The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Which Old Salts Should We Listen To? 10 Ways To Decide—Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, we published the first part of my tips on how to decide which old salts to listen to, as well as how to decide between conflicting opinions expressed by experienced voyagers.

Here is Part 2. But before you read on, if you didn’t read Part 1, please do so now, otherwise this article is not going to make a lot of sense.

With that out of the way, let’s dig in:

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Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
There are two books that keep coming to mind as I read your very nicely done articles. I hesitate to mention them as they have nothing to do with sailing and everything to do with judgment, decision making, bias, and the various ways that we, as humans, convince ourselves of notions (and act on them) that are demonstrably false. But I do mention them, as they explain in a quite accessible fashion, the ways we indulge in poor thinking habits, and, more importantly, allow one to develop tools to catch oneself in poor think habits.
Very much what I see you are doing in these articles, John.
They are Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Michael Lewis’s “The Undoing Project”. The latter book I just finished may be the best to start with (if interested) as it is about the collaboration between Kahneman and Amos Tversky, a collaboration that challenged the notions of man as a primarily rational being when it comes to decision making and risk assessment.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Albert Stahl

Hi Dick,
With a different grain of salt, I highly recommend a couple books by Nassim Nicholas Taleb “Fooled by Ramdomnes – the hidden role of chance in life” and “The Black Swan – the impact of the highly improbable” he with witty insight & humor, like D. Kahneman, are considered among the top 100 thinkers of our time – Cheers and fair winds in 2019

Dick Stevenson

Hi Albert,
Thanks for the suggestion. I will explore. Dick

Drew Frye

Understand the full context of the problem and the limitations of both observations and testing are critical. The problem with most student science projects is they aren’t measuring what they think the are measuring (they missed a variable).

Low Stretch Jacklines. They can make good sense, BUT they need to be considerably (50-100%) stronger than World Sailing Off Shore Rule standards. This is because the standard was based on polyester and no one ever did the math. They also give less shock absorption if short. Thus, polyester is probably the best choice under about 30 feet, and low-stretch may be the best choice over 30 feet line length (if strong enough). This goes back to #10 and one-size-does-not-fit-all. For example, Dyneema is not zero-stretch, it is low stretch; a 50′ Dyneema jackline will deflect as far as a 10′ polyester line. Nylon can work on small boats because the lines are very short, and it can be better on multihulls, where the decks are wide and the falls are longer. The system really should be engineered to the boat, but rules of thumb are handier. Personally, I’ve never owned a boat large enough for low -stretch jacklines, but (relevant experience) I have design industrial fall retention systems that use low stretch materials and survived many, many falls. As a rock climber, I’ve logged thousands of falls in many geometries, so I have a feel for both the math and the practical (what it feels like).

Drogues. I wrote a series of articles on drogues with a focus on two things. The first was emergency steering. More common than roll-overs, is the loss or bending of a spade rudder. It happened to me and it can leave you stranded. So I wanted to explain a simple emergency steering method. The second was to provide a universal sizing chart. Because drogue vendors have different seamanship philosophies, you can’t compare size recommendations directly. And at least one manufacturer got very angry with me for publishing comparative drag data!

However, a third thing came from this, backed up with some small scale testing and cruiser experience. A single element drogue absolutely WILL become unstable when waves get steep and the load passes a certain limit (about 4-5 knots). The steepness of the waves simulates, in a way, an anchor at very short scope, and the drogue pulls out of the wave face. It then snaps forward as the nylon rode contracts. This is why there are so many stories of drogues that were doing well suddenly failing when the storm intensified; single element drogues are for steering and speed control, and they will fail suddenly at some level of storm intensity, generally, just about when it gets really scary. The JSD avoids this by using many elements and by sinking deep. This is what makes it unique. I hope no one took my drogue testing in near gale conditions as relating directly to survival storms; it was never meant to and such extrapolation goes far beyond what an engineer,such as me, would call the experimental limits. This is a central element of critical thinking; what are the experimental limits? My stories were about size and quality comparison, and emergency steering with drogues. Not survival storms. They are outside my experience and not relevant to the sailing I do. Hitting a rudder on a submerged log is relevant to me. The Chesapeake Bay and coastal oceans are bloody full of them.

Chain Stretch. Interestingly, this is more true of high grade (G43 and G70) than lower grade (BBB) chain. This is why G70 is used for binding truck loads. It was not really something I expected either, but it’s one of those counter intuitive things that is in the numbers.

