring lines properly.


  1. Donn,
    I agree about the purist mentality. I figure it is no different being a purist than being to old to understand a computer. I have a self-sustaining full electric sailboat. Refrigerator, microwave, running water, electric flush head with Purasan waste treatment, air-conditioning, and any other electrical devise I choose. I do not have to be hooked up to an electric pole, or be constrained by the use of an oar to propel my ship.

    Go for the bow thruster, windlass, and any other convenience you can get. I have granite counter-tops with matching plates and gold trimmed silverware. I see my boat as a second home that is not a sacrifice in anyway except space. So, to all those purist out there, keep sitting on your bucket, and wash your dishes in saltwater. As for me my second home is just like being home except that I can move it around with the wind!