9 Tips To Select Seamanlike Gear

Out here in the middle of the Gulf Stream, 300 miles from the nearest land, gear failures that are trivial inshore can be huge challenges.

Recently, we have published two articles on lithium battery systems for voyaging boats, the first on why load dumps matter and the second on how to avoid them.

Thing is, I totally got the cart before the horse.

Before I blathered on about all that stuff, I should have taken a big step back to think and write about this exciting technology from the seamanship perspective that guides, or at least should when I don't screw up, everything here at AAC.

So let's do that...better late than never.

And to make it even better, let's think about a seamanlike framework for selecting any gear, particularly stuff that's complex, rather than just lithium batteries.

Then, after defining the problem in this article, I will share my thoughts on building a truly seamanlike lithium battery system—putting the horse firmly back in front of the cart.

Let's do it.

#1 The Mission

When thinking in a seamanlike way, we first need to define what the mission is for the boat that we are thinking of equipping with whatever the new gear is.

After all, if we are just going to do a bit of coastal cruising in benign conditions and weather, where we can stop in a secure place with good resources any time something goes wrong, we can probably indulge our inner tech fanboy as much as we want, or at least as much as our bank manager and personal tolerance for STDW¹ will tolerate.

At the other extreme, when we are planning to take a boat into serious harm's way, as Phyllis and I did in the high latitudes, we have to think in a seamanlike way about every detail.

The uncharted rocks, storms, and ice around the East Coast of Greenland don't give a shit how cool the gear on our boat is. All that matters is how reliable and fault tolerant the boat is and how competent and in control the skipper and crew are.

And in between those two extremes there is the more typical coastal cruising with occasional ocean passages, which will require calibrating our thinking somewhere between the two.

That said, if we are considering making any ocean passages, it's important to realize that at least the first few will be just as challenging as cruising to Greenland was for us after we had well over 100,000 miles of voyaging in our wakes.

Bottom line, taking a yacht across an ocean, while not particularly dangerous, at least if done right, is still committing ourselves to going into harm's way, so having a reliable and fault-tolerant boat is still vital.

So for this exercise, let's assume it's today, but I'm 55 again—I'm liking where this article is going already—and Phyllis is even younger than she is now, and we are planning to take our 56-foot expedition McCurdy and Rhodes cutter back to Greenland for the sixth time, but the lead-acid batteries are at end of life and need replacing.

And then let's vary that scenario to see how less challenging, and more common, plans affect our gear decisions.

And let's crank a rigging option into our thinking, too, to demonstrate that this kind of seamanlike thinking can work over a wide range of gear choices, not just lithium batteries.

¹Shit That Doesn't Work

#2 Don't Ready, Aim, Fire

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