This month, a column about change.
Whenever I look at our local paper these days, I'm reminded of what behavioral scientists call "Institutional Memory," the collected recollections of a group of people that can help them avoid repetition of the same mistakes, and encourage gradual improvement in the processes and procedures of life. In fact, in terms of our thought processes, institutional memory may be the equivalent of genetic memory as related to physical growth! (It seems clear that the paper's staff often knows nearly nothing about how some things we do got this way!)
What has this got to do with boating? Actually, a lot! Coming in contact as I do with a lot of boaters, boat builders, and boat artisans, I am amazed at how much I can learn! And on the other hand, I see how often hard-headedness keeps someone from getting more fun and more economy from their boating experience.
Sometimes it's as simple as reading the directions: Several years ago a guy decided that when painting a boat with a polyurethane finish all the stuff about temperatures, enclosures, types of sprayer, etc., weren't really necessary. As soon as he saw the paint job the backyard expert he hired gave him, he realized his error and took it all off. Next, he hired an "expert" from out of town who could do it "for a lot less" than the local person. That job was a disaster, too. Frankly, I don't know where all the hassling has lead but I do know that if he had followed the manufacturers directions and if he had just talked to a few more professionals [and taken someone's advice], he would have probably spent less than he wound up spending, and the job time would be measured in days, not months!
One of the most important reasons for "asking around" before you undertake a bigger boat project, or installing a new piece of gear, is today's fast pace of improvement to products. It was only a few years ago that some old-timers were saying "Loran is, by golly, the best way," now, in spite of its excellence in a few categories of performance measurement, it is clear that GPS is probably better.
Unfortunately (am I just imagining this?), boating does have its share of folks who will do it the same as always, no matter what! All other ideas or approaches are just plain stupid or wrong. I must admit I tend to get hostile when I ask someone about something and he declares it's "stupid" or "dumb."
Here's an another example (and a tip or two): Many people will ask "What bottom paint do you use?," instead of saying, "Tell me how and why you paint your boat's bottom the way you do?"
I asked the latter question of a new boat dealer and he said, "First, I use ablative paint because it wears away, so I'll never have to sand it down after a few years' applications are no longer effective but still there, like the old-fashioned paints. Second, I make sure we wipe the bare bottom down with a solvent as specified so I get good adhesion. Third, we make the first coat on the bare hull a different color than the top coats, so when we see that first color begin to appear, we know it's time for a new coat. Is that what you wanted to know?" Yes!
Next time you're working on your boat, check your marina's "Institutional Memory," the folks with boats like yours or the people who work on them, and see if there aren't better, or easier, or cheaper ways to accomplish the task. And make sure that you're getting institutional "memory," not "opinion"!
The question to ask is, "Is there a better way to do this?" These days, there well could be! Have fun and boat safely.
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Last updated 6/27/98 by SCR