Observations: Reflections & Lessons on Owning a CD36

Boat ownership is a labor of love. Entropy being what it is, it comes as no surprise that owning a sailboat, especially an older one, requires hours of maintenance as aging components begin to wear out. It's not that the boat has been poorly maintained or that it isn't well built, it's simply a matter of parts reaching the end of their life.

At over thirty years old, Ariel has aged gracefully - may we all age so well - and is in excellent condition. Much of her good health is due to her history as a freshwater boat, first on Cayuga Lake for nearly 23 years then Lake Michigan since 2003. Stored under cover with her mast and rigging out of the elements for seven months out of the year, the boat is essentially half her age, having spent perhaps more time out of the water than in. She is, however, getting to the point when things begin to demand attention. Fittings need to be rebedded. The sails are bagged out and tired. Engine hoses are old and cracked. The gelcoat, through years of polishing, is thin in spots. Many of these things have been taken care of during the past few years of ownership, as documented in our Projects page. We have invested considerable time in updating systems, replacing suspect parts, and improving the boat's sailability and functionality.

For a fortunate few, the satisfaction of maintaining a boat rivals the joy of sailing it. That may sound like lunacy to some, but the knowledge and satisfaction derived from a job well done inspire confidence and self-reliance at sea. Too many sailors, it seems, lack even a rudimentary understanding of their boats. Many even lack a basic understanding of boat handling. Sailors who actively maintain their boats, however, generally demonstrate competency in other areas of sailing: they're capable navigators, amateur meteorologists, prudent seamen. In short, they're self-reliant, and self-reliance is the name of the game when it comes to sailing. In fact, it is the essence of sailing. In an artificial world of institutionally imposed checks and balances, it's nice to get out on the open water, away from the hurly-burly, to a place where there is a directness and immediacy to actions. The sea demands that the sailor be resourceful, intuitive, knowledgeable. Its judgment is swift and decisive. As one author put it, the sailor must do his best to ensure that he and his vessel are prepared for the sea, and he does that by considering eventualities and preparing. Each eventuality considered and anticipated can mean the difference between a miserable day at sea or a triumph at sea. It is this philosophy that drives the desire to maintain and improve the boat.

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