Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Failure of Saltiness

Just in case prior articles have somehow left the impression that I am an Experienced, Salty Sailor, let me just state for the record that I am not. Experienced, that is. Technically, I’m not even sure it’s appropriate to call me a Sailor unless you can loosely define the term as “someone who pulls the jib line on a sailboat when forced to do so at the point of a gun.”

Real Sailors (trademark pending) are also known as Salty Sailors, and these fine men and women are full of pithy advice. (I did NOT say “pissy.”) They drip these pearls of wisdom liberally over your ego like corrosive splats of bird guano on the shining deck of your vessel. These unlooke- for gems of information have the power to simultaneously save your life and ensure your utter lack of confidence to put it at risk. Their collective wisdom is priceless but daunting, both in its scope and its power to terrify.

I, on the other hand, lack a certain depth of knowledge on this subject. Prior to purchasing s/v Don Quixote, my entire sailing resume consisted of an overnight on the Chesapeake, the chief memorable moment being running aground on a sand bar. There was also a week in the San Juan Islands on a Cal 28’ for our honeymoon during which I believe I threatened to divorce my new husband no less than four times. So it’s pretty much impossible to say that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to all things nautical. Certainly, salty sailors will inform you that I don’t know my aft quarters from a whirlpool in the water.

Thus, to those lured to this web site with notions of learning how to sail, live aboard, or cruise in a catamaran, so sorry. I’m not really capable of telling you the safe, sane, and proper way to do it. I can only offer my own creative commomns protected, honed in the fine crucible of the real world, and orthogonal to anything officially supported by Real Sailors (trademark still pending) techniques. My admittedly na├»ve approach to the subject is – as with so many things in life – stubbornness uber alles.

You can.
You will.
You just need to want it badly enough.

A question I often hear when people learn that in my salad days I rode my bike across the United States is, “How do you prepare for a trip like that?” And I reply, “You can’t.” Or more accurately, the way to prepare to ride your bike across the United States is to buy some equipment, get a map, read a book, and get on the bike. Ride 70 miles. Camp for the night in a field or park. Get up the next morning and get on the bike. Ride another 70 miles. Rinse, repeat for roughly a month. Two things happen: First, you will have ridden from Yorktown to the Mississippi River; and second, you will know how to get across the next two thirds of the country.

So when I tell you that the way to learn how to be a cruising sailor is to buy some equipment, get a map, read a book, and get in a boat, I speak with some experience, although none particularly useful to the endeavor. It’s pretty safe to assume that you can move the boat to the next inlet, drop anchor and spend the night. Get up, put up the sails, pull up the anchor (maybe even in that order), and move down the coast another few nautical miles. Rinse, repeat for a season. Two things will happen: First, you’ll probably make it from Seattle to someplace south of Mexico; and second, you’ll know how to cruise.

And while you may not be Salty, I can assure you that you will be a Sailor.

4 comments:

Behan said...

This resonates. There's sort of a corollary I've felt- the questioning I get of how we can have "the background" to do what we're planning. I tend to hide behind J's sailing resume. But the truth is that much of what will become "the background" to be out there cruising will be learned as we go. Get up, deal, rinse, repeat.

(aside to self: shit, have I given any "salty" advice? :-P)

Frank said...

I'm old and opinionated; but I'm not *salty*! I am, instead, *sweet*. Ask yer kids if that ain't true. (grin)

cheryl said...

What an exciting adventure you are on. I found you on a "should I homeschool?" quest and LOVE your blog and your writing style - and I shall be following your adventure.

Oh - and didn't you ever watch "I shouldn't be alive"? Keep the coast in sight...LOL.

Dale said...

I recall another sailing adventure when we got stuck in Friday Harbor when the tide went out and sailing into Victoria under full sail having missed the billboard announcing the illegality of that technique.