Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Complexity

The Nuese River, N 35 04.172 W 77 00.681

We don't have a lot of gadgets and conveniences that many other people have on their boats. When I'm feeling deprived I remind myself that simplicity is a virtue onboard a boat. Gadgets break. Complexity works against you. The other day we witnessed an excellent illustration of this principle.

We were negotiating the entrance to Goose Creek on the ICW. The channel marker buoys forced all the traffic through the same narrow bottleneck. We were being overtaken by a large power boat called Fat Lady. She was about 60 feet long, which makes here a super yacht in my book. According to me, 30-50 feet is a yacht, 50-90 feet is a super yacht, and bigger than 90 feet is a mega yacht. Fat Lady was one of those big Chlorox bottle types of super yachts, that probably cost less than $3 million.

I was watching Fat Lady overtake us when she suddenly veered toward me. I could see the helmsman up on the flying bridge trying frantically to turn the wheel the other way, but she wasn't answering the helm. Just then the captain came rushing up on the bridge and took control. He cut the engines, stopping her dead. Then he restarted the engines, and fiddled with the control panel, and once again everything was back to normal.

Curious, I hailed Fat Lady on the radio. I asked the captain what had happened to cause her to not answer the helm. His reply was, "When we took her out of autopilot that tripped the steering pump." I chewed on that piece of information for a few minutes then I thought how lucky I was to not have $3 million to spend on a boat that I would entrust my life to.

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