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Cargo Cult and the Drudgery of Maintenance
"Early theories of cargo cults began from the assumption that practitioners simply failed to understand technology."
New members often express bright enthusiasm for learning to maintain our equipment. It's common to hear prospective members say how much they want to fix windsurf boards, sailboats, and other gear.
Which is great. Maintenance by volunteers is a central part of Cal Sailing Club. It keeps costs low, it teaches a lot about the equipment, and it's a different kind of fun than sailing in a boat or just watching the water with others.
What is the attraction for these bright-eyed would-be Mr. & Ms. Fixits? Maybe they think that learning it will enable them to have complete mastery of the equipment--ding-free windsurf boards, sheets that zip through blocks with zero friction, outboards that unfailingly leap to life. Maybe they think they'll become experts, sail around the world on a tiny budget thanks to their clever repairs, keep a quiver of windsurf boards and sails in tip-top shape for pennies, and be able to take on any repair with complete confidence.
If so, they're right, kind of. If they hang out long enough and do enough work, they'll get pretty good at fixing stuff, and they'll save money on gear and keep it in better shape.
Should we tell them that a lot of it is drudgery, especially in a low budget, crowded, beginner-oriented place like CSC? Realistically, much of it involves searching for tools and parts, sanding, cleaning, sawing, wrenching. Any maintenance at CSC can turn into hours of plodding work, frustration, and toil.
Should we tell them that a lot of tasks, like cleaning the PFD locker, bring only temporary relief from the inevitable return of manufactured goods to chemical chaos? You can be proud of your perfect repair to the nose of a windsurf board, but you'd better do it fast, because in a week someone's mast is going to smack a nice crack through it.
Nope. The best lessons are the ones learned for yourself. After all, they want to learn to maintain stuff, and these are things they need to learn. And really, an hour spent in the board hospital searching for glue, any glue, please god let there be glue, is a rite of passage at CSC.
"Cargo cults are marked by a number of common characteristics, including a "myth-dream" that is a synthesis of indigenous and foreign elements; the expectation of help from the ancestors; charismatic leaders; and lastly, belief in the appearance of an abundance of goods."