SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
They say the two happiest days of your life are the day you buy a boat and the day you sell it. Whoever they are, they must have been doing something wrong. Maybe the boat wasn't their dream, they were just along for the ride. Perhaps the problem wasn't the boat's fault at all, but rather that it was the wrong boat for the job. Every boat is good at something; it's up to us to choose the right boat for your particular dream.
Even little Lay Low, a Southcoast 25, who could not physiologically fulfill our offshore dreams, broke my heart when she became someone else's dream because, at her best, she had helped us as we worked toward our own dream. She taught all five of us to sail; she taught me how to live in small spaces; and she taught us all to hate Sunday nights, when the weekend cruise came to an end and all our land-based stresses met us at the dock. It was those sunsets in her cockpit, listening to the boys whisper to each other before they fell asleep, that convinced me that I never wanted it to end. Lay Low was the beginning of our cruising dream, though, ironically, we had to sell her in order to pursue it. In the 13 years since selling Lay Low, our dreams have been fulfilled by a 34 Creekmore and an 8-foot Fatty Knees.
What is it about boats, various pieces of fiberglass ad epoxy, teak and oak, stainless and bronze, that brings them into our hearts when they enter our lives? I can understand a sort of attachment to one you have built yourself. Though not all of the boats Dave has built have been necessarily my style, they were all fun to watch become a physical being out of a few lines on a piece of paper. But even boats that we have bought just for kicks seem to become part of the family. I've yet to sell (or lose) a boat without shedding a tear, or a thousand.
Selling a boat is like sending a kid off to college: you know it's best for everyone, but you can't help thinking, as the tears streak down your face, "If only I had more time." Dave built three dinghies over the years that we were in St. Croix. Each of them was good at something; none of them do we still own. Flat Rock was Dave's design, an experiment to see just how much boat he could build in an afternoon out of one sheet of plywood. She was tender, wet, small and a blast with a 4 h.p. motor on the back. Everyone on the boardwalk the day we launched her wanted to try her out. Like a barely tamed bronco, she never threw anyone, but it was close enough to cause roars of laughter from those safely on shore.
Skoot was a modification of a Hickman sea sled. Dave drew the plans and we stitched her together over a weekend. Like an old Chesapeake fishing boat, she had side steering rigged to her outboard: push for port, pull for starboard. With a 4 h.p. one person could hit 14 knots: not bad for a 8-foot boat! She had a spray hood over her bow but her occupants were continually soaked. Not a cruising dinghy for sure, but a fast ride around the harbor.
Dave's favorite boat he ever built was an Ian Oughtred 8-foot acorn, Miaja. With her lapstrake sides painted Winner Circle green, her natural teak seats, hand-painted name and matching oars, she was the prettiest dinghy in the harbor. When we traveled to Trinidad that year we couldn't bear to leave her behind, so we sailed our 34-footer 1,000 miles round trip with two hard dinghies on deck.
Selling Dave's creations has never been easy, but they were all built for a specific purpose, and being a tender to Eurisko was not it. Flat Rock is now a book case in a home on St. Croix. The last we heard Skoot was still scooting around the harbor. Miaja went through several owners before ending up with a friend of ours, currently in Panama. Looks like she'll get to see the Pacific soon.
Dave has also built a Bolger double paddle canoe Payson Pirogue he named XKPod. After several outings we discovered that we don't enjoy canoeing as much as we thought we would, so selling her wasn't as difficult as some of the others he has built. When we bought our Bolger AS-29 we were in the middle of building a Graham Byrnes Spindrift 11 nesting dinghy we named Irie so she became our tender on the Bolger. When nested, she fits perfectly on Walküre's bow. Since we don't need another dinghy, she's being sold with the AS-29: one boat bought and another built just for fun.
But of course the boat that caused the most pain was the loss of our little Bolger Nymph, Dovè Duff. Watching her little white hull disappear in the waves behind us nearly broke my heart. Since then, every time Dave says he's going to build a boat, I've requested another Dovè. One of these days my dream will come true.
Boats are dreams. Dreams of the potential places they can take us and sunsets we can watch from their cantered decks with dolphins playing in our wake. Dreams of following the sun over the next horizon. Boats are dreams unfulfilled, when life takes us in other directions and we have to sell them to those who have the same dreams we once did. Sometimes boats are bad dreams, nightmares even, of eternal upkeep, maintenance and repairs.
And unfortunately, boats can be the scenes of real life nightmares that put an end to sailing dreams and even lives. We've had several friends attacked while on their dream boat, and one who lost both his dear friend and his boat, chasing the same horizon so many of us do. For many of these poor souls, boat can become understandably haunted.
Many of us have sold, or worse, lost boats. Our son, at 15, joined the 44 other people on St. Croix to lose their boats in Hurricane Omar. We buy them or build them, give them the loving care that is required (albeit sometimes begrudgingly) and in return they help fulfill our dreams. So perhaps it's better said that the two best days in your life are when you buy the boat to fulfill your dreams and when you look around and think, "Yup, this is what I always dreamed of." Keep chasing those dreams. Wherever they may lead you.
With the recent increase in violent crimes against cruisers in the Caribbean, I feel something is being lost. MONDAY we'll share a story that just may restore your faith in the joys of cruising and meeting the locals.
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