Magazines edit articles for drama. My father told me that there are “three types of news; oh the glory of it, oh the horror of it… and oh.” You may not be reading the authors exact words. Except for here AAC!

Always read critically. What are the real limits of the experience or study? Do they apply to your boat and your circumstances?


Hi John
Several decades ago the US had a President from Californian who was famous for saying “trust but verify.” One of the more intelligent quotations to come out of a politician’s mouth.

I guess I’ve been around too many engineers in my career, but the biggest failures I’ve seen have been the product of engineers who lacked either experience or common sense. When the Boeing Dreamliner was in the development process I was given a tour of the multi-million dollar autoclaved carbon mold for the center fuselage section. As I walked by it struck me that the parts produced from it would fail to meet tolerances. And I knew that because I had made an analogous error developing the tooling for my 58′ catamaran project. It took Boeing a year’s setback on their flagship project and hundreds of millions of dollars to resolve the issue.

I have zero capability of engineering the structure of a Boeing fuselage, but without the ability to effectively conceptualize the problem all the calculations in the world won’t produce the right solution. So I’d have to disagree: Engineering doesn’t “trump” Experience —they have to work in tandem. This is particularly difficult to accomplish in a giant corporate/bureaucratic organization.

Stein Varjord

Hi Richard and John.
What you describe might be the core of how we get wrong (or right) conclusions. I especially liked what Drew Frye wrote above: “The problem with most student science projects is they aren’t measuring what they think they are measuring (they missed a variable).” I think one doesn’t need to be a student to to make that or similar mistakes… Probably we all constantly misinterpret or overlook key details when we try to solve complicated problems.

When I realize some new enlightenment, I make a “note to self” that I was previously wrong about that issue, and that this new enlightenment will only last until I get a new one, then proving that the presently new and shiny awareness is also not the ultimate full truth. This is just the best thing I got at the moment. This little mental exercise helps me keep looking and avoid hybris. Still, I do think I’m a universal genius, but I’m probably not smart enough to evaluate that. 😀

Eric Klem

Hi Richard,

Both you and Drew have touched on a good point which is that while the equations are always true, they are often not applied correctly. Engineers are people just like everyone else and so we make mistakes just like everyone else. Unfortunately, there is also a wide range of ability among the population of degreed engineers just like other professions.

2 of the most important aspects in engineering to me are being able to relate the real world to the analytical world and knowing how much analysis is actually required. One of the reasons why designing compressors and expanders was such a great experience for me was that the shop staff were really skilled and liked to be a part of the design process so I learned a ton about how to design manufacturable parts and what the capabilities were when I really needed to push them on something like tolerances. Unfortunately, many of the engineering programs now only use 3D printing when building prototypes and if people haven’t actually built things themselves, they don’t know how to design manufacturable parts. I think very highly of the program that I went to and one of the things that I like is that they just opened a new, larger machine shop and project lab where every machine is run by students.




just recently I watched Skip Novaks video on storm anchoring. What he explains enroute to the spot he chose holds a lot of “common sense” thinking, and his calm way of handling things is a great example of seamanship, IMHO.

However these videos are a couple of years old, and I have still to find an installation such as on Skips boat with a set-back windlass and a massive centerline Sampson post with integrated chain stopper, an installation his technique heavily builds upon.

And, if some comments on the video are correct he since switched to a spade anchor. This would construe my personal number #11 on your recommendation list: be aware of the age of the recommendation, or information, it may no more be top notch but superseded by better knowledge or tools.


It is not only a Sampson post. If you look closely you’ll notice two welded struts on the post that effectively acts as a stopper. A simple post would never be able to do that, agreed.
Aside, I had the opportunity to sail on a boat with a spade a couple of months ago, and I’m absolutely bought. Always held at the first attempt, in different bottom environments, be it sand, mud, or weed…

Dick Stevenson

Yes John,
I had the same horrors travel down my spine when seeing the chain being handled by hand near the metal post. I also noticed, less of a concern, that the snubber was secured with a spliced loop rather than using the Sampson as a cleat, again a safety issue at times and leaving the snubber impossible to release under pressure without a knife.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Eric Klem

