Monday, November 17, 2008

Cruising Realities

Cruising Realities

"Dad, can I drive?" was the request made of me yesterday as we loaded onto a 22 foot long fiberglass launch powered by a 90 horsepower Yamaha outboard. Selfishly I wanted to say no because this is a fast and fun boat to drive especially when you consider we were navigating through a myriad of mangrove canals on the coast of Belize. It is sort of like being in charge of your own Disneyland ride, except that you are in control of the throttle. As we raced through the mangroves I could only smile as I thought about the stories my now 10 year old son would tell someday about driving this launch.

We had left our boat in Placencia, Belize for a day to visit a piece of property being developed by a foundation upon whose board I am a member. During our time with the founder of the foundation he inevitably asked each of us, "what is the most exciting or enjoyable thing that you have done in the last 10 months?" The kids were able to quickly list off quite a few and yet Susan and I found ourselves able to generate a list of challenges or realities of cruising faster than we could identify the "most enjoyable" events.

I have been asked by a number of people over the past few months to write about the realities of cruising. In a nutshell cruising is really not unlike any other lifestyle choice. There are those parts of this lifestyle which appeal to you and are the ones that cause you ultimately to choose this path. In the case of cruising on a sailboat it might be the challenge of harnessing the wind to sail the ocean, visiting remote and exotic destinations, the sense of freedom that comes along with life on the sea, or many others. In talking with cruisers over the past 10 months the motivators to go cruising have been as varied as the individuals we have met.

Then there are those much less talked about realities which in one way are simply the mechanics of the endeavor. Cruising like any other undertaking has as part of its makeup certain requirements or expectations that cannot be avoided. Some of these are known prior to casting off the dock lines yet the majority are not understood and certainly not fully appreciated until one makes the commitment and finally leaves. Many of these realities do not often get written about because they are frankly not that enjoyable and certainly not "fun" to write about.

The mundane activities of life continue on a boat much like they do on land. There are meals to be prepared, laundry to do, a boat to keep clean, dishes to wash and school to attend to. Keep in mind that most of these are more difficult and take more time on a boat as well. Add to these the unique requirements of living on a boat and what you have is a long list of things that need constant vigilance and attention. In writing this article I realized we do not even have many photographs of the everyday routines on board. You don't usually grab the camera to preserve the image of someone preparing a meal, cleaning the head (bathroom) or polishing stainless steel.

The real nemesis of all those who live on the sea is salt. Salt on a french fry makes an ordinary snack suddenly cause one to pause and consider all that is good in life. Every electrical connection, pipe fitting and interface is under constant attack. The Gameboy DS that Marshall brought on board less than one year ago has already been rendered useless, even though it was always stored in its own case and transported in a dry bag. Place any device or object not originally designed by God to live in a salt water environment and what you have is an unrelenting race against time. The very best materials and engineering in time all give up to the tireless attack of Neptune.

To some people life's daily routines or maintenance and upkeep is a fun challenge, to others it is a constant irritant or simply the cost of going sailing. To me, sailing author and editor of Latitudes and Attitude magazine Bob Bitchin summed it up when he said, "Attitude, the difference between adventure and ordeal." Sailing has many lessons for it's' students and perhaps one of the most important is that we each have a choice whether life is ordeal or adventure. We are the first to admit that much of what we have experienced has been sheer joy and still other moments have made us want to pack our bags and head home. By persevering through the curve balls that life at sea has thrown us and by choosing our attitude we can say without pause that the reality of cruising has and continues to be a grand adventure.

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