When my wife and I first decided five years ago that we would someday go cruising as liveaboards in our own sailboat, we were keenly aware that neither of us knew the first thing about sailing. So we started the pursuit of this dream by throwing ourselves into studying the art.
Book learning. . .
We began with the books, learning from them what we could of the wind and the water, of the behavior of the boats that ride them, and of the vocabulary used to describe that behavior.
. . . is never enough.
Soon thereafter, we hit the wind and water we had been reading about. And in our first few years of struggling to get our boats to behave the way the books said they would, we began to learn a whole new boat vocabulary, much of it completely inappropriate for a family-rated blog. (Let’s just say we discovered that the salt in “salty language” comes from the sea.)
Of course, we could not expect otherwise. Books are a fine place to start, of course. But in cruising as in life, there’s just no substitute for going through a thing–the old chestnut eventually comes around to reassert itself: “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” And bad judgment is OK as long as you live to tell about it.
So far we’ve come
So, three months into the life we’ve been dreaming about for the past five years, it seems like a good time to take a look back at Bimini Dream and see what living aboard Meander has taught us so far.
- Ultimately, one principle alone governs sailboat stowage: Everything you need the most on your boat shall be buried deeply behind everything else you need the most.
- It doesn’t matter what your lifetime of land-based experience has taught you. On your boat, the space in your holding tank is a finite resource.
- Approaching Infinity with Hyperbolic Speed is the number of the items that shall find their way onto your List of First Cruise Preparation Requirements.
- Sometimes, you have to just put the List aside and go sailing.
- Some people are not cut out to be captains—a hard lesson learned in three parts.
- When you cruise, cool things like the Choptank Skipjack Heritage Race will come right to your floating doorstep.
- When cleaning up your boat’s interior, the little things count as much as the big ones.
- Hurricanes: prepare, then pray.
- At all times, The Wind reserves the right to make fools of the most experienced seamen.
- Your starter circuit doesn’t care about your Best Laid Plans.
- Neither does your fuel line.
- But with the right people behind you, you can make your boat finally stop giving you trouble and Get On With It.
- Of course, once your boat has finally stopped giving you trouble, it’s always possible to create a little of your own.
It goes without saying, of course, that we’ve barely scratched the surface. And it’s just as well, at least until I’ve mastered snorkeling.
So far to go
If anyone were to ask about a newbie cruiser’s life on the water, I would sum up the first three months as follows.
All the things you will go through—the things that leap out at you from your decks, from the docks, from the marinas and the boatyards, from the supply stores and the chandleries, and from your own books and computers as you try to wrestle the rest to the ground—all these things might well conspire together to push the wonderful reasons you started this broad reach right out of your head.
Don’t panic, and don’t despair. The next time your sails take you out on the water, you’ll remember.
–Book: Mike Webster.
—Ship aground on the beach of of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island by John Solaro, shared under a Creative Commons license via photopin.
—Above the overworld from underworld by daveynin, shared under another Creative Commons license via photopin.
–Between the bridges: Mike Webster.