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Power gadgets and older voyagers

Oct 30, 2006

In a ‘round the world sailing rally a few years ago, three things surprised me about the boats: First, the large size boats operated solely by a man and woman. Second, the wide range of complex equipment including creature comforts like wide-screen television/DVD, air conditioning, and power-assisted winches and furling motors. Third, and not so surprising given the complex equipment, the number of breakdowns encountered.

The median size boat was fifty-two feet in a fleet of thirty-six boats that ranged from thirty-seven to seventy-three feet. A half a dozen years earlier in an Atlantic crossing rally, the median size boat, in a fleet of 140, was only forty-two feet long. Rally boats are slowly getting longer. This may be due to power equipment making it easier to handle larger boats or it may reflect a general inflation in people’s wealth.

Although boats are getting longer the average age of participants in both rallies was somewhere in fifties with quite a few in the sixties and even seventies. Modern technology requires much less muscle power to operate and comfortably live on larger boats. A sizeable number of boats, about a third, were crewed solely by a man and woman. Apparently, well-designed 50-footers, with plenty of power assisted gadgets and amenities, present no special handling problems for fifty- or sixtysomething owners and mates.