When I first worked on vessels with traditional windlasses, I was shocked to see that they literally dropped the anchor. The pawl boxes that drove the windlass had no means of disengaging so the windlasses only go up. To lower, you lay out ~100′ of chain (usually 3/4″+) on a chain board ahead of the windlass and then drop the anchor and let it rip out. The scary part is when you need to let out more chain as this is often done with a technique of slipping chain. The windlass will have 3+ turns on it and you feed slack in starting from the bitter end working towards the working end until it starts slipping. There is a definite technique to it and once you have done it a lot, you get used to it and don’t get riding turns and you fingers are already removed when it slips but I now consider myself quite lucky that I never lost a finger. There were 2 alternatives, a chain brake and a doubled line that would be cast off but both had the tendency not to release so slipping was commonly used on the boats that had captive drums.

Now that I made it through without losing any fingers, I consider it good experience as I know how to handle heavily loaded chain but while I was still doing it, it was definitely not a good idea.


George L

Hi John and Ernest

compare this with the statement above
and his calm way of handling things is a great example of seamanship, IMHO.

clearly, what gives you the horrors is an example of lacking seamanship.

Hard to understand in our echo chamber-fortified mono-dimensional world, it doesn’t matter how big the hero/giant/whatever, if what he proposes and shows is crap, its still crap. It doesn’t magically turn into gold

Or rule 11,
“beware of hero worship”


Matt Boney

You mention in links above to your Basic Electricity articles, but no mention here on some “old salts” ridiculous and outdated thoughts on batteries, charging, solar, etc., etc. You have had some excellent electrickery articles on here, but other Forums are full of “old salts” who ruin threads with their outdated ideas, but most don’t ever come around to modern thinking. Ok this area is much less likely to kill you like bad weather sailing, but it might if all your electrical systems fail mid ocean, or you install Lithium batteries without any knowledge or understanding of what you are doing.

Stein Varjord

Hi Matt and John.
As an illustration of potential consequences of electrical flaws: I work for a company running mostly electric touris boats on the canals in Amsterdam. All our battery packs are old fashioned lead liquid acid 2 Volt cells. The boats are mostly quite simple and use top quality components from Victron etc. The boats are looked after by technicians every day. There is nothing combustible on the boats, apart from the polyester it’s built from. Still, yesterday morning at 06, one of them burnt to the waterline. Most cruising boats are WAY more complicated and vulnerable to dramatic electric problems…

David B. Zaharik

Thanks… fabulous food for thought.

Drew Frye

Another challenge is precise writing and precise reading. In one article I stated a certain series of tests were performed in near gale conditions. Several readers interpreted this to mean “really stormy” when what I meant was very literal; force 7 (28-33 knots sustained with gusts well into the 40s). This was in a moderate noreaster off Maryland, so the waves were pretty lumpy. It was windy, but hardly scary. I did need to be very careful launching and recovering drogues–a harness and tether is obligatory since you are working with both hands at the rail–but in fact, in those conditions I would be using a drogue for comfort, not fear of capsize.

You need to be a little like Sherlock Holmes; read the facts and be care with what you or the writer infer.

Matt Marsh

Decisions based on experience, without calculation and analysis, are a recipe for trouble.
Decisions based on calculation, without experience, are also a recipe for trouble.

Part of the art of engineering is in merging all that information correctly. We need to recognize what experience is relevant to the issue, what experience is not relevant, and allow the relevant experience to inform the requirements and constraints on the design. Then, the decisions themselves need to flow from a sober, rational analysis based on physical law, before being cross-checked against past experience.

If there is insufficient relevant experience to draw from, we must either find, or create, the necessary experience to inform the decision. Drawing on experience that seems “sorta-kinda close enough” won’t cut it. The classic example is the F-1 rocket engine: Nobody had ever tried building one that big before, and it was tempting to assume that the behaviour of smaller engines could simply be extrapolated. The engineers wisely rejected that assumption, and the R&D program revealed (via a series of massive test-stand explosions) new and violently destructive combustion properties that were only possible at this scale, and could not be simulated or predicted using data from smaller engines. Storm drogues on yachts follow a similar pattern: a single-element drogue works very well for some kinds of problems in moderate wind, and it can be tempting to extrapolate that experience to higher winds, but in fact the single drogue suddenly becomes totally inadequate as the conditions become more violent. Jordan’s sober, scientific analysis, informed by plenty of data and using well-understood physical laws as its basis, revealed the better solution.

