Engineless Sailing & Knockabout Sloops

I have mentioned many reasons behind my quest for a modern Knockabout Sloop. But I have not talked about the most import one and the main reason that I have gone to such an effort to create such a unique sailboat. This reason is that I choose to sail without the aid of an auxiliary engine. Modifying an old race boat to use as a daysailor / weekender meets my needs for aesthetic beauty and sailing performance.

The purpose of this post is to explain why this choice is important to me, what it has got to do with Knockabout Sloops and to provide some information and inspiration for others who might desire to make a similar choice.

My passion for sailboats is all about sailing. I admit that the destination is not nearly as important to me as being out on the water sailing. So I guess it was natural that I choose to own sailboats without engines.

I would say that if one wants to sail an engineless sail boat you need three thing.

A Thick Skin

An Excellent Sailing Craft

Why these three things you ask. Well let's go down the list one at a time.

Attitude - You will definitely need an attitude that you can sail engineless. You will be trading the convenience of motor sailing for the challenge of honing your sailing skills. You and your sailing skills will be completely responsible for where you can go and when you get there. It will be your sailing skill that gets you back to your mooring or into your slip. There will never be a guarantees that you will arrive home the same day you set out even for a day sail. Mostly you will succeed but again there is no guarantee. So you need an attitude that relishes challenge and an attitude that is flexible.

I feel that the rewards are immense. One of the things that I hear occasionally from other boaters is "I could sail up to my mooring if I wanted to, I just motor because I am in a hurry". I won't argue that point one way or another. What I know from personal experience is that when all you have is your sails, unless your are rowing, you always sail up to your mooring. And surprisingly enough, not matter how many times I do it, there are times when it is not as simple as I expected. Each time is a new learning experience. By sailing you will always "get" to take advantage of these learning experiences.

A Thick Skin - Other boaters will present you with countless reasons why you can't possibly sail without an engine. Or they will tell you that it is unsafe. You will be "offered" suggestions about how much better your sailboat would be if you added an engine. Or how you could fit and outboard or a small electric on that transom.

All of these arguments are just about choice. All of the challenges can be overcome with skill, preparation and thoughtful sailing. So you will need a thick skin and a strong ideal around some other boaters. Don't get me wrong, most other boaters have been very supportive of my engineless sailing. But some get defensive and feel that I am just showing off or trying to prove something. I am not and you won't be either. There was a time when sailing without an engine wasn't proving anything, it was just sailing. So my advise is to keep a low profile. One of my early mistakes was that I got too excited. So, of course, I wanted to tell anyone who would listen or not how wonderful and possible it was to sail engineless. This was a mistake. What I know now is that if someone is interested they will seek the information they need.

An Excellent Sailing Craft - In our modern world this may be the most difficult part of sailing engineless. Modern sailboats are rightfully called "Auxiliary Sailboats". This means that they need their auxiliary engines some of the time. Many need them most of the time. My goal for an engineless sailboat is to maximize the conditions in which I can sail. For me this means a smart sailing boat with plenty of sail area. I feel that most modern cruising sailboats just don't have enough sail area. Often times they also have a great deal of added windage in the form of radars, mast steps, roller furling, high cabin tops etc. What this means for engineless sailing is this: In light wind they are woefully under canvased and in heavy wind they have too much windage. This makes sailing in really light air almost impossible and makes it more difficult to fight off a lee shore in the heavy stuff. So what this does is minimized the wind range that they can sail in. Just the opposite of what I am looking for in a sailboat.

So if you truly want to sail engineless remember that everything is a compromise. You have to ask yourself what you are willing to do to sail more. That is the question. Since I don't have an engine I row when there isn't enough wind. So while I am rowing I get lots of chances to think about what I could give up or add so I can sail instead.

Resources - The following resource have greatly helped me developed the confidence and skills that have served me in my pursuit of engineless sailing.

Lin and Larry Pardey - Lin and Larry planted the original seed of sailing without an engine. They simply sailed around the world for years without an engine. They help me see that it was and is possible and also rewarding.

They have documented much of their journey in their many books. Two in particular I reference often "The Capable Cruiser" and "The Self-Sufficient Sailor". Combine this with "Cruising in Seraffyn" for inspiration and you will be all set.

Lin and Larry Pardey

 The Capable CruiserThe Capable Cruiser
Classic manual for hands-on sailors. Discusses what every cruising sailor needs to know: preparation, maintenance at sea, safety aloft, seamanship, staying healthy. Lots of clear photos, illustrations.

1995, 400 pages

Self-Sufficient SailorSelf-Sufficient Sailor

Full of ideas and wisdom on how to sail in comfort and safety without large cash outlays. Every sailor, whether or not they plan to sail over the horizon, should read the Pardeys.

1997, 320 pages

Jay Fitzgerald
Jerome (Jay) Fitzgerald started the Oar Club out Bellingham, Washington with the follow mission:

The Oar Club is dedicated to those who sail and appreciate the beauty inherent in sailing. The oar Club is dedicated as well to promoting the skill, character, and seamanship displayed by those who sail in its traditional fashion--without the aid of engines. The Oar club affirms the rigors of true sailing--the attentiveness they demand and the strength they contest--as rewards: This is what makes the experience meaningful. We cannot imagine demeaning our experience by making it trivial or common. That does not mean that we demand that we cross oceans (though some do) or rashly brave storms (though some have) bur rather that we do what we do, in a manner real and meaningful, and eschew that which is not. Perhaps fifty percent of seamanship occurs within fifty feet of a dock...
His two books, "Wind and Tide, An Introduction to Cruising in Pure Sailing Craft" and "Sailing with Purpose, The Pursuit of the Dream" were my first introduction to engineless sailing. At the time I didn't know of anyone sailing engineless in the Pacific Northwest so in that respect his books were invaluable.
A sort of sailing book that is seldom seen anymore, Wind and Tideis more concerned with the necessary skills and techniques involved in sailing than the gear. A must have for any that desire to voyage under sail.

6 x 9
168 Pages

Sailing with Purpose: The pursuit of the dreamSailing with Purpose: The pursuit of the dream
A quirky philosophical work written with the express intent of encouraging men to go to sea to seek their fortune. A sailing book, blending philosophy, archetype, crude irreverance, and the need to sail. . .

6 x 9
148 Pages

Neither of these books are professionally edited and they both contain grammatical and typographic errors. Many readers offend by Jay's passion, strong opinions and judgments use these errors to dismiss his books. I say give one of them a read. If Jay's message appeals to you, you will see past the writing flaws and take what knowledge and inspiration you need to become an engineless sailor.
One last thing I often here is that it might be okay to sail engineless where you sail but in our area (name your area) we have a lot of calm days. I bring this up again because I live in one of those areas, the Puget Sound. And again, it is all about choice. Choose a great sailing boat and set it up with a flexible sail plan. Focus more on you light air sails than on your storm canvas as we are talking coastal sailing here. Rather than give up and say there isn't enough wind use the opportunity to challenge yourself to find a way to get more out of the wind that is around you. Sure there will be calm days. But change your own definition of what constitutes a calm. For some boats a calm is 5-7-10 kts other boats, hopefully yours, can be doing 5 kts at 6 kts true wind and still be sailing with even less.

Like the Aphrodite 101