Tillerman's latest writing project asks us to predict what sailing will be like in the future.
I am notoriously poor at predicting the future, as a simple look at my 401k balance will quickly prove. I predicted great things for Betamax and the Videodisc. I told everyone that Barry Manilow couldn't possibly have more than one hit song.
As visionary Adam Turinas points out in a well thought-out look into his crystal ball, sailing will no doubt change dramatically in the next 20 years for bigtime racer dudes who can afford the latest tech, or whose sponsors can, at least.
But for those of us of more modest means, I think sailing will be pretty much the same old same old, especially when it comes to that nemesis of practically every keelboat sailor - The Engine.
As Adam suggests, sailors have long hoped for a simple replacement for those fiendishly complicated and maintenance demanding engines that live in the belly of most modern keelboats. An electric motor that ran at the push of a button, that didn't need high pressure pumps, low pressure pumps, freshwater pumps, raw water pumps, fuel injectors, heat exchangers, and an invocation in Latin just to start would be a great innovation to be sure.
But the Achilles heel that has always kept boat manufacturers from putting electric motors in sailboats has been the old enginnering dilemma of what to do about 'encabulation'.
This little understood engineering principle is why most hybrid cars today still require a gasoline engine and don't run with electric motors alone. In a boat, the need for a gas engine would completely negate any advantages of an electric motor.
A solution seems at last to be on the horizon. Researchers at Rockwell International have finally made real progress towards controlling encabulation so, in the future, sailors could finally be free of the tyranny of the diesel engine.
Ah, but is the future as rosy as the technologists promise? Here's a Rockwell promotional video explaining in simple, layman's terms how their 'Retro Encabulator' works. While they may have the engineering gremlins on the run, why do I think there's a warning here about placing too much trust in new technology?