Knowing the limits of validity of your knowledge is absolutely critical to any kind of important decision. My knowledge of how storm fronts behave over the Great Lakes has essentially zero relevance to a yacht facing katabatic gusts in Patagonia. A skipper whose tactics have safely kept him afloat off Cape Horn for 40 years might find himself keel-side-up on the rocks if he were to apply those same tactics on Lake Erie. (We have over 6,000 shipwrecks on these lakes, many of which resulted from applying open-ocean tactics and knowledge in a setting where they were invalid.) Take what you and those around you know as a starting point… but always filter it through an accurate understanding of the limits of your data and of the physical laws that are at play, before you reach a decision.

Stein Varjord

Hi Matt.
Great descriptions and logic. Quite often reading articles and comments here at AAC I look for the like button. 🙂 Writing a comment just for support is usually not beneficial to the site. However, I now have one more reason:

You mention how sailing on the Great Lakes requires some knowledge that is different from normal ocean or coastal sailing, and visa versa. I’ve never sailed there, but I assume many others here do or are likely to do so soon. I’d find it interesting to read an article about this topic. Perhaps even focussing on the differences by describing how a standard attitude might bring failure there and the info you don’t care about elsewhere but which is useful there. Even if I were to never sail there, I find it interesting to understand the specifics of one area, as it gives perspective and better understanding of other knowledge also.


I “like” esp. the two-sentence “management summary” at the start of your post. Print, frame, and put on the wall in the captains quarters.

Jim Evans

Sometimes it’s not the answers you get so much as the questions you ask…


AAC certainly brings out an exceptional quality of comment. John deserves accolades for creating such a forum.

I can’t resist mentioning a few other colossal engineering disasters to go along with the Boeing cluster—k- that I witnessed!
—Single O-ring seal on the Space Shuttle that hardened under temperatures near freezing. Who could have thunk it!!! All to make it easier to truck back to the East coast.
— Westinghouse designed nuclear reactors with the spent fuel (still containing 95% of the radioactivity) stored in swimming pools on top of the reactor vessels so that any runaway control loss will produce the maximum release of radioactivity.
—-Siting the Fukushima reactors behind a seawall with a 100 year probability of being breached by a tidal wave.
—–Locating backup generators at sea level instead of remotely at higher elevation.
—-Operators overclocking the Chernobyl reactors in the Ukraine “just to see what might happen.”

Murphy’s Law still seems to apply to human endeavors & Political Power trumps engineering and logic every time.

Matt Marsh

You mention the Shuttle Challenger here, and I think that one in particular is worth mentioning further.
This was, to a large degree, a case of wilfully ignoring relevant experience and failing to listen to experts. Some characterized it as “Go Fever”. Others described it as managerial overconfidence. At the root of the problem was that the O-ring joint in question had already failed in flight nine times previously. That information was known, the effect was known to be exacerbated by cold weather, the engineers involved had thoroughly documented the previous damage and recommended a launch constraint on temperature until the revised design was ready, and yet management decided to launch STS 51-L anyway.
That is precisely the kind of thinking we’re talking about here, when judging what expertise and experience are relevant to a given decision.


Hi John,
Even though I’ve been bringing up engineering related human failures in design I’d be the last to argue that old fashioned “knowledge” should’t be examined through the prism of mathematical facts and the scientific method.

re nuclear energy: The decisions that have led us down the path of highly complex systems that require flawless back up system redundancy in order to continue to operate without catastrophic failure are entirely political. The light water reactor (the universal common design) is an outgrowth of it’s suitability to power aircraft carriers needed to project power globally on behalf of the Empire and to produce plutonium for bombs. The specific location of its early manufacture was chosen by Nixon as a payoff for bribes and votes in California.

The engineering design of the light water reactor was created by Alvin Weinburg at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory 40 years ago. At the same time Weinberg designed a radically different reactor based upon liquid sodium for energy transfer and refueling and thorium as the base fuel. It operates at room temperature, has no supercritical high pressure water cooling and automatically cold shuts down if the human operators walk away and let the birds run it. And potentially costs about 1/10 as much per plant to build and fuel and produces 5% of the waste volume with very short lived radioactivity. The LFTR ran as a demonstration prototype for a year nearly four decades ago.

But in human society bombs trump energy production for civilian uses.

