“You never know what you know until you know, you know?”
I had a teacher once that used to say that all the time. He wasn’t talking about test-taking, of course. He was referring to that moment in practice when you’re at a loss for the next step, but some instinct or intuition makes you do something “new” – which turns out, somehow, to be exactly the right thing to do.
So how does that happen? And what’s it got to do with boats? Bear with me.
I’ve rattled on a number of times this month about the concept of “well found boats” and “well trained crews”, and there’s a connection here that I think is worth exploring. Here’s my hypothesis:
I find that the more I know generally, the more I can figure out for myself without having been formally “taught.”
When I got interested in sailing, back in 2007, I’d just left a career in aviation – I had an extensive background and education in aerodynamics, hydraulics, mechanics, navigation, etc. So I found me a free small sailboat and a PFD (life jacket), put the boat in the water, and started sailing.
That first afternoon on a little lake in Maine I discovered that sailing is just like flying – only horizontally. A sail is a wing, vertically up. A keel is a wing, vertically down. Air is a fluid, water is a fluid. All the rules I was familiar with were exactly the same, it was just a question of applying them in a new environment.
Of course once I had the basics sorted out (and no, I never got wet in that little Snark!), I wanted to move to something a little more substantial. The Snark, after all, weighed in at just 70 pounds, soaking wet. So I answered an ad in the local paper for a Com-pac 16.
Not very glamorous, perhaps, but it was a nice little
shallow draft day sailer with a ballast keel and sloop rig, so it was a logical step up from the Snark. I learned about reefing on the Com-pac, as they can be quite tender. Everything I’d learned about airplanes and the Snark still worked, none of the rules had changed – it was just a little bigger.
And so it went. The Com-pac 16 was replaced by a Tanzer 7.5 (25′). Sailing became more of a lifestyle with the added room aboard, and spending a couple weeks on the boat became possible.
Which brings us to today. We’ve owned Sionna for a year now, have sailed her hard for one season, and we’ve continued to learn – that is, she’s continued to teach us what we need to know.
Not that we don’t learn from every source we can find, of course. I’m a voracious reader, and my collection of books on sailing, rigging, equipping and cruising looks like a small-town library, but it’s aboard a boat that the lessons gain meaning and significance. We’ve still never had a formal lesson in sailing, but I have taken a course and tested for my Captain’s license. I’m not particularly gifted or anything – but it all comes down to building on what you know, adding to your knowledge and skills, one topic and skill-set at a time.
Because you never know ’til you know.