44 37.332 N 073 24.417 W
[I am sticking our necks out by publishing such candid personal thoughts on a blog. Please do not read it to infer that we are sick or are dwelling on morbid thoughts. We are not. If this post makes our family or friends anxious, I’ll never be candid again.]
The other day on the Westsail.org forum, someone posted a story about a sailboat at a marina in Rio Dulce Guatemala that suddenly exploded with a propane explosion. The skipper died. His boat was destroyed and neighboring boats heavily damaged. It was a tragedy. The writer make the point of his post is that propane can be very dangerous as a fuel on a boat. . Another writer posted a reply on Westsail.org saying that he/she chose kerosene because of the dangers of propane. That’s certainly true. Years ago I chose an Origo alcohol stove for day sailing on our Tanzer 27 because of safety, but since living on Tarwathie, we are happy consumers of propane
I think that most of us boaters are fully capable of making safe and rational choices about boat equipment, and also operating and maintaining the equipment safely. We pride ourselves in safety and seaworthiness (which is a standard that outranks almost everything except airworthiness) . However, I also believe that we are less good at revising our choices when personal circumstances change.
What personal circumstances? Age is a big one. Budget, health, stress from work or family, time or lack of time to focus on the boat, alcohol/drug use, guests on board, full time/part time cruising, levels of recent experience, location and many other factors can be important. I have no knowledge of the Rio Dulce incident, but in other propane explosion cases I’m pretty sure that the underlying cause was chronic alcohol abuse, or poor health.
All these personal circumstances are subject to change. My point is that some (perhaps most) of us are bad at re-evaluating our choices, ambitions, and methods in response to such changes. Thinking about that led me to realize something. That is why insurance companies impose those obnoxious surveyors on us. Their real purpose is to force us to change some of our choices against our will. In other circumstances, external authorities evaluate the fitness of pilots, captains, engineers and others with critical safety responsibilities; they do not allow the people to self evaluate.
This subject makes me squirm because I realize that we too are affected. I first became aware of it in 2012. I have been taking some remedial actions. In some ways, we beefed up our vigilance. In other ways we scaled back our ambitions. But no matter what we do, we are on the back slope of the life cycle; we’re getting old. No matter what remedies we take, the challenges will become bigger with time while our reserve energies to deal with them diminish. This is an existential threat to our life style, and I have no sure remedy for it.
But we are stubbornly determined to live this life style until … until I don’t know what. Something eventually will force change upon us. Americans tend to admire the “die with my boots on” mind set. We do too. That is out ultimate hope. But I am also troubled with the obligation to prevent carelessness or irresponsibility to be the cause of that end.
Now comes the part where my logically trained engineer’s brain comes into play. Baring the unforeseeable (everybody bars that), these trends lead to an entirely foreseeable crisis sometime in the future. There will come a day when it will be irresponsible to continue the cruising life, yet my feeling is “Hell no; over my dead body.” Libby feels the same way but even stronger. I have no plan to deal with that crisis, and that is cause for worry. It is a circumstance in which thinking logically and with foresight is a disadvantage. [Libby agrees with this essay except the previous sentence.]
Libby and I also had an unrelated conversation last night. The question was, “If we won the lottery and became billionaires, what would we change?” We both came up with the answer, “nothing.” It shouldn't be surprising therefore that we don’t want to change; we are already living the best life we can imagine.