Marc Dacey

I’ve been a proponent of thorium reactors since I bothered to research them. They are perfect for energy-intensive extractive industry, such as the oil sands in Alberta, and could replace diesel generators in isolated Northern communities. Hell, if there was a suitcase-sized one, I’d have it in our boat and go all-electric propulsion! But habit and fear drive acceptance, which is how it works in cruising, too.



I can’t think of a worse possible role for LFTR reactors than increasing the ability to cook high sulfur oil out of the Canadian tar sands and further accelerate homo un-sapiens rush to a planet devoid of life.

The powerful advantage of the LFTR is it’s potential to provide base load power with a much higher degree of safety than conventional nuclear power. It’s fatal flaw is that it could accelerate human’s project to eliminate all other life forms on earth by continuing to expand in numbers and foul our nest . “The specter of extinction hangs over about 41 percent of all amphibian species and 26 percent of all mammals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ”

Marc Dacey

RDE, this is indeed thread drift (although salt-related), but my point was that thorium reactors are a marked improvement from a carbon release viewpoint than are the current uses of vast amounts of fresh water and natural gas used to cook out the hydrocarbons from the sand. And irrespective of its end use, we will need hydrocarbons for lubricants, plastics and other uses apart from dirty fuels.

I concur with your other points entirely.

Stein Varjord

Hi Richard.
Energy politics is maybe a side track from the topic of “old salts”, but it interests me, even though I’m not very competent. When it comes to nuclear energy, its waste is a massive problem. I assume the thorium reactor, even if seemingly way safer, doesn’t fix that? In December and January we have the Amsterdam Light Festival here, with 30 different installations along the canals.

One of them is an ominous sequence of texts made in 1981 by researchers trying to create “nuclear semantics” to make a message that would be understood very far into the future, so that nobody would enter nuclear waste storage sites. The feeling I get after reading it is that we humans prove quite well that it’s possible to be highly intelligent while simultaneously being so short sighted it can only be called very stupid. The people building the Pyramids 5 000 years ago, or the Stone Age people painting on cave walls 20 000 years ago; how well could they predict how humanity lives today? How can we think we can do better? How can we think that our selfish “needs” right now are worth that cost? The text is meant to be read extremely far into the future, like in ten thousand years from now:

This place is a message
And part of a system of messages.
Pay attention to it!
Sending this message was important to us.
We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.
This place is not a place of honour.
No highly esteemed deed is commemorated here.
Nothing valued is here.
What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us.
This message is a warning about danger.
The danger is in a particular location.
It increases towards a center.
The center of danger is here.
Of a particular size and shape, and below us.
The danger is still present, in your time as it was in ours.
The danger is to the body, and it can kill.
The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.
The danger is unleashed only if you disturb this place physically.
This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.

For me, this feels like science fiction, but it isn’t….
OK. Back to old salts, which is strangely relevant, since nuclear waste is often stored in old salt mines. 🙂


Hi Stein
I definitely hyjacked the main topic of the site– my apologies, John!
But nuclear energy is one of the two or three most critical topics for the future of the next half century, and one surrounded by a fog of misinformation, greed and politics.

A few kernels:

Conventional light water reactors are fueled with zirconium tubes containing enriched uranium. When the tubes start to weaken due to radioactive bombardment they are lifted out, replaced, and stored in swimming pools located over the reactor vessel. They still contain 95% of their total radioactive energy potential, and the plutonium component has an active half life of 20,00 years during which it must be isolated from organic life. (Need I say that the zirconium tubes are a monopoly and there is only one supplier?)

The LFTR/ thorium fuel cycle burns up 95% of its nuclear fuel leaving only 1/20th. of the waste volume compared to the LWR. It’s waste products are not useful for bomb making. And the radioactive wastes left behind, while initially highly dangerous, have radioactive lives from mere weeks to 300 years by which time they are no more dangerous than the original common raw ore.

+++Automatic cold shut-down with no possibility of melt down.
+++Automatic safe storage mode
+++No pressurized (at 40 atmospheres!) water cooling system that must work flawlessly to avoid catastrophic failure.
+++Low proliferation risk
+++Potentially could be built on a factory assembly line like an airliner, but with less critical systems risk.

Doesn’t take a rocket system to distinguish between the two nuclear power designs!

Reading poetry designed to be scribbled on a cave wall isn’t very instructive. Kind of like trying to take a sextant sight while laying in your bunk during a storm instead of using the GPS. There is no lack of layman-level information available upon which to form an opinion.


