BoatSense Review by Carol Cronin
Mystic Seaport and a Rope Treasure

BoatSense Talk at the Jamestown Library: Chaos and Seamanship

A cumulonimbus chaos agent near St. Thomas. Doug Logan photo.

We had a discussion about BoatSense (both the book and the idea) recently at the Jamestown Philomenian Library in Rhode Island, with a couple dozen old and new friends, among them shipmates from over the years and former colleagues from Sailing World and Cruising World. Pretty much everyone in the room was an old hand as far as boats are concerned, and there were some serious racing sailors there — one Olympian and at least two others who had won championships at the national or international level.

We focused for a while on one of the themes of the book — chaos. The world that boats operate in, at the intersection of two vast fluids, is by nature chaotic, if only because those two fluids are of very different densities. The intersection is a zone of uncertainty, and each fluid has a profound effect on the other. And they both have profound effects on boats, which then tend to exhibit chaotic tendencies themselves. So, life aboard boats is to a great extent about dealing with mayhem, both natural and man-made — anticipating it, preparing for it, averting it, mitigating it, and learning from it.

Racing sailors, in particular, challenge chaos in a conscious way, tacking and jibing in tight quarters, or keeping a spinnaker up those extra 20 seconds in order to claim room at a turning mark, knowing that the potential for chaos increases with each second of delay, and welcoming the challenge. But all sailors and powerboaters, if they stick with the game long enough, develop an appreciation of the forces that seem to conspire to make their time on the water more challenging. And their relationship to those forces, whether in preparation or response, is defined by the practice of seamanship. 

— DL


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