27 August 2017
It's your turn.
I've been thinking about this for a long time..............
Every morning I awake and just before my feet touch the ground I think "it's going to be a great day".
That is followed by a trip to the scale, throwing on last nights clothes and making my way to the kitchen to put the coffee on. A bit of chess on the way via internet and a few minutes in the "library" with a glass of lemon water. Following that it's back to the coffee.....a slice of sprouted grain bread in the toaster and an egg in the pan.
As that is being put together our cat, Alfonso, arrives at the door after an all-nighter, is let in and a can of "fancy feast, sliced" is prepared for him, he's such a guy. As he begins to dine I join him; check email, Drudge, make a few more chess moves via Chess with Friends, Realclearpolitics and Facebook. Around 7am Alaska Standard Time the "Daily Cruiser" email arrives with 10-13 questions for new sailors interested in "cruising". I love this time of day.
Why do I love those questions so much posted on the "Daily Cruiser", which ones do I look for? It's the "newbies". They are so raw, naive, and earnest.
As I look over I'm taken back to a time when I was there. Long ago I looked at the passage from Stonington Connecticut to Block Island as Columbus or Magellan must have looked at their passages. The first time I was out of sight of land, terror. The first time an island arose on the horizon, heaven.
A few years later the Bahamas. We planned for WEEKS. Back then paper charts, current vectors, weather faxes, pencil, parallel rules and dividers. That first trip we left Fort Lauderdale before sunrise and spotted Cat, or Gun, or Bimini as the sun set (who knew, today the plotter drives us right in, literally). We came though the cut pitch dark, no moon, a friend on the beach talking us through via VHF and anchored in a slippery marl where we just couldn't get purchase.
Late that night we motored across the cut and found our way into Cat Cay and tied up at what was then a little marina, it isn't anymore. The next morning as I came up to check the lines I found a girl onboard, I've forgotten her name, literally crying in the cockpit. (in order to charter a boat I rounded up a group of Florida State students from our sailing team to share the costs of which she was one) She had never seen a sunrise. Never.
The lows and the highs.
On that same crossing my friend was in the cockpit bragging how he "never got sick". I didn't fully understand "wind on current" at that point in my sailing career and the Gulf Stream was rough. I was down below working at the tiny chart table under a red light as the Morgan 41 did her dance. I couldn't take it anymore, between swells I popped my head up and proceeded to upchuck into the center cockpit....too much work to do to go topside and let her rip overboard.
Like dominos everyone else out there followed suit, including my friend "who never got sick".
A few years later he and I bought a Hughes Northstar 40 together, the infamous "Scarlett". To be fair he bought it as I was broke and I offered up my limited skills in exchange for his financial ones. It was a marriage made in heaven (see earlier posts). On that boat we learned everything the newbie is experiencing today. Back then it was "our turn".
My father has an extensive library of all things nautical. He is gone now and from time to time I sit in his library and look over all those volumes (my "inheritance" he called it, God bless him). One day one book in particular caught my eye, "A History of Yachting". This was a compilation of articles from Yachting Magazine from the early 1900s to the late 90's. I took that book off the shelf just before a solo trip to the Bahamas, as I crossed the Stream, alone this time, I opened those yellowed pages and began to read. They were stories of small vessels going out upon the ocean and the misadventures of the same (what all good stories are made of).
The 1900's rolled out, the 20's, the wartime 40's and so on. The theme? We all made the same mistakes. Much tougher back then but the same when you get right down to it. Back then people died, today not so much. Back then everything took A LONG TIME. Today not so much. That's progress.
So as I read those questions posted today by "newbies" and "wannabies" I think to myself, it's their turn. I do my best to answer respectfully and to help where I can.
If you are new to "cruising" you will:
Have contaminated diesel fuel
Learn to change a fuel filter and the finer points of bleeding an engine
Run aground, sometimes hard
Lose a dinghy or something
Run out of beer
Lose ALL your electronics just when you need them most
Fight with your autopilot
Learn about calcification of your head and associated hoses
Get night sweats
Dive on a fouled prop mid ocean
Drag, in a pitch black anchorage, surrounded by others also dragging
Repair a carburetor on a dock and watch that one last bolt fall into the ocean
Hitchhike in a third world country from auto parts store to auto parts store
Anchor next to the beach bar at 2pm and realize why that was a bad idea at 11pm
Sweat like you have never sweated before
Dock in front of a crowd and screw it up
You will spend more than you budgeted
Comfort your wife or girlfriend when you are the one needing comforting
Screw up customs and immigration
Get the weather wrong
Spend hours holding a brush, grinder, wrench, etc.
Learn basic Spanish, French and maybe German.
You will also:
See sunrises and sunsets like you never saw before
Know the joy of a reliable diesel
Run a dinghy through a maze of coral full throttle
Catch a 150lb tuna
Enjoy a sunset G&T, really enjoy it having earned it
Reflect on life like few others
Not drag, in a pitch dark anchorage, surrounded by others
Treasure those emails that come in from far away in the middle of the ocean
Walk to the bathroom of a far away marina, toilet kit in hand, passage behind you
Coffee each morning to the most spectacular panoramas ever
Meet the most amazing people
Get the weather right (more times than not)
Dive into turquoise waters to check a perfectly placed anchor
Anchor where you don't want to be at 2pm and move to where you do want to be at 6pm
(if you're already experienced you'll get that, see "nesting")
Read like you have never read before
Make friendships that will last a lifetime (one just called me! Iain Gow!)
Sit with your wife, who was your girlfriend, as your kids play on the trampoline and think "it was all worth it."
I'll add more as time goes by. All this being said, go (read "Courage" posted earlier.)
Life is short, it's your turn now. If you got this far you get it. You have that first boat and you're scouring Yachtworld and the internet at 1am looking for support. Are you crazy? Yes, the good kind. Will it all work out? Maybe not, but you'll never forget why it didn't.
A caution, check yourself, "cruising" is not for the faint of heart and the skills you'll develop are massive. Do a real gut check before putting yourself, your friends, family and others at risk. The ocean is dangerous and unforgiving to fools. She tolerates those who truly respect her, most of the time, but she is capricious.
In the meantime meet each challenge your vessel and the sea throws at you with an attitude of gratitude, priceless.