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by Paul Moffitt - Phillidelphia, Pennsylvania - USA


I have been sailing for about 15 years now and only really have the chance to get on the water for a few weeks a year. I am still young though. At most sailing events I am one of the youngest by decades. I bring the median age of captains way down whenever I have attended a sailing event. As I write this in July of 2011, I am 34. I estimate I have only sailed about 1500-2000 miles which is no where near enough the 5,000 I need for my first swallow tattoo. But I am a quick study and since the bug bit me I have spent a lot of time thinking about, building, or messing about with boats.

Me sailing my catamaran in the OBX as a storm rolls in, but there is light on the horizon.

I have noticed that there are different sorts of sailors. There is the Real Sailor. I classify someone like St. John of Balstrap as one of these. I met him at the inaugural Texas 200. He told me he had spent $100 on building the PDR, and had about $1000 worth of electrical equipment and gps's on board. He was being satirical, which is his best trait. He easily finished the Texas 200. What impressed me the most was a small incident on the second day. My father and I were one of the first to reach the Padre Island Yacht club and watched as the fleet struggled in. The wind was coming straight at you as you turn into the channel. My father and I turned on the motor and easily got a nice spot. Everyone else also motored in as the channel was very narrow. A lot of other people without motors got towed in. The few that attempted to sail up the channel ended up giving up after a few failed tacks where they lost more ground then they made. Then here comes St. John in his PDR. He made it look easy. Like the wind was not blowing 20 knots on his nose. He took his little slab sided tub and brought it in as the last rays of light faded from the sky. He had been sailing for over 12 hrs. Came in as easy as kiss my hand he did. The characteristics of these types of people are even more clearly expressed in the personality of Matt Layden, who I only know by reputation and carefully reading anything that has to do with this wunderkind of knots and sail. These Real Sailors have extensive knowledge of all things to do with design, sailing, and materials. Usually along with an extensive knowledge of anything else you can think of and an unquenchable desire to see what is next over the horizon. These Types also usually have a very reserved personality and are set in their ways.

Next is the Day Sailor. This person also has a lot of knowledge. Most of it is found in experience, but there is a lot of theory left in there too. I am certainly one of these people. They know just enough to be dangerous. I have not lost a boat yet, or even been in a boat that has capsized unintentionally. This means I am probably over confident in my experience and willing to take risks that most others are not. The Day Sailor is always willing to help and to talk. These sailors are often out going.

Then there is the Cautious Sailor. The one who sees doom on every horizon. The people who will always be safe because more often then not they did not even go out to test what the weather was like. They gave up just reading the weather report. I have certainly met some of these people, and I am not talking about people who have a small boat and are being smart. I am talking about sailors who must have had a bad experience or three. It is always good to have one of them around. They clue you in that you may be getting into something over your head. They can help moderate a group sail.

Then there is the Techno Sailor. They spend more time looking at the mapping GPS with color relief whichamadoodles and bells and waypoints for every theoretical weather whim. The horizon is hardly ever a factor in their sailing as they stare, riveted to mapping GPS's. They get off on it and that is fine. They are also good to have in a group. They will have a way of recharging whatever you forgot to bring the cord for and give you the exact coordinates of the pass you forgot to mark on your inferior GPS/abacus.

Sailing by GPS. You will notice mine is not that advanced.

So now you are trying to figure out which type of sailor you are. In fact there was not much figuring to be done. You knew instantly. Let me share a secret with you. It does not really matter. The traits and quirks that all these types of sailors share are more important then the differences. At all the raids I have been to or put together, all the sailors help each other out, speak up with advice, and are friendly. Politics is never brought up. Fiberglassing methods, shear lines and navigation may be hotly debated, but all in good fun.

Here are four very helpful Sailors you may recognize at the first Texas 200.

These events usually attract one or five inexperienced sailors too. (I refrain from calling them foolish because we all did this once. It is how we learn.) The type that have played around on their local lake and maybe car camped a few times. They think they can take on the Texas 200 and make it through unscathed. A lot was made of the fact that my father, Bill Moffitt, had taken a prototype boat on its maiden voyage at first Texas 200. There is a difference here. In some ways we set a bad example by doing this. I think we made it look easy. The Mikesboat was based on other successful designs like the Piccup. In fact it is basically the Piccup enlarged and proportionally narrowed a bit. My father is the type of person who can build a computer, a robot, a Spanish guitar, car, airplane, or anything else from scratch. And has been doing it his whole life. At that point we had been day sailing and taken my Jeff Gilbert designed Catamaran out on a few camping trips in the OBX and built a few boats. We may have been foolish, but we were prepared. It was the Next Step for us, not something we were clueless about. And we did finish almost unscathed and ahead of most of the pack on most days. In organizing the OBX130 I try to let people know that you need to test your equipment, especially your camping equipment, in harsh conditions. In these events you can be out of cell phone range for days at a time. If you don't do your homework you end up frustrated and losing a lot of time and money.

My Father and I taking Embers Watch for its first sail in the Texas 200

As I get a little more experience I also find that I pack less and less equipment. If I haven't used it in the last couple of trips then I leave it home. The first few trips I made I brought everything I needed to rebuild a boat, camp for three weeks, and entertain myself on a desert island. Now I am really space and weight aware. I pride myself on taking the exact right things, and nothing extra. At the same time I also pride myself that I am never found wanting for anything three days out. I trust myself and my boats much more then I did. I also no longer think my boats are sacred cows. If one sinks or breaks I don't mind anymore. All I care about in the end is the safety of my crew and myself. I have also really come to appreciate small, shallow draft boats. They can go anywhere I have wanted to go, stand up to almost any conditions if sailed right, and are cheap to build. I am preaching to the choir I know. But we are really the odd ducks out. Most people own production boats with a lot of upkeep, docking, and storage fees. We have it made. My boss said the other day that the two best days a boat owner has is the day they buy it and the day they sell it. With us it is; the two best days are the day you start building it, the day you launch it, the day you go on your first big sailing expedition, the day you get back from that expedition, the day you go on your next expedition, oh wait, that is more then two days. I guess that doesn't make sense.

See you on the water.

Sailing the OBX130


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