Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Law of Diminishing Returns (to Port)

Since we have no way to post fantastic pictures of the spectacular scenery to keep our readers interested, we've decided to spend this post pontificating.

Given the wonders of satellite technology I just used google to look up a definition of the Law of Diminishing Returns. It states:
"The Law of Diminishing Returns is an economic theory that describes how at a certain point, increasing labor does not yield an increase in production."
Over the past month of sailing in the southern channels of Chile, we have realized that this theory isn't just an economic theory, it applies to sailing as well.

Here is how:
Every day, before departure, we plan our next anchorage. Depending on a number of factors including quality of anchorages in the area, expected weather, sticking to a schedule and even just how we feel, the distance to this next anchorage can be anywhere from 20 to 60 NM away. We always plan at an average speed of 5 NM per hour. Doing the math, 20 NM should take 4 hours and 60 NM should take 12 hours. Because its summer here we have around 16 hours of daylight. In Chile, because of the unknown quality of the charts and lots of unmarked dangers lurking just below the surface we must be into the next anchorage (or "port") before it gets dark.

We leave our anchorage and head for the next. Thing are going well and our planned anchorage is well within reach by the planned time. Knowing the variable conditions down here and how rare things go well, we decide to push on to the next anchorage only a short distance away. In fact it's "Only an hour away". Once we make that fatal statement, the "Law of Diminishing Returns (to port)" kicks in and one of two things happen.

Possibility #1: The wind slows down or the current against us picks up and our Estimated Time to Arrival (ETA) never changes. The distance decreases but so does our speed and we are always only an hour away. This continues for the rest of the afternoon until we are 1 mile away with 1 hour of daylight left doing everything we can to maintain a speed of 1 NM per hour. Inevitably we arrive just before dark but still have at least an hour to get anchor set and the 3 or 4 lines attached to shore. We collapse into bed without bothering to eat dinner.

Possibility #2: The wind picks up and our speed increases dramatically. Doing 8 or 9 knots our anchorage is now only minutes away but it's just started raining sideways again and the entrance to the bay is too difficult given the sea and wind conditions. Since our speed has picked up we decide we still have time to make it to the next anchorage. In fact it's "Only an hour away". This of course invokes the Law yet again and we continue at infinitum with either possibility until we arrive at some anchorage just before dark and yet again and collapse into bed without dinner.

Every year we sail, we learn new laws that the god of the sea has commanded that we follow. Most apply to any attempt to bend him and his ways to our will. This is yet again another example.

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