Of Sailboats and Pianos

Sailboats are nice because they are fun to sail. It's nice to own one because you have control - if you want to change something, you can.

My boat is a 1972 35' Ericson. And I just had a mechanic tell me that I shouldn't bother fixing it (the engine is seized). Why? Because the engine, fiberglass and gelcoat things I want to fix are 'tradesman jobs' and that I shouldn't bother.

This kind of "can't do" attitude get's me down. It's un-American. Economies of scale are, at some level, great - they are an incredible way to inject large amounts negentropy into the world. Think about how cheap it is to buy a piano! But they also seem to set expectations way too high. It's like, "if it can't be factory fresh, I don't want to bother!"

Tuning a piano correctly is beyond most laymen. But it only needs to be done once in a while, and is relatively cheap. What if we kept pianos submerged in salt-water? Then it might not be worth it to own pianos at all!  Factories that produce big, dead things aren't really doing us much good: maybe inexpensive durable goods are a poison pill. Factories simultaneously raise our expectations of our stuff, and reduce our ability to understand our stuff.

So, I have to consider the question seriously: is it even worth it to own a boat? Is the mechanic's assertion correct, that a boat is something you spend $150,000 on, put it in the water for 10 or 20 years and then throw it away?

No. I don't really buy this can't do attitude. I think it's possible to maintain my boat. It doesn't have to be perfect. It just needs to be relatively safe and get me in and out of the slip. The gelcoat and fiberglass needs to be watertight and functional, not perfect. Basically, I'm content to let the super-high standards set at the factory go by the wayside and gain some skills maintaining and repairing my own stuff.

The way out is simple: ditch that downer mechanic, and figure out another way. And so I have: I'm going to pull out the old Universal Atomic 4 engine and put a electrical engine in. I'm very excited about this. It's really a perfect solution. Electric motors are light (about 30lbs for the motor itself) and efficient. It even does regenerative power from the rotating prop when you're under sail - a very cool form of wind power. It's good for the environment. It's quiet and there are very few moving parts to maintain. Pop on some solar panels (Costco has a 60w deal for only $270 right now) and I'm set.

I can do it, and I will.

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