I hail out of the port of Marathon, Florida, but about the time I see holiday stuff in the stores I start thinking of Junkanoo and coconut rum. To be honest I just don’t like to wear many clothes. So, I set my boat heading SE’ish. Anyone who thinks they can’t get somewhere without knowing where they are going won’t enjoy 10 minutes on a sailboat.

Anyway, all passages of this sort have weather interruptions and you have to find a safe place to hang on the hook for a day or two. The really good hiding spots get crowded so you meet all kinds of folks. The average storm is about 30 hours and I’m always amazed at how quickly you can make lifelong connections under these circumstances. It’s part of the magic.

I was in just this situation a little while back when I met a couple who, well, they were having issues. I have learned that sometimes the best way to help folks is to have them over for Captain’s hour and dinner. They accepted our invitation and showed up with contributory libations. It did not take much to get the conversation around to their anchoring problems (the immediate need) and then on to offering some other helpful ideas for them to consider. 

In the middle of things, the guy is gingerly touching the chart at my nav station, tracing route histories with his finger and inventorying my nav tools. He suddenly looked at me and said, “You old-school guys really take this stuff serious, don’t you?”

I don’t often get thrown off-guard in conversations, but his comment put me on the precipice. It hit me then and there that I’m not modern. I’m prudent and experienced enough to not be completely old-school either. In a flash my entire personal identity had a title: I’m “Simple School!”

I have spent years endeavoring to simplify, getting rid of one more switch, a yardarm of wire, a through-hull, length of plumbing, and anything else that will consume me with maintenance or repair jobs. Yes, I have electric lights onboard, but every space also still has a brass oil lamp. Yes, I have a small GPS plotter (3- by 5-inch screen), emergency battery-operated GPS, but I also use a sextant, paper charts and bearing compass. I have pressurized water and a hand pump. I have electric bilge pumps and hand pumps. I have a water filtration system, but I carry a manual Survivor 35.

It’s simple. If the water pump fails my response is: “Ok, foot pump still works”. If the GPS fails mid-ocean, I still have a course, dead reckoning plot and paper trail so I’ll worry about the GPS when I have a chance. Modern stuff is convenient; much of the old stuff is easy to use and keep up. Having an old-school backup for the modern stuff is worry-free “simple school.” I like keeping safe and simple; I am Simple School. You?

Capt’n Mike

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