October 14, 2004

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i’ve been asked by a few folks how to go sailing. When i was asking these questions m’self, i seldom found th’sort of answers i was yearnin’ for. So, here is a spot of advice, from both myself and others i’ve met.
Going sailing is both simpler and more difficult than it seems. The hard part is making up your mind to actually go to sea. The simple part is doing it. However, there’s a few things a body can do to improve yer chances at a decent berth.
B’fore y’get too far along, let it be said that a little knowlege goes a long way. Do some reading, and ask around. Find a sailor and pick their brain. Get to understand what kind of sailin’ yer most wantin’ to get inter. Understand what sorts of certifications might help ye along in th’beginning, or that you might want t’get fer yerself somewhere along th’way.
The types of reading i might recommend: WoodenBoat is a great resource. Even if y’don’t have a burnin’ interest in traditional craft, this magazine carries with it a certain spirit totally lacking in the other glossies, such as Sail or Cruising World. WoodenBoat seems to tell the reader that the cost of admission is whatever labour you’ve got to put into it, not just the heft of yer wallet. Try out at least one shoe-string story of circumnavigation, like Dove by Robin Lee Graham, or Trekka: Round the World by John Guzwell. Even if it’s a stretch, try to get through a book on classic yacht design; Sensible Cruising Designs by L. Francis Herreshoff is my favourite, but anything by/about Starling Burgess, Bill Luders, Fife, etc., will serve. Traditional knowledge will serve you well, even if y’end up on plastic tubs, so equip yerself with a copy of The Marlinspike Sailor by Hervey Garrett Smith. Lastly, the simplest, most straight-for’ard primer out there is Jan Adkin’s excellent The Craft of Sail.
Don’t be too worried if you think yer knowledge is sparse; nobody expects a green hand to know a cathead from a dogbone, or a scupper from a screecher. At any rate, most masters would rather train a lubber after their own fashion, from the deck up, so t’speak.
Now, if y’think y’might want to make a career of sail, it’s worth getting some degree o’certification. Even if you go into it not knowing how far you’ll go, if there is any promise of good “sea-time” in the offing, go ahead and properly document it. In Canada, head down to the nearest Transport Canada office, slap down yer $21, passport photo, and ID to get yerself a Seafarer number and discharge book. In the USA, you’ll want to get a Merchant Mariner’s Card, or “Z-Card” from MARAD, which is a greater pain in th’ass, an’ more expensive t’boot. There’s other forms of certification and logging, through the ASA, CYA, ISPA, RYC, etc, but the above commercial cards provide more serious clout. Training from those associations is valuable (i’ve both taken and taught courses), but don’t get bogged down payin’ fer some course at a yacht club when y’could really go to sea. The exception to this is getting an STCW-95 rating. This is an international standard (Safety Training and Certification for Watchkeepers) which is oft required for work on passenger-carrying vessels. Even when not strictly required, it’s fast, easy training (a week of study) that could save your life or the lives of others. B’sides, it might give you th’edge when applying for some entry-level berth.

For a Canadian, i did something politicaly interesting and important today. i voted in the American general election. i filled out my absentee ballot card and sent it off to be counted in the election of November 2nd. By dint of my American birth, and one American parent, i am a Canadian who happens to hold a US passport, SSN, and the right to help affect changes for all Canadians by voting in the USA. (more…)

In Canada, i have voted with my conscience for arternative parties for years, typicaly for the Green Party. i don’t do this because i think they have a chance in hell of winning, but because of the simple fact that the mainstream parties are having to pay attention to the ever-growing portion of the popular vote that goes towards alternative parties. In some Canadian elections of recent years, the percentage of the popular vote going to all alternative parties combined has been nearly equal to the percentage difference between the top two mainstream parties. In some way, i hope this shift will force the mainstream parties to widen their definition of “mainstream”.
For you American readers, a brief explanation: The Canadian Prime Minister (roughly equivalent to the Pres.) is not voted into that office. In a Cdn general election, citizens vote for local federal representatives (MP’s, equivalent to members of Congress). The ridings in which the MP’s run for office are roughly apportioned by population, and the MP’s are usually, but not always, members of some political party. Sometime previous to any federal election, members of political parties (MP’s and citizens alike) gather in convention to elect a party leader. In the actual federal general election, the party which has elected the most MP’s forms the government, and the leader of that party (an MP themselves) becomes the Prime Minister.
Unlike the USA, the Prime Minister’s powers are less executive, and depend more upon the voting power of the MP’s. The really interesting development that this can lead to is actually happening right now; the party with the most elected MP’s has more than any other single party, but less than 50% of the total amount of MP’s! Furthermore, in this last election, a single independant MP was elected, becoming, in essence, the swing vote upon which the whole works swings. That one independant vote in Paliament can seriously impede the Prime Minister’s usual ability to push through bills and ammendments by brute majority vote. This year’s Canadian federal election was an example where one non-partisan person has come to have a huge say in how the government runs.
Well, the above tactic of voting for the percentage may not work for this, my first US voting experiment. In preparation for my American voting, i did a lot of research. In state issues, i have clung more tightly to my conscience, selecting Libertarian and Green candidates where i feel they deserve support. In the federal arena, however, i felt that i had to modify my tactics. There are some decent alternative presidential candidates out there, with compelling arguements. In many ways, i’d rather see Nader in the White House than either Kerry or Bush. Still, the blunt fact is that Bush must go; i hate to feel as though i’m voting against a candidate rather than for one, but there it is. If the anti-Bush vote is divided, Bush will win, and such are the executive powers of the President, even given a Democrat majority in Congress or Senate, bad things will continue to happen to the world. Since all the Presidency requires is a bare majority, every vote against Bush must go towards Kerry, even if he’s simply the lesser of two evils.
Now, i’m still trying to understand the whole Electoral Vote thing, and am still not sure if my presidential vote goes towards the candidate or an electoral voter, or somewhere else. Can anyone explain that one to me?