A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: About a fine book (and avoiding risk).
From: Robert Eno
Date: 2005 Jun 8, 07:48 -0400
From: Robert Eno
Date: 2005 Jun 8, 07:48 -0400
In response to George's post: I fall into the category of the technologically-inclined, nothwithstanding the fact that I am a firm believer in the need to master astro-navigation and other time-honoured skills. But I would not even consider sailing in Arctic or Antarctic waters without radios, radar, sounder and yes... GPS. But I also carry my compass, sextant, charts and all of the other tools of the "traditional" trade. Whatever it takes to make for a safe passage. Indeed, one can admire the grit of a sailor who decides to eschew the modern electronic conveniences in favour of doing things the "old way", but where does it end? It seems to me that the "old way" is a moving target in time. For some, the "old way" is the way seamen did things in the 1800's; for others, it might be the 1900's. But why stop there? Why not do things the way the Roman and Greek Navies did? Or how about the Vikings? Maybe we should make up some t-shirts that say: "magnetic compasses are for wimps". Did anyone in the 1800's or before then scoff at the idea of modern wooden vessels with with their attendent modern (at the time) conveniences? Did they attempt to cross the Atlantic in a dugout canoe? I admit that the latter analogy is somewhat extreme. I use it only to illustrate the point that there really is no "traditional way" of doing things. I'm not a man with several decades of seagoing experience under my belt like many of the list members, but it seems to me that sailors have always been a very practical and pragmatic lot, using the best tools that are available to them to ensure their safe return home to their loved ones. I venture to guess that the seaman of old -- the ones who lived (and died) during those times which some sailors view as the golden era of navigation and seamanship -- would never have even considered not taking along the best tools of the day. They would likely have considered such a notion to be madness. As for seagoing competence, I respectfully disagree that sailing barebones as the Carrs did, makes you more competent. Certainly it would hone certain skills but does it really make you more competent or does it make you more lucky? Even the most competent sailors get into serious difficulty when unexpected disasters happen. Why venture forth and take unnecessary risks when the sea already presents enough risks as it is? Sure, we are all going to die sometime but I am in no hurry to get there any faster than I have to. And George, I seriously doubt that you are a timid sailor. Hell, you're a Brit. Your race is known for their pugnacity and resolve. The Battle of Britain proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Robert ----- Original Message ----- From: "George Huxtable"
To: Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 7:02 AM Subject: About a fine book (and avoiding risk). > I've greatly enjoyed reading "Antarctic Oasis- under the spell of South > Georgia", by Tim and Pauline Carr (Norton, 1998), and feel the urge to > recommend it to list members. > > The Carrs arrived in South Georgia in 1993 in their engineless 28-foot > gaff > cutter Curlew, then 100 years old. They were to take up the post of > curators at the Grytviken whaling museum, living year-round on the island, > aboard Curlew, either alongside in Grytviken, or exploring the island's > harbours and coves. > > The text, I thought, was a bit over-the-top, here and there, but then > clearly South Georgia is such an extraordinary environment, which has > enchanted the Carrs, that's only to be expected. But it's mainly the > photos, of the teeming wildlife, the wicked mountains, the icebergs, and > the blue bays. In which, if you look hard, you can usually see a tiny > image > of Curlew, sails aloft. Quite stunning pictures! > > What I find important in such a book is the quality of the mapping that > goes with it. Wherever the Carrs travel around the island, you always have > a sketch-map that shows precisely where they are, and picks out some of > the > (many) dangers to avoid in that inhospitable world. > > Where the Carrs are now, I have no idea. They may still be at Grytviken, > but Tim must be in his sixties now. Perhaps they have moved on. Does any > list-member know? > > What particularly interested me was the story of Curlew, a Falmouth Punt > which has been much un-modified by the Carrs to return her closer to her > original state. > > Relevant to what we have discussed here recently is their attitude to > safety, and the equipment they carry. No engine, just sails and a sweep, > to > get out of dangerous corners. No electrics then, no electrical equipment, > no radio, no electronic navigation. No liferaft, just a wooden dinghy. No > stanchions or safety-lines. Paraffin lighting and heating. About the only > concession to modernity is the Aries vane-gear: that's about the only > difference from the way Slocum was equipped, in his craft of about the > same > vintage. > > Some may regard that attitude, in such unforgiving waters, as folly, as Lu > Abel described the Smeeton's voyages. I do not. I envy their guts. It > allows a different sort of cruising, in which there's no technical > maintenance called for, nothing but some carpentry skills. That's how > Slocum could be so self-reliant. > > It also calls for real seagoing competence, which the Carrs seem to have > in > plenty. And it needs a different attitude to risk than our modern > civilisation wants to accept. > > ================= > > For hundreds of years, sailors have gone to sea in the realisation that > they were rather likely to die there. Ships were more likely to end their > lives by accident rather than old age, and the same applied to their > crews, > if they avoided disease. > > Our lives are going to end sometime, so if it happens at sea, is that so > much worse than elsewhere? Such a fatalistic attitude is unacceptable to > many today, when risk, it seems, has to be avoided at all costs. But to > some voyagers, it's more acceptable to perish out there, on their own, > rather than put others at risk by radio-ing up for a search and rescue. > > To many, part of the spice of sailing (and presumably other sports too, > such as climbing or caving) is some element of real risk involved, even if > nowadays we go to such lengths to minimise it. Some accept more of that > risk than do others, and I respect them for it, even if my own sailing is > a > lot more timid. > > George. > > ================================================================ > contact George Huxtable by email at george---.u-net.com, by phone at > 01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy > Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK. > ================================================================