There are many pleasures in sailing, with the simplicity of working with your boat and sails to move in the appropriate direction under just the power of the wind being one of the most appealing. Another pleasure is lifelong learning. Learning may include where to set your jib leads, how quickly to turn in a tack, memorizing the constellations in the sky, or understanding the Coriolis effect.
Then there’s the opportunity to look inward, not just into your soul, but into the guts of your boat. When we upgraded from our 1974 Ranger 33 to a “new” 1989 Sabre 38 MkII we opened a whole new realm of learning. We moved from having our only instrument being yarns on shrouds to chartplotters and apparent-wind indicators and more. Our foot pump was upgraded to pressure water, including a water heater. Now we have so much more to learn.
While sailing is the ultimate reward, learning continues to fascinate us as we dig through the bowels of the boat. Despite being almost 24 years old and having done several Hawaii races, she’s in amazingly good shape thanks to her pedigree and the care and upgrades of previous owners. In fact, the Hawaii races have probably helped her be in good shape, since preparing to go offshore has the same effect as inviting people over to your house for dinner. You do a lot of work to clean it up, and, in the case of boats, make sure they’re safe.
We slowly knock off projects and then look for more trouble, so over time, we get to understand how things work just in case the inevitable happens. Some sailors exchange the words “just in case” with “when.”
A couple of recent projects included removing the fixed backstay and replacing it with the Navtec hydraulic backstay, which appears to hold its pressure and be working just fine. There was the missing extra-large clevis pin that had to be found, but, once found, was relatively easy to attach and power up.
There was also the problem of the glitchy Simrad autopilot. We’ve sailed with many of them but have never had one on our own boat. It worked sporadically but often had to be recalibrated to get it running. Finally, pulling everything out of the locker and looking at all connections, our friend Randy discovered the easiest of fixes. There was a wire on the circuit board clearly labeled “Rudder” that was not secured tightly. It was just resting on the lead and didn’t have reliable contact. Presto! Once secured, she’s humming again. A lesson in troubleshooting as you sequentially chase down problems, while learning where the heck all the bits and pieces are.
Lifelong learning is all about using your head, so we spent more time trying to understand the holding tank and related hoses. After crawling around the boat for a couple of years we have a pretty good feel for where most things are, but “lifelong learning” does take an entire lifetime. We’ve occasionally had unpleasant odors coming from the holding tank, and we’re told the secret is to flush with only freshwater. Flushing with salt water causes the growth of unwelcome forms of life that you’d rather not have on board.
So we spent more time tracing lines to see how it all works and discovered a convenient valve that lets you flush using water from the freshwater tanks. While looking at all the hoses, tanks, valves, thru-hulls, and all the rest, we were reminded why people like Barry Spanier put a composting toilet on his boat Rosie G. The space in the head of the Sabre looks a little daunting to fit a composting toilet, but it’s tempting to try to figure it out.
Because we’re slow learners, we figure we have at least two lifetimes of learning available in just this one boat. Knowing we’ll never know it all allows us to simply button it all up, leave a few mysteries behind, hoist the sails, and get out on the water to enjoy the simplicity of sailing. Though maybe we should move the jib leads forward one hole?