Retirement

My sailing adventures

Sailing in the Bay Area is what Spain is to skiing. If you live there, you just have to do it.

Now, the traditional way to start sailing is to take a basic keelboat certification course. It lasts a weekend (4 days) and costs about $500. After that, you can rent small keelboats (about $200 for the day). You can also join a yacht club (a few thousand a year) which will reduce the cost of chartering. By taking additional courses, an extra $500 here and another $500 there will allow you to charter larger boats (about $400 for the day).

Needless to say, I took a different approach.

I joined the racing crew. You can read more about how I got into sailing in this post.

Frequent sailing captains are constantly looking for people to crew their boats. Only special setups allow you to steer your boat alone and even then this is usually an inefficient (for racing purposes) and somewhat dangerous proposition (for racing boats, full keeled cruisers). As compared to carrying more people. Racing boats in particular are usually built so that several crew members are required to act as ballast on the high side to balance the boat and keep it on its feet.

Crew members who are able to commit to attending on a regular basis are highly valued and captains are usually willing to train such people for free.

Cost of admission for a permanent person: Free training and free shipping.

Cost of entry for someone who can’t find the time: $1500 plus $200-400 per day for training.

Well, it hasn’t been completely free. I have spent close to $500 in safety gear in the form of an offshore life jacket, a double tether, strobe light, and emergency rigging knife. I also bought some dingy boots on clearance ($36 instead of $70). I found some used bad weather pants on ebay. My “foul weather” jacket is actually my winter jacket.

In fact, anyone willing to splurge can easily shell out over $800-1000 on the latest fashions in foul weather gear (it changes every year). In terms of durability, it’s not going to beat the standard. Fishermen’s rain gear. Generally, then, you can pay as much as you want. I’m sure Gill’s latest outfit will make me sensational but it won’t really give me any respect on the water, so why do it?

However, that amount has been paid. After that, my value is very much time, not dollars.

I realize that since I no longer spend any significant amount of money on it, my quality of life has gone down. Yes, that was a joke, and it would be funny if some people didn’t actually believe that spending too little automatically means not really living.

In terms of living. Well what is living? For me to live is to learn. Learning about yourself and the rest of the universe. (For some it’s experiencing things. For others it’s conforming to the traditional structure of society.) Learning happens fastest when boundaries are pushed. It’s the only way to experience something that’s fundamentally different.

Experiencing similar situations a hundred times is really just an experience. I’ve traveled to 14 countries, but they all followed the same “travel abroad” recipe. However…

In my short time of sailing, I have experienced. [not all at the same time, fortunately] Stress 6 winds (this is when they put up a small craft advisory), 10 foot waves (they make you feel really small), being on a holed/(slowly) sinking ship, Cracked headsails, cracked mainsails, more broaches As far as I can count, losing a rudder, losing an engine, losing a radio, losing a bilge pump (automatic and manual), towing another boat off the lee shore, and a whole bunch of other less dramatic things (seals, dolphins, Sea lion).

[I have learned how I deal with fear, anxiety, and how I respond to scary situations. I think I take a more relaxed attitude to physical danger now. And then of course I learned a bunch of technical stuff about sail twist, the slot, the foot, the belly, etc.]

I realize it’s the crazy stuff that makes the best stories, but I’ve also been on a boat looking for a finger of wind in the fog with the fog swirling around the clouds as the sun set over the water and The boat was sinking. Simultaneously at 4 knots. Or sailing parallel to the waterfront feeling the breeze and watching the city lights and navigation lights of other ships. Beautiful things.

Yes, yes, I know. I’m not spending money. Consequently, my life is worthless, right?

In a little over half a year, I’ve traveled about 40 times. That’s probably more than your average boat owner or keelboat certified boat charterer has been sailing for 5 years or more. Does that mean I’m living 10 times faster than the average person?

What is the difference between payment and non-payment?

The person making the payment does not add much value to the system. He exudes value. So he pays the money. Conversely, the non-paying person provides value. So he doesn’t pay.

I am usually in charge of trimming the mainsail. The mainsail trimmer is the person directly responsible for speeding up the boat—or at least the one who receives most of the blame if the boat is slow. To provide more value (and because I want to improve my skills) I have been spending time studying trimming and rig tuning and what have you. I’m not an advanced trimmer, but I’m no beginner either. In particular, I am not a non-seller. I’m not trying to brag here, but to explain the differences: a non-seller will pay for a ride or ask very nicely (maybe you know a boatowner). A person wishing to work as a crew member will be boarded and trained free of charge. However, this will only happen if a more advanced person is not already available. You see, expertise provides value. (This price is in short supply, leaving it open to occasional cheats.)

If we transplant it to other areas of life, it starts to make sense of how it is possible to have a high quality of life but spend a lot less. You don’t necessarily provide value to others. You can also provide it to your family or just yourself.

If you can’t give a price. Then you pay. In this case, ironically, you are supposed to have a higher standard of living.

It boggles the mind.

Of course people can argue that acquiring skills is work. I don’t really see it that way. I naturally try to improve myself in matters that I find interesting. That’s what humans do. They play music, not because they hope to be famous, but simply because they want to improve or because They just enjoy it. However, at some point, they will be good enough to provide value to others resulting in all sorts of benefits. This happens if one has enough time to practice. Without practice, a person must pay.

This is the main difference between consumer and producer. (More details in this book.)


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Originally Posted 2010-06-28 00:27:50.


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