Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Differences Between Motor-Boaters and Sailors

While we have been cruising in the Seychelles I have been struck by the difference between people who drive motorboats and the visiting long distance sailors, who live onboard their boats.

The first obvious difference is the size of their bellies.

Most motorboaters have large waistlines, and there is a good reason for this: Motorboats are very boring modes of transport. Even to a median intelligence, the fun of driving a motorboat is limited to about half an hour. During this time the driver will turn onto his own wake to bounce through it in a vain attempt to make driving his motorboat interesting.

It is rather like driving a sports car down a bad road littered with puddles.

The novelty wears off quickly.

As a result motorboaters invent things to do, which sometimes involves dragging somebody around behind them on skis, but more usually entails buying expensive fishing equipment to catch and torture fish. If the anti-hunting league ever discovered what deep-sea anglers do for sport, they would find lots of reasons to interfere.

What happens after the “sport” has taken place is that the motorboaters assemble at a club or a bar where they discuss and compare the size of the fish they have killed. They also compare the size of the engines they have to power their boats. It is not unusual to see more than a thousand horsepower of engines strapped to the transom of a twenty foot boat. The only other places that I have seen this excess of power on boats has been Gibraltar Smuggling Boats and Arab Oil Sheiks’ Boats.

All this comparative chatter is accompanied by drinking beer, which is why most longstanding ardent motorboaters have big bellies. I believe that there is a direct relationship between the number of excess inches of belly fat to the number of cylinders of engines used to power each individual’s boat.

Motorboaters are generous people and are ready to buy rounds of drinks to keep their social standing in their group. Mean ones don’t last long.

Long-distance sailors on the other hand are usually lean, and many of them don’t drink alcohol at all. Part of the reason for this is that they don’t have room on their boats for bottles and cans, but also that their lives depend on being responsible for their boats twenty four hours a day. They also are often cruising on a shoestring and they regard group drinking to be too expensive for their small budgets. Sailors have to plan their lives with care because they have to ensure their resources will last until they can find work or restock their boats from shore-bound investments.

They have a bond to other sailors that is similar to the motorboaters’ social groups, but their conversations are very different.

In-between these two groups are the Catamaran Sailors. They do not fit into either faction as their boats are a sort of underpowered motorboat with a sail. Their method of propulsion is to motor in a direction and, if the wind is suitable, to unfurl a sail. Very few of them will actually sail their boats because a catamaran is a pig to sail. It has a poor windward performance unless fitted with leeboards of some kind, and they are almost impossible to tack. The first thing a catamaran sailor does when sailing and something goes wrong is to start the engines. They are also obsessed with speed, which is where the catamaran scores over the monohull sailing boat but only when sailing off the wind.
A catamaran is at its best when stationary, when it becomes a good platform from which to snorkel or dive, or when enjoying a sun-downer on deck.

Catamaran sailors seldom discover the real essence of sailing which is the enjoyment of the sailing rather than the goal of “getting there”.

Long distance sailing is a question of loving being at sea for as long as possible, and the arrival at a destination is not the goal, but the termination of a yearning experience.

Ocean racing sailors of course are in a fringe class of their own, which requires them to live in extremely uncomfortable conditions with lack of sleep, poor food and an ability to sleep in other people’s beds, and to not change clothes for weeks at a time.

The so-called ‘Non Stop Round the World Sailors’ are, of course, misnamed. They usually sail down the Atlantic, around that large iceberg that is situated at the South Pole and then back up the Atlantic. A true ‘Round the World Sailor’ would, I believe, have to go through both the Suez and Panama Canals and visit at least twenty countries. They sometimes call in to Seychelles and they are so interesting and so modest about their achievements.

There is another difference between these two main groups, and this can be observed at refuelling docks.

Motorboaters tend to arrive at speed and then engage reverse thrust, and the consequent froth, noise and reaction is music to their souls.

Sailors either get their fuel with a jerry can, or if compelled to use a refuelling dock, they arrive with fenders in place, lines at the ready and do not rely on large applications of power to get into position.

When leaving a dock sailors take pride in using the wind, drifting away sometimes with the use of a long line to veer the boat, then raising a sail and edging away into the current.

Motorboaters like to feel the power, so power thrust and digging in the transom is their feeling of control. The fact that wake rocks everybody else around is usually ignored.

As for jet ski riders…. I would seriously consider immigrating to any country that has a permanent ban on these contraptions!


  1. Interesting post. Keep well Diane

  2. The differentiation of sailors and motorboaters made me realize that sailors are responsible kind of people who don't just do sailing for fun but as a way of living while on the other hand motorboaters suggest a rather life thrilling experience and makes sailing more of a hobby than an everyday living. Having the luxury to have your very own motor boat Philippines would be a good investment for your lifelong dream of cruising and living in the sea.