The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Mental Liquidity

I have quoted Morgan Housel, one of the smartest people in investing as well as one of the best writers, before.

His thoughts about investing often make sense for life, and offshore voyaging.

Here’s Morgan again:

A question I love to ask people is, “What have you changed your mind about in the last decade?” I use “decade” because it pushes you into thinking about big things, not who you think will win the Super Bowl.

I am always so suspicious of people who say, “nothing.” They act like it’s a sign of intelligence – that their beliefs are so accurate that they couldn’t possibly need to change. But I think it’s the surest sign of ignorance and stubbornness.

Morgan Housal, read the whole article

I struggle with staying open and flexible every day, but at least I can answer Morgan’s question in the positive:

That’s all that comes to mind right now, at least around sailing. Maybe I need to work harder at this!

What about you? Tell us what you have changed your mind about in the last 10 years, in a comment.

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Drew Frye

Many things. But most of them relate to changing boat types. A 1,300-pound, 27-foot Kevlar catamaran, a 10,000-pound cruising cat, and a 24-foot 1,500-pound trimaran lead to different right answers, for each specific boat.

Age also changes things. I still like speed, but now it is lower on the priority list than not breaking stuff, including me. I’m more careful around shoals. I reef a little earlier, or a lot earlier, depending on how I’m feeling.

Repairs have gotten much easier and more reliable, because I learned from many, many experiences (and mistakes). Which means I must have learned some stuff.

In fact, mental liquidity and that I can keep learning is the primary thing that keeps me sailing. I change boats every 10 years or so, not because they are worn or exactly because I am tired of them, but because I want to learn new stuff from a different boat.

Drew Frye

Some specifics, relating to your list:

  • POB. As I do more cold weather sailing, I feel you must either dress for the water temperature (drysuit) or do everything you cannot to fall off. Cold water is much more likely, per event, to lead to a bad outcome.
  • Mast climbing. I still like the webbing ladder, but I’ve moved from ascenders (you have to move them) for safety to a Camp Goblin (self-tending). In fact, I was rock climbing with my Goblin yesterday. So much better, should have done this decades ago.
  • Bolts. It took me far too long to understand seizing while tightening and stainless. I also use anti-seize and grease more than I used to.
  • Storms. Very boat specific, at least with multihulls, so each time I get a new boat I learn new things. For example, trimarans and cats are very different and they capsize due to different mechanisms. Hard to understand based on what you read in a book, vs. feeling it. A cat is likely to fly a hull and roll over due to wind force, while a trimaran is more vulnerable to either getting pushed over by a large wave or burying a float when reaching. A cat bears away more easily, while a trimaran is more likely to broach (single rudder and amas that are more easily driven under).

And some more:

  • Ethanol. I never paid attention to gas when I started and had plenty of problems. Then the introduction of e10 and more problems forced me to learn, and now I have no problems, not on the boat and not at home. Keep it dry. Use an anti-corrosion additive, because the new problem is not gum (ethanol dissolves that) but aluminum corrosion products clogging jets.
  • Headwear. John wears a helmet up the mast. I wear a bump cap insert every day, because I got tired of scalp cuts and bruises. In heavy weather I may wear a helmet. It does not feel silly.
  • Crew. I no longer expect ANY help from family or guests. If I lack the skill to singlehand in the conditions, then we don’t need to go. I graciously accept help, but knowing how to plan on doing it myself means I never ask them to do something hazardous or in a big hurry. Singlehanding teaches you to plan ahead, keep the cockpit orderly, and allow time for minor complications and their solutions. Less drama every year, the goal being somewhere between uneventful and boring. Maybe a stimulating breeze.
Petter Mather Simonsen

When you should find the time and inclination, would you care to share some words on how and what you rig to go up the mast using the Camp Goblin?

Rob Gill

There are so many things in just one decade, so to choose but one…

I thought I knew how to hove-to, and did so regularly – to make lunch, to reef, to wait for daylight or for the tide to change. But actually I was fore-reaching slowly, without a slick to windward protecting us. One large wave climbing aboard (and my further reading on this site) quickly disabused me of that notion.

It’s maybe why I love sailing so much.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
I hope I change my mind many times every day. At least I aim to distrust my opinions. That’s one of the reasons I love this site and read everything as a potential revelation of some misconception I may have. Usually I do find some. Most changes of mind are gradual adjustments, though. It might end up as a 180 degree turn, but often performed in increments we don’t notice.

Related to sailing, my most embarrassing mistaken belief followed by a complete change of mind is more than 10 years ago, but not long enough ago to excuse it: The all too common belief in the catenary curve of chain improving max holding power. My misunderstanding was made worse by trying to explain “the obvious truth” to others, while seen as knowledgeable, and being believed.

I keep that humbling experience vivid in my memory as a tool to hold back my inner besserwisser. It’s only partially successful. 🙂