Rocks.  Not good for boats.  Attribution here.

This weekend, while on a short sailing jaunt in the local harbor, we heard a Mayday call over the radio.  Of course, sailors everywhere in the harbor perked up their ears, and although it might not have been a true Mayday (nobody was in danger of dying immediately; ‘Pan-Pan’ is usually reserved for such things), it certainly brought a bit of excitement to the day.  What had happened was that someone had tried to maneuver between two points on the edge of a peninsula (clearly marked on the charts), and ran aground.  Now, running aground isn’t trivial, but it generally isn’t life threatening, especially in a crowded harbor on a July 4th weekend, with  Coast Guard, state, and local law enforcement, as well as other boaters around, and fantastic, clear weather.

The next bit of conversation was a wee bit snarky, but it points out some interesting elements about technology.   My question to the leader of our group was,”So, was it a sailboat or a powerboat?”  The quick comeback – “What do you think?”

This isn’t to mean sailboats don’t get in trouble, or power boats are filled with incompetent sailors.  It would be interesting to see the statistics on time afloat and number of incidents, for size of boat, and mode of propulsion (wind only, wind/power, and power.   What was interesting about this interaction was that it reminded me of the hubris of power that comes with technology.   If  you have enough money, you can simply buy a power boat, a place to dock or trailer, and off you go.    With a sailboat, you can do the same, but you probably won’t go far (or will crash quickly) unless you get a lot of training under your belt first.    Sailboats require a far more intimate knowledge of the tides, currents, wind and navigation, whereas power boaters can ignore some of that (for a while, at least).   You can easily buy a powerboat that can do 35 knots, which can put you dangerously far away from shore, whereas in a sailboat, to do 8 knots, you usually have a much larger vessel.

In short – technology can let you do some great things, but when you get in trouble, you can really get yourself in trouble.


  • What other technological suites have similar goals, but can have enormous backlash effects?   Power boats and sailboats are one parallel set of technologies; cars and bicycles are another, for example.
  • Do you ever select a technology as to not get yourself in trouble (hand tools vs power tools)?
  • What is a good way to use technologies that have lots of leverage, but not get yourself in trouble?   Force yourself to use one technology at least one time out of ten, so you don’t lose track of that older, less fragile skill?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.