Purism when applied to sailing is like an aspect of a religion. How can the sailor’s ‘purism’ be defined, and what is the nature of those devoted to this esoteric maritime activity?
A purist sailor can be likened to a religious Puritan of the Elizabethan era; one who was not satisfied with blemishes within the Reformation or papism within Catholicism. He sought a simple form of worship not tainted by the world or the traditions of men; he wanted to live the purity of the word of God as found in the Bible. The exclusion of all else, except the truth of the Bible was to be his form of worship; he desired an inward and outward life, devoted exclusively to God for His glory.
The term Puritan was used in a derisory sense aimed at those who did not conform to, or accept the Elizabethan Religious Settlement that established Queen Elizabeth 1st as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and neither did they subscribe to the Common Book of Prayer decreed by the Act of Uniformity. There are some sailors today who would use the word ‘purist’ in a derisory sense too when referring to seafarers who will not have an engine on their boat. The same critics would consider these purists irresponsible because they voluntarily restrict themselves to using the wind, the currents and manual power for navigating waterways, or crossing lakes, seas and oceans. They heap further criticism upon purists for their lack of consideration when negotiating congested waters such as the Solent where huge ships are restricted by their draught; they further argue that common sense and safety should dictate the use of an engine.
Despite ridicule and reasoned argument by those who advocate engines the real sailing purist will not budge from his belief. His intellect confirms that engines on boats are evil, smelly polluting contrivances that contribute towards global warming and noise pollution. He considers using them is to commit the ultimate sin because they blemish and stain otherwise pristine seas and oceans by the spillage of oil and fuel. They contaminate the water, and their exhaust fumes permeate the air. The purist further reminds himself that in the good old days when the seas were plentiful with fish, fishermen earned their living by using boats powered by sail and oar. His ridicule of those who succumb to the convenience of engines is equal to that poured out upon the purist.
As with the non-conformist Puritan and his counterpart, there are two sailing fraternities practising their beliefs.