What’s It All About?

On our About page, I mentioned that the primary reason we started looking for a sailboat in the first place was that we wanted to be able to go anywhere in the world (inexpensively, justifying “slowly”) to go scuba diving. The truth is, I was so blinded by the logic of trading time for money that I assumed that Barbara agreed. It’s not that Barbara opposed getting a sailboat, but she didn’t jump in with both feet the way I did.

We’ve had the boat for 4½ years now, and we haven’t used it as a scuba diving platform even once. Maybe that’s not too surprising, because we’ve been able to travel to the boat only about 11 to 14 times since we bought it. We’ve spent all of our time on the boat doing one of two things: working on it (fixing things that break, installing new stuff) and learning to sail it. We’ve made several short trips, ranging from day sails to overnighters, and we’ve made about four or five longer sails, 3-4 day up to 10 day sails. We even took another couple (Jonathan and his then-girlfriend-now-wife Cathy) on a 4-day cruise down to Ft. Myers, FL.

On our most recent trip to the boat, described in small detail in our Sheltie Rescue blog, we sailed to Ft. Myers again, spent a couple of days there waiting for a weather window, and then tried to get down to the Dry Tortugas, a small group of islands about 70 miles west of Key West, FL. The weather forecast for offshore in the area where we sailed was…how shall I put it? WRONG! Instead of the forecast 15-20 kt winds and 4-6 foot seas, we had 35-40 kt winds and 8-12 foot seas. We got our butts kicked because we were unprepared for the unpredicted, but predictable and not unreasonable, different conditions. While we were miserable for about 28 hours of the 36 we were gone from the Ft. Myers marina, we were in no actual danger. Dream SeQueL is, after all, a bluewater cruiser and is stable as all getout. And our sailing skills aren’t that bad!

But that has forced an issue that I’ve managed to suppress until now. What is this really all about? Why do I want us to have a sailboat?

Until this trip, my answers would have been facile, if not really simple. They would have included the “dive platform” notion, and I would have said how much I want to circumnavigate, spending years in third world countries, wandering through paradise, testing my skill and will, blah, blah, blah. Barbara, being a tad more rationale, always raised an eyebrow when I started expositions in that vein. Her rather more conservative viewpoint was also simpler: Let’s learn how to sail her, then do some local and semi-local cruising for a while, just to see how much we [I] like it; after that, we can try small passages, perhaps to Bermuda, later on possibly to the Virgin Islands and maybe the northern Caribbean. If all goes well, we’ll see whether anything else is on the menu…

I resisted such notions. I hear my biological clock ticking! How many more years, I’d ask, will I be physically and mentally able to do this? So Barbara would back off, at least externally.

But the question is still there. Why am I doing this? Why are we doing it?

Will I be happy if all we ever do is cruise up and down the Gulf Coast of Florida? Probably not. That feels far too limiting to me. It doesn’t feel all that interesting to me to spend a day sailing to some little coastal town that I could reach in an hour of driving, then “explore” the shops, etc. in a town that I probably wouldn’t care about in the least if I were in a car.

Yes, cruising is all about slowing down and smelling the roses. And I’m a notorious Type A personality, so I’m fighting that inclination without thinking about it. But at least there have to be roses! And exploring the tourist traps in some coastal town doesn’t make me think “roses”.

In spite of all that, I honestly think that I could be satisfied doing that for a couple of years, so we can learn more — much more — about sailing, cruising, and all the necessary skills. But what after that? Sell the boat? Be bored to tears? Head for Hong Kong?

Right now, I’m trying hard to change my way of thinking about the boat. O’ve been focusing on “Gotta get to the Dry Tortugas so I have one successful crossing under my belt” and “now, I have to install another thousand dollars worth of technology on the boat” and “can we go to the Virgin Islands this year, or do we have to wait until next year?

Now, I’m trying to think in terms of “I need to practice heaving to, anchoring under sail, recovering a simulated crew member overboard”, “we don’t know enough about weather forecasting or about navigating when our electronics breaks down”, and “baby steps have to come before giant leaps”. If I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that the thought of taking off for the Bahamas with my current level of experience and skill set scares the crap out of me. (Our very good friend and boat maintenance guy, Earle Whitehouse, told me flatly last month that he wouldn’t let me take off for the Bahamas! Wise man, that!!)

I’ve also got to think in terms of doing the necessary instead of only doing the optional. We’ve let the external brightwork, as well as our teak decks, go all to hell in the few years we’ve had the boat. But we’ve got a ton of new electronics onboard. That’s my personal proclivity to go for new toys instead of dealing with the mundane problems of painting, varnishing, cleaning, and so forth. Barbara’s so much better about that on the boat than I am…I need to take my lead from her quite a lot more than I’ve been doing.

I’m going down to the boat again in mid-February, since I’ve got a business meeting in North Carolina. I’ll spend about a week there, and I intend to spend a little time working on the boat (I purchased an anchor lock, a chain stopper, and four heavy-duty padeyes some months back and want to get them all installed for safety reasons). But I also intend to go out sailing! If Earle is available, I want to go sailing with him. He’s got many years of experience and I can learn a lot from him.

I still hope that, some day, we reach the point where we can cross oceans and possibly circumnavigate. But, for now, even my attitude is going to focus on things much closer to home (dock) and on getting the basics under control first.

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