Use It or Lose It

Be kind and gentle. That is one of the principal edicts I grew up with. It originated in the Religion classes in grammar school despite the capital punishment (slaps on the knuckle) from the religious Brothers. Well, maybe it didn’t actually mean to be that way in the real world or I misinterpreted them and expected the world would actually abide by them.

In any case “be kind and gentle” was taken to heart as I thought it was a fairly good dictum for a human being. It made sense. The dictum, however, seemed to be at odds with the “competitive spirit” that abounded in my early years. Maybe that is why organized sports seem more like gladiator theatrics than something that was intended for pleasure. Competition may bring out the best in us, but I know it can also bring out the worst.

As time went on, the dictum extended to more than human interactions. When interactions with mechanical contraptions came to occupy my time – erector sets, Lionel trains, the home built go-carts, fiddling with auto engines and buying a muscle car to drag race – all seemed tempered by the “be kind and gentle” dictum that floated in my head.

How this translated to actual conduct was similar to how the other dictum – “everything in moderation”- was handled. This other dictum was a little more difficult to abide by. Was it because it seemed to make less sense? Well, that is a discussion for another time. In any case, in terms of dealing with non-human or animal interactions, “be kind and gentle” and “everything in moderation” resulted in limiting all physical mechanisms to a level below their capability.

The rational for this was, beside the above philosophical underpinnings, was the understanding that these physical mechanisms will reward you with their extended life and reliability. By not pushing them to their design limits, they would last longer, run better, and generally make life better for everyone. This carried through for many activities. I never ran the Lionel trains at top speed to destruction, the go-carts were never overloaded to bend the axels, the drag-racing car was never pushed to explosion. Well mostly. Remember the “all things in moderation”? And how sometimes its hard to follow? Dropping a valve in a new engine tested that (among other things). Nobody’s perfect.

So, what has all this to do with Kalunamoo? We flew back to our boat in Antigua after the New Year. Our Christmas Holliday was great, saw most of the family, but otherwise mostly hid from the virus for most of the time. We were successful because if we weren’t it would have been very difficult to return to Antigua. Snow storms, cancelled flights, closed borders, or positive covid tests, could easily derail travel plans. While we were up in New York for three weeks, Kalunamoo was well secured in a slip in Jolly Harbor Marina. We turned off everything on the boat except the battery charger and that means the refrigeration was off. Whatever food we had, frozen or otherwise, was given to friends who kept it in their refrigerators until we returned. Upon return we turn on everything and start the refrigeration.

A three-hour flight delay was the only hiccup in our travel plans. We climbed aboard Kalunamoo, 13 hours after driving to the airport in New York. Once aboard, we turned the refrigeration on. About two minutes after that we smelled something burning. It was the cooling water pump for the refrigerator throwing smoke and sparks like it was New Year’s Eve. Well, welcome to 2022 and the start of a new year fixing boats in exotic places.

The pump is not an uncommon one, although not readily available here, but a work-around was found. The forward air conditioner uses the same type of pump so I switched out the burned out one for that. No air-conditioning until we get a new pump. Not a big deal as we very rarely use it, and only when in a marina.

The old pump and “new pump” installed

“But it was working fine when we left 3 weeks ago!”  Which brings up the third dictum, “Use It or lose It”. We have experienced this too many times. Most cruises have. Things don’t keep well when not in use. Batteries go dead, rust runs rampart, mold grows wild. Sometimes it just feels like the item is acting childish, getting back at us for showing benign neglect of non-use.

The assumption is that if something is not used, the time of none use is added to the overall life expectancy of the item. This is not true. If the life expectancy is 2 years, it will die in 2 years whether you use it or not. Cruisers know to do a “shake down” cruise after an extended boat layup. The reason is simple. All those boat parts continue their inevitable path to Davy Jones’ Locker while you are off vacationing. The “shake down” cruise is the boats way of shaking you down for the neglect you have shown it by not using it.

This last dictate, learned late in life, seems to trump the first two. “Be kind and gentle” and “Everything in Moderation” seem to crash head on into “Use It or Lose It” if longevity was expected. Maybe it is a paradox of life but it is a certainly on boats. Diesel engines, I am told, need to be pushed to their limits. No kind and gentle treatment is needed. They will die when they want to, whether you push them or not.

Well, it still is a shock when non-use of an article results in its failure. This certainly applies to the mechanical contraptions we deal with. Oddly, this is even built into the electronics we use every day. Imagine someone who saved an IBM AT personal computer from 1985 and turned it on today. How would it ever connect to the internet?

So, yes, be kind and gentle, exercise moderation but always Use It or Lose It.

Final word (and a political warning). Democracy only works when it is used. Use it or lose it.

One thought on “Use It or Lose It

  1. Well said Bill!
    We have cleared customs but there is a two hour delay with our flight. Packed waiting area! But we are on our way!

    Sent from my iPhone


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