Motor Sailing

I am catching up from a three week holiday that included a 10 day Caribbean "cruise" on the Celebrity Constellation. This was a gift to my parents for their 50th wedding adversary so in that respect it was a roaring success. But it was neither a cruise nor a visit to the Caribbean by my definition. For the most part it was a trip from one manicured cruise ship terminal, and their duty free shops, to the next. The onboard life seemed to revolve around over-eating ordinary food and more duty free shopping. Obviously, not my cup of tea.

I found it interesting that cruise ships still like to use the words "set sail" as a description for the start of their journeys.

As I was catching up on my email and reading, engines and sailing seemed to be a new year theme. First there was a thread from the Plastic Classic Forum on a discussion about converting a Triton into a Motor Sailer. I couldn't help but wonder how other people determine when to call a boat a Sailboat, an axillary powered Sailboat or a Motor Sailer. A quick check of the various online dictionaries didn't really clear anything up
Main Entry: motor sailer

Function: noun

Date: circa 1923
: a motorboat with sailing equipment


motor sailer

–noun Nautical.

Origin: 1930–35

a yacht having sails and an engine as an alternative or auxiliary means of propulsion.
Then, in a little random night time rereading of Jay FitzGerald's Sea-Steading, Jay in his usual bluntness gets right to the point.
Some people with more taste claim to still cruise what passes for "sailboats," although this number is dwindling in comparison to their noisy bastard cousins. "Sailing," I will insist, however, has become an activity seldom practiced. Many "cruisers" who claim to "sail" today gloat with pride if their passages make the fifty percent mark in terms of their ratio of sail miles covered to power. This ratio of fifty percent has become reasonable to many. Not only this, it has also become reasonable to expect to only sail when it is convenient, and the wind and weather are within a very narrow range of conditions. When seamanship is called for, or when speed drops below an arbitrary number -- indeed when most perform the very act of setting sail -- the engine comes on. These boats are designed, crewed and "cruised" in a manner that makes "sailing" impossible, thus they demand auxiliary power. People say it is only reasonable to have an engine on board a "sailboat." Reasonable? Since the engine removes the greater need for seamanship, for knowledge, even for personal investment, thus the resultant experience is fundamentally changed. It is reasonable to ignore the fundamental reason why one might want to sail at all?

Most people one meets are avid "motor-sailors." Most people have "motor-sailor" craft where the auxiliary engine is critical to the function of the vessel. It is necessary for propulsion, as well as for the power to drive convenience systems. It is the artificial crew that allows sail changes to be made. It is the hands that set and haul the anchor. It is the eyes that keep watch. This is obviously the case. This is indeed typical and expected.

Yet if you were to call one of these "sailors" a "motor-sailor" or refer to the boat as a "motor-sailer," as it obviously is -- by every potential definition -- most of these "motor-sailors" would bristle. They would take this as an insult.

Why should this be troublesome? Either one "sails" a "sailboat" or one does not. This is a pretty simple concept. If one "cruises" under sail -- then one is a cruising "sailor." Again, not a difficult concept. Why then do not most people freely admit they are "motor-sailors" and not "sailors?" Why do people get hot under the collar when called a "motor sailor?" Why should this be construed as an insult? Because we all recognize that it takes more skill and ability to handle a sailboat under sail than it does to handle a motor sailor, and we respect that. We recognize that it takes more investment to make passages under sail than it does under power-assisted sail. We recognize that a person who has the will, ability, skill, and stamina to do so has more will, ability, skill, and stamina than one that does not. We understand that a "sailor" is in many ways a more skilled human being than is a "motor sailor." Understanding this, many people do desire to be sailors and to sail. Unfortunately, however, many of these same people do not care to make the investment necessary, nor they do not have an interest in the amount of sweat and effort involved. Still, they desire the status of skill and so have learned to merely presume to be "sailors." They pretend. Thus the insult inherent in the term "motor sailor." It calls a spade a spade.
Anyone still reading? Jay has a knack for getting right to his point. The thing I like about Jay's writing is that he tests and pushes my philosophy of awareness without guilt. It is my way of learning and achieving. The first step in the twelve step program. So I wonder what is it that causes cruise ships to "set sail", or "sailboats" to define sailing as motoring. I am certainly not going to say one choice is better than another but some are harder and take more skill than others. Isn't that why we sail in the first place? The challenge? The reward? Well it is why I sail.

Happy New Year