Preview: Learning From Experience; My Biggest Disaster and What It Taught Me

September 23, 2012

Avatar Ben Fuller

With little boats you don’t tend to have disasters; you have recoveries. My capsizes are too many to recall, but I’ve recovered from all of them. Grace under pressure is the mantra.

 This mantra models up to bigger boats, as well. For example, when racing in a smoky sou’wester on Buzzards Bay abord the swing-keeler RED HERRING (the last wooden boat that Eric Goetz built), we had the big asymmetrical spinnaker up and maybe heated things up too much. The backstay let go at the top of the mast and the entire rig went over the bow—stately and slowly. So now, in a knobbly sea, we had a tangle of mast, sails, and rigging ahead of the boat. Our first goal was not to let the mast punch through the hull; our second was to salvage as much as we could. Our crew of experienced sailors solved the problem shortly with never a shout or even a raised voice. I don’t remember the exact sequence, but it was generally to get the mast and its attached sails parallel to the boat—

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