Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deja Vu all over again: Vol 2 -- which is Navigation, Set and Drift, Vector Analysis, and all the rest. . .

Ok. then.

Navigation, of course, matter to sailors. It matters a great deal more to some than others.

There's no question that in navigating a sailing vessel, which is limited, even severely, in its propulsive capacity, at least quantitatively relative to the natural phenomena that might impact it: ie., tidal currents--navigational skills matter. It's commonplace to be sailing 3 knots on a 3 knot current in many places in the world. It takes a lot of skill to "get anywhere" in that scenario. In fact, that is, indeed, the art of "sailing" is making 3 knots in spite of 3 knots of adversity. Sailing in perfect conditions is brainless. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy it. It's just that the skill comes out when it's hard. The rest of the time it's a "gimmey."

Some then, really get off on navigation-- as "navigational" skills are the the hallmark of a great "sailor." Ok, sure. Sailors need to know how to navigate. I don't contest that, I agree. There are a lot of techniques out there using hand bearing compasses(yup, those are good) and sextants(especially used sideways!) and GPS(while it works, I'm all for it) and lots of intricate calculations on chart tables an crazy spherical trig and all that. Sure, great. It's great, while ashore, to spend a lot of time learning as much of all that as one can stomach. There's tons of tricks there and some of those tricks are completely capable of saving your butt. Shame on you for not knowing them! Indeed! It's very common, in fact to need to plot set and drift scenarios, and work vector analysis on a chart table. Sure. But there's a problem, and that problem is reality.

The reality is that very very if not almost always in the times you really need a "vector analysis" answer you also very likely: 1) Can't let go of the tiller 2) Don't have time to work the problem out 3) Might well barf on the chart table if you tried to actually work it out.

Indeed. Kinda curious, really, because in conditions where you don't need to know you could spend all of the time in the world working all that out. Of course it wouldn't matter, because, pointless, after all.

I've found that a curious paradox in navigational knowledge--you don't need it in conditions where it doesn't matter--but you can access it, BUT-- you can't have it in conditions you do. There's a 1 in a 1000 scenario where it helps, and that's cool, but basically, that's very rare and pretty small potatoes anyway and explains why completely incompetent people routinely sail around the world. Dumb luck, really, as most often, the world is kind, in spite of what we do to it to louse it up. Odd are, at the end of the day, going to be OK. The reality is, in the real world, the envelope of error vastly exceeds the resolution of the problem at hand. Thus, skill comes in and you fly by the seat of your pants. . .

Still, and this is damned important: The key in navigation, really, isn't knowing when you're going to be OK. It's knowing when you're not. That's why one studies navigation. But even a really bad navigator can compensate for lack of ability by being conservative and cautious and being doggedly and relentlessly obstinate in the goal of making port. . .

Well then, the sustainable lifestyle. . .obviously a bit of navigational talent is important here too.

In sailing we need to know our weather forecast, our boat's capacity to make good, the tides, perhaps obstacles and traffic, hours of day light, visibility, and a whole host of things.

In sustainability we need to know our economic forecast, our fiduciary means, the tides(meaning local influences), obstacles and traffic(um, interference in general, politely), hours of daylight(meaning how long one can hang in there), visibility(how far one can see), and a whole host of things.

So then, one can indeed plot on a chart table things like:

Let P + D + I + R + T = Ea

Where P = Production
Where D = Debt Service
Where I = Innovation
Where R = Resource Costs
Where T = Transportational Factors

Where Ea = Economic Activity

But, I'll suggest 1) You won't need to work that silly equation when you don't need too-- and 2) It won't mean much to you when you need to. In fact, I think the activity of really sitting down and doing so is very likely to make you barf on a chart table too.

I need to go deal with chickens: vol 3 will follow.

So what, is, indeed the "engine" of the unsustainable lifestyle?


Charles Edward Owens Jr. said...

As a poster to TOD I was interested in you saying you were out picking coffee beans and then remembered you live in those little islands out west of the rockies.

Sustainable is letting nature do most of the work and just knowing what kind of plants grow in your climate and getting as many of them growing on your land as you can get the seeds for. If they don't grow, something else will.

Sustainable is not mining the planet for FF when we don't really need them to live a sustainable.


jaywfitz said...

Hi Charles,

That's definitely a big part of it.