37. Jack of All Trades, Master of None

What skills do you need to sail around the world? I would argue that you don’t really need to be an expert at anything. Not even sailing. But you do need to know a little about everything. To know what is likely to go wrong and prepare yourself for it. Particularly when it comes to things breaking on the boat. Saoirse is equipped with all sorts of complicated systems that are subject to constant abuse by exposure to heat, salt, wind and UV light so things break all the time. You need to understand your boat so you know where to look, carry the right spare parts and seek the right help when you can. Pretty much like your local GP doctor that will be able to diagnose your condition, tell you that you can’t keep doing this, give you a paracetamol and send you to the right specialist for more permanent treatment.

When I started this project a few years ago, I think I had useful skillsets in two relevant areas. I was a reasonably experienced sailor and I had at least a theoretical knowledge of preventive maintenance from my years at an industrial insurance company. Enough to take me through a storm and develop a spare part list. Slowly but surely though, I am filling my personal toolbox with skills that I never thought I would want or need. I am thinking of meteorology, fishing, electrics, electronics, sail repairs, plastics, wood working and mechanics. And I am learning from watching and asking the professionals that I hire along the way. I never let them do any jobs without me looking over their shoulder and I always ask them for some sort of installation drawing of what they just did and what spare parts they think I should carry. An even better source of information is a fellow cruiser. In any given bay, there will most likely be someone that has had your current problem in the past. With time, I hope to be able to diagnose the source of any problem, have a band aid ready for any emergency treatment and be able to send the patient to the right expert at a later stage. After all, I didn’t stop working to get to work on my boat. I’m an adventurer, not a frustrated handyman looking for a project.

If there was one single skill that I wish that I had though, it would be more languages. Particularly Spanish and French. Most of the places I will visit in the foreseeable future will be previous Spanish or existing French colonies. But that will take a while to learn. In the meantime, I will have to use body language and pigeon English when I look for local expertise.

Well, enough of this. It’s back to sanding and varnishing the cockpit table and changing the clutch on the autopilot. Still beats being a desk pilot in the office.

Nigel Calder. Author of the boat maintenance bible. Both testaments.

2 thoughts on “37. Jack of All Trades, Master of None

  1. I loved this, Tomas! Those Nigel Calder books are ones I hear about all the time on other sailing blogs that I follow — it sounds like his books must be THE absolute go-to-source! Funnily enough, I’ve always felt that I am more of jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none…when I was a young person, I used to think this potentially worked against me, but now that I’ve grown older, I’ve come to view it in an entirely different light — I now see it as a wonderful gift. All the best, ~ Chelle


    1. Thanks for you comment, Chelle. I’ve never really wanted to be an expert at anything. Knowing a little about a lot broadens your mind and learning new things ensures that we don’t stagnate. And yes, Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual is probably the best reference book that I have seen for someone that wants to learn how to take care of their boat. All the best. Tomas

      Liked by 1 person

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