on the most important propulsion system available to us…

This bit of news got me thinking about electric propulsion, various mindsets on sailing and what passes for the norm where sailing is concerned. 

Now, as someone who spent over a decade obsessed with getting affordable electric propulsion to work as a sustainable system aboard “So It Goes”, it’s safe to say that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking on how best to get a boat from one place to another. All those years of study resulted in a strong belief that the answer is not electric propulsion. Just to be fair I’ll add that it is not an internal combustion engine either.

Some years ago we were in the BVI and having a drink next to a couple who’d just sailed down with the  Caribbean 1500 rally who were quite proud of the fact that they’d only motored for 48-hours. Yesterday I saw that Mads of Sail Life fame spent something like that under power on his way to the Canaries. I suspect that both are an example of the current mindset that the only way to get someplace is to point yourself where you’re going full speed ahead. A mindset that’s a bit off where wind power is concerned.

One of the things I love about sailing is harnessing the wind to your purpose is both fun and requires some lateral thinking to get you where you want to be. In my experience pointing at where you want to go is seldom the best way to get you there.

Sure, some form of auxiliary propulsion allows you to point your boat dead to windward and current but it is seldom, in my experience at least, a comfortable way to go. As far as being needful to always making forward motion towards your destination the fact that you might sit becalmed for a day or so is not a major tragedy in my thinking as it’s just part of a voyage or should be.

Wind power is the most evolved form of propulsion available to us and has the added advantage of being simple as well as inexpensive. Granted, there is a learning curve but nothing too difficult but with the added bonus of being fun.

Sadly, too many these days miss the whole fun element and every time the wind is not blowing you directly to where you want to go the answer is to turn on the engine/motor and thrash to windward instead of enjoying the chance to build your skill set and gain a couple of extra points in your course. For far too many the fact that they have an engine/motor that can be turned on at will is the biggest obstacle in learning how to get the most of of your interface with the wind.

For someone on a budget being able to use the wind to your advantage whichever way it happens to be blowing is a vital tool in your tool kit. Plus it will save you a lot of money in the process…

Need I say more?

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