The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

The Definition of Seamanship


Over the years many people have written to us for advice on how they should equip their boats. On looking back at those exchanges, it’s amazing how often the reply to our recommendations has been something like this:

Thanks for your suggestion, but that would really be way too much trouble, work, or expense.

Replies like this seem to be particularly prevalent when I suggest things like:

I could go on but you get the idea.

And that’s pretty understandable. After all, I know there have been several times over the years where I have taken the easy way out…and then suffered the consequences for my laziness.

All of this has got me thinking about a definition of seamanship. Here’s what I came up with:

Seamanship is when you do what you know, deep down in your heart of hearts, you should do, even though it’s a pain in the neck, a huge amount of work, and/or is going to cost way more than you want to spend.

This seems to work well and covers things that are not gear related, like reefing when we’re tired and seasick, and re-anchoring, after a long day, when we didn’t get it right the first time.

I’m thinking about such things because we’re in the process of putting together our boat work list for this winter and next spring. As usual, there are several items on the list that we dread doing and/or don’t want to pay for. But seamanship must win out.

By the way, contrary to what you may hear at yacht club bars, seamanship has nothing to do with gleaming varnish, or polished stainless steel, although cleaning the bilge definitely qualifies as seamanship—prevents clogged bilge pumps.

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