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Thursday, July 12, 2012

SAILORS VS. POWER BOATERS

 Lately I’ve noticed more power boats rafted at anchorages with sail boats. On Canada Day I say a number of anchorages that had sailors hanging with power boaters. Is this a trend that we are all getting along better than ever, or just a fluke? Maybe cruisers are maturing on Georgian Bay with more experience or just getting older and more understanding demograpghically?

For the record I was a cruising sailor first and a power boater much later. Even though I have a power boat now, I still consider myself a sailor heart and I have many friends who are power only, and some that are sail only ... and a few that can cross over either way. From a romantic cruising point of view it’s hard to argue that travelling long distances by the power of the wind to far flung destinations ... and having no restrictions based on fuel capacity is a very free and enabling feeling. Anyone who has sailed offshore at night and listened to the rush of water and phosphorescent glow coming off the stern of the boat knows what I’m talking about – it’s magical. But from a practical point of view for those cruising in around more domestic destinations, it’s nice to be able to get to where you want to go in a hurry if you want to spend more time on land at the destination or perhaps get out of the weather quickly. In my sailing days I have vowed to never own a power boat and on at least one return sail voyage (wishing we were home) I had vowed never to sail again, and cruise only by power. As I aged over the years some of the romantic notions of sailing got knocked out of me and power cruising is less work and more immediate for my needs. Besides the sail boat got as much time under diesel at 7 knots as it did under sail ... the truth be known.

One thing is for certain, when you are long term cruising down in the islands in a more remote environment you sit at anchor and sometimes hanker for other human company ... and it doesn’t matter sail or power. For most the barriers break down, and it is fun to share information and background and make new friends. Same is true of boat size in these circumstances. Down in Nassau we needed a prop puller once for our 36’ CS sail boat and we were invited aboard a 100’+ yacht without hesitation to help ourselves to whatever tools we needed. Many a time we enjoyed happy hour on power boats that dwarfed our sail boat and many times we had power boaters come on board our sail boat to discuss and exchange cruising information. The water is the karma and the common glue that binds us all together. When you weekend cruise out of a marina, it’s easy to avoid cross visitation between sail and power. But if you were the only two boats - sail and power at a remote anchorage for several days, chances are you would pay your respects and might share some stories or perhaps hoist a beer together.

This brings up the biggest bone of contention between sail and power. The wake that comes off power boats can be disruptive and dangerous to sailors. It is the responsibility of all power boaters to learn the slow pass. You simply radio the slower sail boat and indicate port or starboard pass and come up on the stern and drop the speed right down to no wake and glide by and power up once past. The sail boat should throttle down if under power as well to expedite the pass. Sailors all appreciate the courtesy of a slow pass and down south in most situations you don’t need to radio as it goes without saying that it is the only acceptable way to pass slower moving craft (unless your near New Jersey where few boaters are courteous). If everyone practiced slow pass then more sailors and power boaters could get along even better.

Posted by at 12:30 PM
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