Hi Stein
By the way, the LFTR reactor uses molten “old salt” as its energy transfer mechanism and refueling medium.


Meant to say “doesn’t take a rocket scientist–“

Stein Varjord

Hi Richard.
The text above isn’t meant to be poetry and is apparently in use as it was intended at nuclear storage sites. It does still work as poetry or art, inspiring emotions. As in everything else, in life, emotions are the factor that makes us react and think, then hopefully in a logic way. If humanity gets emotions pushing us towards realizing that we’re acting very stupidly, that’s not a solution to anything, but we might get the motivation to think better.

It does indeed sound like the Thorium LFTR reactor is insanely much better than the normal reactor. Since they both have been known the same period, it’s no exaggeration to say that the politicians and others responsible for choosing which technology to use, must be either extremely incompetent or criminals. I’ll read up on the topic. So even if this is off topic here, it has good results. More people becoming more competent makes the world better.

As for future energy sources, this Thorium reactor still is somewhat poisonous and somewhat harmful. Ideally we want totally “clean energy”, but does that exist? Perhaps, but it’s not a simple issue. Wind and solar are clean energies, but when we harvest them, we put up huge wind mill “parks” that don’t quite enhance their local aesthetics, and the industry building them isn’t without a footprint. Same goes for solar panels. Storing energy is often done in batteries. That’s another wasps nest of problematic mining industry and chemicals issues. Hydro electric is extremely invasive on usually breathtaking nature, but when it’s made, it is a very good option.

For me, there’s no question about the normal nuclear reactor types: That’s not at all an option, due to their proven very poor track record on safety and their insane waste problem. They must be stopped, now. Same goes for coal and oil power plants. Thorium reactors are still nuclear reactors, so my guess is that they will evoke the same negative emotions, but it could be that their actual negative footprint isn’t worse than wind and solar. If so, that’s very interesting.


Sorry John for adding to this drift, but this thing is really significant thing. “5. gen” powerplants might be really big advance, since they can produce synthetic fuels, ie. hyrocarbons like diesel, kerosene and gas/benzine from water vapour and fresh air – or exhausts of eg. steel and cement factories.
Also, certain designs like Dual-Fluid Reactor could have energy returns of 1000-2000:1 (EROEI) on their lifetime, compared to ~15 on wind and ~80 on conventional nuclear. Also they don’t have failure modes of water reactors and can burn their own waste.
Again, sorry for drift :d Cheers!

Steve Hodges

This is an interesting discussion, and the articles list important perspectives and practical considerations. I also think the discussion is relevant to a broader range of activities than sailing. The need for “old salt” wisdom really stems from this:

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” Walter J. Savitch, in “Pascal: An Introduction to the Art and Science of Programming,” (1984).

In my professional (engineering physics) experience old salts were called mentors, and I think that label applies in the sailing world. I’m fortunate to have had good mentors professionally, as well as in my continuing recreational sailing development, and, not surprisingly, I see a lot of parallels, for they can both be very demanding activities.

How does one choose which old salts to listen to? I think the choice is made using the same wide range of processes that applies to successful mentor/mentee experiences. Working relationships like this depend on: common interest, available resources to apply to the activity, acknowledged gap in understanding, patience on the part of the mentor, adaptability by the mentee, and critically, a shared ability to deal constructively with differences and mistakes.

The mentor doesn’t even have to be alive or directly involved with you to be your mentor. If his or her youtube video, website, or book is compelling and resonant with your needs, an effective relationship can exist, even if only one side (ie, the mentee) is aware of it.

When it works, it seems like fun.

Eric Klem

Hi Steve and John,

Good thoughts on mentors. The only thing that I would add is that when someone starts out, you should sail with a few different mentors and avoid taking only 1 person’s advice however good they are. If you look at the situation of the Bounty, many of the crew had never sailed with anyone else other than Robin which greatly complicates a tricky decision such as the one they faced as to whether they should get off the boat or head out with Sandy coming. Similarly, I had a couple mention to me at the end of a week of sailing that they had had a wonderful time and it was the first time they had been out and there not be a disaster and generally lots of yelling and screaming throughout. I knew the boat they were discussing and was not surprised but they had been sailing on it for years thinking that sailing was just that way. Part of this is being a critical thinker and looking around at the other boats and even someone who is brand new can often pick up on if their boat is doing something very different.


