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Spartan versus Luxury Boating
"When we arrived in Trinidad, just 12 days out from Brazil, Mike moved Dawn Dancer directly into a marina slip, rented an air conditioner, and set about organizing his numerous repair projects. Even at sea he seemed to spend most of his time troubleshooting equipment problems and e-mailing suppliers for parts to be shipped out or hassling with manufacturers regarding warranty claims."
This short paragraph sums up the two different approaches to sailing and boats very well. Your typical vacation-, weekend-, and marina-sailor will have a pretty new boat, lots of electronics, and a marina slip whenever possible. He''ll have shore power, a 110V-circuit on the boat, a microwave and a 110V-fridge. Maybe a telephone line with DSL, while we are at it.
Then there are guys who live on a boat made of ferro-cement in their own backyard, everything including all the shrouds and stays painted white, the cooker is run with kerosene or diesel and so are the lamps. There are only rudimentary (if at all) electronics on board and sometimes these guys don''t even have an engine. My friend Roy aboard SEA LOONE is one of them.
Of course all the fancy stuff costs money, but that is only one part of the problem. The real headache lies in the fact, that all these things start breaking down as soon as you buy them. Sometimes they last for quite a while, sometimes they pack in almost immediately, but the fact remains that sooner or later equipment malfunctions and dies.
Ever tried to fix a water-maker while hanging up-side-down in rough seas? Not fun, I can assure you. Especially when you have just realized that all the emergency water in your tanks has gotten bad since you haven''t checked it because of said water-maker. And you know how much it costs to keep all this equipment and the boat itself ship-shape? The owner of TOP CAT said he had spent more than US$125,000 in the last seven years. The owner of a $675k Catana 471 was counting on 10% of the value of the boat per year to keep it in good order and afloat.
All this makes it apparently a no-brainer that it would be far wiser to emulate my friends Roy or Robert Adair. Or the German sailing icon Wilfried Erdmann. But as it turns out so very often, no-brainers are anything but.
It is all very great for the single-handed sailor to live with the minimum in appliances and machinery, but that is also one of the main reasons why so many guys sail alone. Their partners tire very soon of doing everything the hard way, of not having a fridge or a proper oven, a water-maker, no bright lights, not enough space, no air-con and no refrigerator. The list goes on and on.
So, would it be wise then to get all that stuff anyway? It is so easy to buy a boat with all the amenities and even easier to forget that you will keep paying the price (a lot of money, a lot of work, a lot of frustration and anger) for as long as you have that boat.
And all the time, you will still be living much rougher than on land, rougher than traveling on land almost anywhere.
Wolfgang Hausner on TABOO III once wrote that boats usually suck up all the money there is which determines just how much boat and equipment people end up with. That kind of explains why affluent people usually buy boats that are much too big for them and here even decades of experience don''t seem to help in preventing this mistake. (That''s why I am looking for a 40'' catamaran and not a 50'' one. A trimaran would have to be slightly bigger than a cat, but not all that much.)
What we want and what we need are two very different things here. And what is wise, is probably somewhere in between.
My dear wife Liping has already made it clear that she wants more easily accessible shelf- and locker-space than what we had on our Horstman Tri-Star 38. She wants a diesel-engine, which will also create plenty of electricity. A fridge and freezer big enough to store food for months. Plenty of bright lights. A water-maker would be nice and something to reduce the excess humidity. And...
I can see already that this will engender lots of more discussion, especially as I have a few wishes of my own. A slipped disk puts an electrical windlass on the top of my list. A radar would make my night watches a lot easier. And when I look at what I just wrote, I see myself right there where the owners of the Dean 400 luxury catamaran Dawn Dancer ended up. Hmmm....
Now what am I going to do?