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Keep it Simple, Sailor

Published on July 11th, 2018

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
When my wife and I bought our Alerion 28, we were looking for a casual racer that had style. Sporting a low freeboard, self-tacking jib and large cockpit, she has proven to be an easy daysailer, and with her nice looks, has been good on the ego too.

While the boat needed some upgrades for racing, we did not want to impact her “on anchor” appearance. We could have made an easy argument for a re-rig to improve sail handling systems, but the best way to race casually is to be casual. Keep it simple, we said.

So that was our approach, and considering we needed to rig for the spinnaker she lacked, this required some clever thinking. Thank goodness for Neil Harvey at Harken who suggested I soft-attach the aft turning block to the stern cleat, and then use their custom beer coozie as a sleeve around the block to prevent deck scarring. Classic Harken solution!

But after racing the boat for a season, I felt handcuffed by one remaining detail – the compass. The boat had a bulkhead Ritchie with limited visibility. Worse, I grew up on dinghies with deck compasses, and the bulkhead type had numbers on the back of the dial. I’ve never gotten used to reading them. Old dogs, they say.

However, I wasn’t eager to derail my mantra of simplicity for this upgrade. More so, I am conflicted with how sailing ability is getting reduced by smart electronics. If you have enough money, there are models that tell us how far we are from the start line and whether we are lifted or headed. I just wanted solar-powered simplicity.

Nautalytics to the rescue.

I don’t endorse much. Occasionally I recommend a book. I love my Musto LPX, though I’d love it less if I had to pay for it. But the Nautalytics compass is the real deal. Brilliantly simple with big digital numbers my brain understands. A bracket that velcros to the mast… no drilling needed. And priced so normal people can afford it.

I am constantly inundated with new products that make our sport better and more expensive. A lot of them are more technical too. Hardly a strategy to increase participation, and while I’m not a proponent of dumbing things down, enough is enough.

There are limits to how much improvement we can consume and Nautalytics delivered what was needed. Feels good to finally be able to read a compass while racing. Now if I could just simplify doing the varnish on the boat…

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