A Mariner’s 14 New Year’s Resolutions

I have got to the age where I’m comfortable with my bad habits and so the standard New Year’s resolutions hold little interest for me—I’m simply not giving up whisky* or chocolate.

But as a voyaging sailor, I know that forgetting the basic rules of seamanship can be the slippery road to disaster. And even after all the years and miles I have cruised, or maybe even because of that (hubris is a dangerous thing), I often take a moment to remind myself of those rules. It’s New Year’s, a good time to turn those rules into resolutions:

Clear The Decks For Action

There are few things more unseamanlike than a lot of clutter on deck. But, on the other hand, we all like our toys. Here are some thoughts (with photographs) on the things you really don’t want to festoon your boat with.

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The Beauty Of Simplicity

Today our boats are more complex than ever before. And yes, there are benefits that go along with some of this complexity. But, as a general rule, simple is almost always more seamanlike than complicated.

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Anatomy Of An Accident


It was 4:00 am on a black early morning anchored at Cape Lookout Harbour when Phyllis and I were awoken by a crash from up forward followed by a sickening scraping sound. A quick look out the companionway showed the outline of another sailboat reversing away from our bow.

The outline looked a lot like a boat that had been anchored a good 400-feet away (measured by radar) the evening before. The GPS confirmed that we had not dragged and the other boat had been anchored abeam and slightly behind us, so nor had they.

Always Have A Way To Rest

There is so much about this story (originally reported in Cruising Compass but no longer available) that worries me that it is hard to know where to start: A single-handed sailor abandoned his boat because he was totally exhausted from three days of hand steering, not because there was anything wrong with the boat.

Laying-Up, A Break From Vigilence

Phyllis and I just finished laying-up Morgan’s Cloud for the winter at Billings Diesel and Marine in Maine, where we will be replacing the engine. As always, we are sad to move off the boat, which, over the last 18 years, has become more our home than any place else.