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Seamanship Tips from the Masters

A collection of a few tips from the acknowledged masters of sailing


A seaman laboring under an undue sense of security becomes at once worth hardly half his salt.” (Joseph Conrad, The Mirror of the Sea)

The rule of the 6 Ps: Proper prior preparation prevents piss-poor results.”    (John Bonds quoting a Navy bosun)

“Forehanded” (definition): “Anticipation and preparation for the uncertain future so that we are ready for it by the time it becomes the present. Forehandedness enables us to achieve a robust performance that can make success possible in spite of circumstances.” (Christopher Nemeth, “Further Thoughts on Being Forehanded,” Conference on Surgical Error, 2004)

Slowing down

There’s nothing like taking 2 knots of speed off a boat to make the ride comfortable.” (Rod Stephens)

“Heaving-to” (defined):  “This capitulation at sea is achieved by adjusting the reduced sails to vie against one another in such fashion as to induce relative immobility.” (William. F. Buckley, Jr.)

You can do it.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Everest, once became so discouraged during a slog across the ice to the South Pole that he was unable to sleep. As he lay in his sleeping bag, nagged by his faltering confidence, he took an inventory of his aptitudes and came up with this: “Slightly crazy, frequently terrified, and not a bad navigator – and that about summed it up.” Reassured of his fundamental competence and caution, Hillary slept like a baby. He had succeeded in making healthy fear his business as usual.