CAP'N CRANK'S COLUMN
Dana Story, a legendary American boatbuilder was given to saying that systems were nothing but grief to the boatbuilder and ultimately, to the owner, since they drive the cost of a boat up faster than any other thing. You won’t get any argument with that notion from the boys at Covey Island. It’s always the systems that make costs run away, drive the builders to distraction, and cause all the trouble after the boat is launched. Intelligent souls, folks wise enough to decide on a unique custom boat built by a fine shop like Covey Island will, almost always, go mad near the end of the build and start asking for wi-fi in the forepeak, disappearing flat screen television, and email from mars, on their gaff-rigged vessel. Which impels one to ask... WHY?
It’s safe to assume that anyone wise enough to seek out a custom builder, find a unique design, and throw the whole operation into gear in order to build a dream, has probably read Herreshoff’s “The Compleat Cruiser”, in which he rails against systems and extols the virtues of simplicity. It’s also probable that the impulse that led to the whole venture was weariness with the noise and confusion of modern times, and a desire to connect with the wide world in a more visceral and direct way. So it is more than peculiar that these venturesome souls, at the eleventh hour in the build of their dream ship, suddenly decide that they want to take all the bullshit that they built the ship to leave behind along with them. And this at great cost to themselves, and the yard. It is to weep.
A deep water cruising boat needs a few systems. An engine. A good working head. Hot and cold running water and a shower. Electrics to run the lights, navigation instruments, and tunes. And a fridge. You need a fridge. This is easy nowadays. If you get the right stuff, and set it up right, it’s easy and inexpensive and low maintenance. A robust inverter will mean you can charge your phones and use your computer. That’s it. That’s all you need. Any more, and your cursing your escape by taking the jailer along with you.
I have friends who believe that even a head is a needless extravagance. I have visions of them carrying their elegant cedar buckets, full of “slop” through the streets of some lovely seaport, looking for a place to dump the fundamental effluvia. My affection for the distaff side rules them heedless fools.
But I get where they’re coming from. We go sailing to get away from the noise and confusion do we not? So why spend fortunes to take said confusion along with us? It’s a very very good question.
I have enumerated the actual necessary systems on a cruising vessel above. There is one more. I invented it, in the configuration that I describe here two years ago. Trust me. You want one. You really do. In fact, you can’t consider yourself a well found deep water sailor without it. What is this paragon of nautical virtue? Wait. You need the story. Dan Moreland, master of the mighty Picton Castle, in a characteristic fit of generosity, endowed me with a rum keg. About a gallon and a little half, it holds. I brought it aboard, and searched for a place to lodge it. First place was athwartships. Not a good move. There was a dry tack and a wet tack. Cruising, tacks can last days... weeks. I resolved that the thing needed to live in a fore and aft position near the centerline of the boat. That done, and the keg secured, a problem, a serious problem, presented itself. You had to take the thing down to fill it. Which was a lot of trouble. Which led to my great invention.
What you need, what every vessel worth its salt needs, is a permanently fixed rum keg with a deck fill! I’ve got one. It’s a blessing, a joy, a practical, sensible, wonderful, endlessly amusing and glorious system aboard my schooner. No more clanking bottles. And most of all, the blend! I’ve worked on the blend since installation, and since there’s always a little of the old blend in the keg, it evolves gently, subtly, and, believe me, has taken on a character that is beyond the pale. Everyone who sips it is amazed. All rums are blends. Mine is refined to a fare thee well, and I will share it with all sailors sensible enough to order said system from “Lookout Island Kegworks,” my personal attempt at making an honest buck in my dotage.
Trust me, this is the system to end all systems, the “ne plus ultra” of yachting wonders. It’s simple, elegant, and it works. That’s what you want in systems. Anything else is mere bling.
Yours, Cap’n Crank