As far as fixations go, it wasn’t a big one, but it was persistent. Fixations are hard things to escape from. There’s often no logic, just a desire, and when it collides with values, it’s even worse.
For months I’ve lusted after a metal bracket, known as a mast traveler, for my sailboat. While the part looks simple, its job holding the top of the sail close to the mast is critical. Without it or some substitute, the boat’s sail will flop lamely in the wind.
The thing is, there’s no easy way to get a traveler. You can order it from England or find someone who knows how to weld. I don’t know a welder and I’m too thrifty to spend $100 on it, not to mention it seemed absurd to get a part shipped 6,000 miles to my home. You could argue that I should have paid up and moved on, but I kept figuring there was a way around it, if only I thought about it enough. So think, I did.
First I devised a series of ropes and knots and blocks. While somewhat functional, it tended to bind on the mast and was too time consuming to tie and untie each time I used the boat.
Then I tried tying a series of rope loops with big macramé beads that were supposed to prevent the rope from binding on the mast. This held the sail in place, but the beads generally clonked around instead of rolling against the mast.
I imagined there must be an elegantly simple, functional, and inexpensive way (remember those values) to accomplish my goal. I figured one day I’d be walking along and I’d see something obvious that I could use for a traveler. Andy Boat suggested a metal part used for changing the oil in a car. I considered a thick rubber ring that I found on the side of the road. I searched the cupboard for a plastic container I could cut up and reinforce. All of my thinking was for naught: each item had some flaw, real or perceived.
As my birthday approached, I harbored a secret hope that my wife would order the part for me. Perhaps she knew of my absurd, inner struggle and would free me from it. I anxiously awaited my birthday celebration and received a wonderful, lovingly made flag (with a tern on it!), but no traveler.
I was almost resigned to placing my order overseas, but before I could do it, I had to make one more effort. I tied a short length of thick rope into a loop and attached a cheap, dime-store carabiner to it. While it was a little floppy and uncertain, it had something to it. The design gave me a springboard to make a more substantial design.
After a trip to Andy Bike’s scrap bin and a few accidental improvements, the death knell of my fixation was sounded. It took six months and less than ten dollars in materials, but it was worth it. Combining a piece of tubular nylon webbing, a plastic strap from a packing crate, a foot of waxed twine, some electrical tape, and a used sailing carabiner, I built something that I was proud of.
The next day, I stopped fixating and went sailing.
How I made the traveler is detailed on the Nerdy Boats page.