The Art of Doing Something with Nothing

Updated: Jan 6

An Idea Built from Necessity

When I first decided that being a sailor was something I wanted to do seriously, I understood it would require the kind of money I didn’t have. I have found over time that, if I just kept thinking and working toward a goal, usually something would open up to make my plans work. My boats are a perfect example of this philosophy. When I first started, I had very little money to speak of, but I found a derelict boat that needed saving. The amount of time and effort to get her back into sailing shape was tremendous, but I had a lot more work in my hands than I had money in my pockets. In a little over a year I (and many helpful friends) have managed to take a 36 foot, $4000 junkyard-bound boat, and turned her into a seaworthy home.

Anita II sailing in Beufort, SC

The basic principle that has helped to turn a pile of junk into something livable, is not much different than how I view most things in my life. It’s as simple as seeing something of traditionally low value, and transforming it into something of higher value. Most of the wood and building materials for the rebuild of Anita II were either free or of very low cost. I used pallets for a lot of the wood in the boat, or fencing panels. It required work and determination to get these things to function properly, but the end result was worth it.

Make Friends

One of the most important things you can do when trying to get somewhere on any goal, is to recruit the help of others who have done something similar in their lives. The exact details are unimportant, just find someone who has actually achieved a goal and learn from them. If you are patient and carefully take their advice, they will help you out in more ways than can be imagined. These new friends will be willing to help you come up with new ideas, and really push you to move forward because they believe your goal is a worthy one. Give generously and help them toward their goals also, it is a two way street where both sides can win. The amount of help I have received while working on Anita II was truly amazing.

See the Goal Not the Path

Being able to think outside the box is one of the best tools for reaching any goal. Oftentimes we get caught into a fixed path-goal relationship. For example, when it came to getting new standing rigging for the boat, I was appalled at how expensive stainless steel rigging was. For my boat it would have been in the $5,000-$7,000 range. In other words, more expensive than the entire purchase price of my boat. So I decided to sit on it and wait for a better option to appear. It wasn’t long before my research showed a much cheaper option, Dyneema low stretch rope. This rope was less than half the price of traditional stainless steel rigging. $2,500-$3,000 was still a high price for me to swallow, so I waited to see if anything better would come up.

About a year into the process I discovered that hot galvanized cable could be used for sailboat rigging. The only reason it isn’t used more often is because of its looks and higher maintenance schedule. Once I discovered galvanized cable I did my research and learned a lot about its properties on a sailboat. After I bought the material I realized I was onto something big. For $350 I was able to re-rig my entire boat! A savings of $4,000 or more! The material is so cheap in comparison to other methods that I can have new standing rigging on my boat once a year and still be ahead over stainless or dyneema rigging.

The end result of my patience was a safer boat with new standing rigging. I set a goal and looked outside of the box for options. The money it saved will let me sail for 4 months without a job. The rigging may not be shiny, or pretty like the other methods but it will do its job well, and I saved enough to fix other areas of the boat. See the goal for what it is and understand how to make it happen, even if it is different from what everyone else is doing.

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