The Cotter Ring: seemingly mundane, apparently important

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I didn’t waste any time putting my boat back in the water for the 2012 season. Even though I haven’t actually sailed her in the last month, getting her ship-shape is often just as therapeutic.

Among this year’s upgrades were replacing the halyards and sheets (we call them lines, never ropes), and purchasing a mint condition main sail from 1978.

As I was getting the rigging squared away over the weekend, I took extra care with one of tiniest items on my boat.

The Cotter Rings.

These little buggers are nothing more than an overlapping circle of stainless steel wire. They’re essentially weightless in your hand, which means they’re easy to drop, and once in the water – bye bye. They’re fairly inexpensive, and probably the last item anyone thinks of when generically thinking of sailing hardware.

And yet, they’re indispensable.

What so fascinates me is that my boat weighs as much as both of my vehicles put together. Her super structure endures thousands of pounds of pressure, harnessing potential energy within vacuums created through the Bernoulli principle, into kinetic energy that’s translated to a lead encased steel keel buried deep in the water producing directional momentum.

In the face of overwhelming natural forces that could literally break a person in two, enter the Cotter Ring.

They’re all over my boat.

They bear almost no critical weight, go almost completely unnoticed, and once I set them for the year, I never touch them again.

Yet without them, I can’t sail.

They hold the Cotter Pins in position at the fixture points of my main sheet blocks, without which I’d have an utterly functionless sail system.

They hold the Cotter Pins in place that anchor the massive aircraft-steel cables to the deck; those cables are called stays and they keep the 29′ aluminum mast aloft.

As I began to look around, I realized that these little rings – as mundane, inexpensive and unnoticed as they are – are just as essential to my sailing season as the glorious sails that get all the attention.

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As people it’s easy to compare ourselves to others, those that are seemingly more impressive, more impressionable. We look at what they have and then at what we have; we look at what they can do, and then at what we can do. But in my discovery of the Cotter Ring’s significance, I realized how endearing this little piece of metal was to me, the Captain of the ship.

The game was never for the sails to impress the mast, or the hull to impress the lines. The game has always been to serve the Captain. The Captain finds just as much pleasure with the seemingly mundane as he does with the apparently important. And keeping his perspective in mind is the key to not loosing our perspective.

To the Cotter Ring, the main sail is for more impressive; but to the Captain, both are equal in their value of accomplishing what He first set out to do: enjoy life.

ch:

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