Marc Dacey

I club-raced for five years, as did my wife, and this is reflected in the way we operate our bargy steel cutter, even though it’s the opposite of a race boat. Just as one can learn what works, there’s also the opportunity in racing to see what does not work, and what habits of mind of an incompletely experienced skipper at that level will not work taken into the cruising world. The short form? You can learn a great deal of what not to do from some sailors that will help you improve your own skills.


And so it continues … w/r to the GGR … another pitchpole today … and comment from another old salt who has been around the world a number of times. Be sure to read down to the comment about “the safest way” to survive southern ocean storms.


Had deployed a JSD, but it parted from the bridle…

Ralph Rogers

Great set of articles. I totally agree and laugh at people who think that way, of course only inside, where it counts. A scary statistic I read recently is 70% of people believe they can do what they see on TV.
Good thing there are no sailing programs.
I do not know any old salts. I am the only one I know who sails. So this makes it the only subject that no one is an expert on, or even has an opinion on, and therefore never bring up.
I never talk about it. It’s my thing, and I don’t want it ruined. Heck, I don’t even tell family or friends, including girlfriend ( though she loves being on the boat,) when I go out to sea, albeit just along the coast for a few days. If I do, they may google sailing and form an opinion. I have to cross the Columbia bar, and that is a whole other topic for experts and nay Sayers. I am lucky that I think linearly and critically, ( or unlucky because I can’t join in on normal conversation about irrelevant things), because of upbringing, military, and being ex engineer. I can pretty much see through the crowd. And being so also know that you can get caught up in engineering facts that are also irrelevant to the situation. And engineers are people, and so engineer to their beliefs, and sometimes to the outcomes they want to believe. It happens. A lot. Made a career out of disproving designs and finding flaws. And when you find a fault? Better get Jesus to prove it. Engineers are babies when you find their toys don’t work. So you can’t just believe something blindly because some engineer says so either. You have to learn to think through it. It makes it hard to see what’s real. But it’s a lot harder if you’re stupid.
Even though I only have a few thousand miles of open ocean, and that was a long time ago, I still think through what you say. Just habit. In fact, people on here are the old salts I hear. And I relish your articles and opinions and knowledge and experience and the responses. It’s a place of thinkers and doers, not just googleheads.
And I agree on your series drogue battle, if only because, after all, 4 out of 5 dentists agree.

Ralph Rogers

My apologies, you are right, I should have picked better words.


It’s not just the wave train we can perceive wrong “due to our angle of view and lack of reliable reference points.” Last weekend I awoke and observed from my bunk high-level cumulus travelling very fast across a clear blue sky. This wierd pattern perplexed me and had me wondering if I’d need to change anchorage. Then the clouds stopped and went the other way. My boat was swinging on its anchor.

Bob McDowell

So, after folks have spent some time sailing and learning with me the question always comes up “What do I need to do next?” My answer is to go sailing with many skippers and sail as a skipper as much as possible. But I also recommend some reading material but I think it would be great for us to put together a list of books for the aspiring offshore skipper to read. I will start out with “The Annapolis Book of Seamanship”, Chapmans, The Art of Seamanship Ralph Naranjo and Bowditch. Then I can tell these folks to come to this site and look up the list!


Stein Varjord

That’s an interesting idea for an article here, I think. Perhaps it could be called “Strategies to transform from landlubber to skipper”. At the moment no important books pop up, but what I always push is.
1. Become member of a sailing club and sail club races.
2. Sail small fast one person dinghies.
3. Read all the articles and comments on AAC.


Hi Stein
4- Go on one or more offshore passage training voyages with Andy Schell or John Neal. If you can’t afford the considerable expense, join OPO and have Hank Schmidt connect you with an offshore delivery with a professional deliver skipper. Avoid boats with owners on board unless you personally know them!


Just curious, whats against boats with owners on board?
Crewing quite often with owners, and never yet had really negative encounters.
(Lets hope it stays this way until I’m owner myself 😉 )

Bob McDowell

Nigel Calder:
Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual: Repair and Improve Your Boat’s Essential Systems
Marine Diesel Engines

Rene Blei

Hi John,
Havent found an appropriagte box for my question, but it is one we all have to deal with.
Tax as in sales tax, import duties etc.
While living in AB, Canada I bought my boat in WA and have kept it here (WA) for the last 6 years, but under Canadian Flag, so the CND government is (smal) part owner.
Did pay the Sales Tax here aswell, but like to enter Canadian waters, which is quite possible and without tax consequences, provided I dont anchor and/or set foot on shore and return to USA waters and no need to contact USA border patrol , as the boat is deemed not to have left the USA.
The person who did my documents here in Seattle, WA told me, because of NAFTA now USMCA, because I have paid Sales Tax here in WA, the agreement is to prevent double taxation and only GST should be payable when importing into Canada.
Also had hoped the new freetrade deal with Europe might help me not to have to pay Import Duty , since the boat was built in Holland, but was told this only applies to new boats.
Since the time I boat the boat, The US$ has gone up about another 25% and the import duty is calculated in CAD………….ofcourse!
Canadian Border Patrol agents often dont know the rules either as I found out with importing a vintage car from the USA.
Only experts or those who have experience with recent imports probably can help.
The one thing that is on my side, is depreciation, I think 10 to 15% per annum.
Hopefully a few of your members can help or point me in the right direction.
Many thanks,

Rene Blei

Hi John,
Thank you for the intersting info and like to get in touch with a west coast Jamie.
Agree with you, most Custom officers are quite helpful, but sometimes they just dont know.
Even the broker I use for cars only could tell me the basics for boats.
Like I mentioned with the vintage car issue, after explaning the situation to an Ottawa office,
it only took a few weeks to receive a refund.
As for depreciation, the fact is the first question they usually ask, what you paid for it,
maybe then wait for them to bring it up.
For alluminum boats here, unlike Europe, there is a much smaller market than for FRP boats.
You make a good point , to collect supporting evidence of other similar boats, especially in times when all governments are short of money.
Thanks again,

Charlie Armor

Hi John
Can I suggest another consideration to bear in mind when assessing differing advice that I think’s particularly relevant in the sailing world? The sort of budget the old salt is used to working with will often impact what boat or what hardware they think is appropriate in a given situation.

My previous hobbies were hang gliding and then climbing. Both can make the same sort of demand on your time as sailing but were far less expensive. Most people who were really serious about either sport could afford the best gear available or something very close to that.

Sailing is different. If you are asking for advice it’s worth making sure your OS aware of the budget constraints (or if you’re lucky the lack of them) that you’re working with.


Rene Blei

Hi John,
Thanks for reminding me on this subject matter.
Due to Covid, I had to get my boat back to CND, since the last time I saw it was a year ago, January 2020, just before the world was shut down. Was not allowed to cross the border by car. In August I found out I could fly to Seattle and caught a flight from Vancouver.
Before all this rook place I got in-touch with a Custom Broker Simon Smith, CCS in Victoria and explained the situation. See July 10, 2019 above for the details. He told me there are a few possibilities to get my boat into CND, without having to import it. He advised me to ask the Custom Officer for a Visiting Permit. I also contacted a well known internet Customs expert, who told me to have a CND registered boat and not having paid Import Duty and GST, is illegal. The Victoria Custom broker denied this, as there are many boats and ships registered in a country while never been in that country.
This was later confirmed, meaning it is not illegal, by the Custom officer.
In August 2020, I left Seattle and drove the boat direction Steveston BC. Just before crossing the border I phoned the Custom phone number and was asked which port I was heading for and 20min . later a police RIB pulled up besides me. Told him I was Canadian and the only one onboard , direction Steveston . That may have looked suspicious, one person on a 60ft motor yacht, so they escorted me all the way down to the Custom dock where 6 officers where welcoming me. Thats when I asked for a Visiting Permit and was given one for one year. In order to renew it, the boat had to go back to the USA for a few days and when returning to CND , I can ask again for a one year Visiting Permit.
As for depreciation, one way to get to know the market value that carries some weight ,
is to have a survey done. However, all they do is look for similar boats sold and asses a value, but some are much better than others and show pride in their work. Documented maintenance is key. Depreciation for boats, like any high priced car, is steep, despite the relative little use, yet replacement value shoots up.
In my case I also like to wait and see our CADollar go up vs US$ as Duty is paid on value in CAD. Duty is charged on boats made outside USA and Mexico. Mine was built in Holland, which has a Freetrade deal with CND, but only new boats are exempt.