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.

Too Dangerous to Sail

February 3, 2014

I read a disturbing piece in a Caribbean sailing magazine a few years ago. The writer was obviously a cruiser, since the title was "Let's Keep Sailing Where it Belongs." The gist, as the title suggests, was that there were too many reckless sailors out there, interfering with those cruisers who were trying to motor into anchorages. The author was of the opinion that, if one wants to sail on the ocean blue, that's great, but let's keep the sailing "out there," not in channels, passes, and anchorages. After all, he felt he had the right to motor his sailing vessel wherever he would like, without the nuisance of having to give right away to those of us ignorant enough to sail our sailboats. He also feared that our sailing habits would some day put him in danger. I, on the other hand, fear that his lack of sailing competence will some day put us--or his crew--in danger when his motor dies, prop gets fouled, or he is for some other reason forced to sail his boat into port, having never practiced such a "risky" maneuver.

And then it happened again. Just last week a seemingly innocuous question was asked on a site for women who sail. "Who here cruises without an engine?" And the flood gates opened wide and fast. As soon as I read the question I thought, "Here we go again." It was the can opener that let the worms out, for sure.

It took a few reasonable responses such as, "We did, now we don't," and "We've found over the years that there are very few any more," and my personal favorite, "How many of you have a 14-foot oar?" But of course, it had to happen. The following reply got my blood pressure red lining at 8:00 in the morning.

How exactly was having a motor doing this dragger any good?

"Personally, I think to have an engine available is a safety issue. You don't have to use the engine if you choose not too but in some circumstances the engine provides safety for you and those around you. I would not want to be anchored next to someone without an engine in high winds no matter how good they think their anchor is."

Naturally, I couldn't let that statement go. I'll admit, I'm a member of this particular group of women because of the opportunity for me to get a feel for who is out there, what they're talking about, what's in the news, and what sells magazine article. I'm not particularly fond of "cruisers" who motor around in their plastic boats bigger than some houses I've lived in, with a command station that allows for unseamanlike behavior, who talk about the places they have collected. So the following comment came out with no time to edit before I hit "post."

"I would not want to be anchored next to someone in a sailboat who felt they had to rely on their engine. Being able to maneuver your boat without an engine is a necessary skill. For everyone's safety."

And then, after some consideration, I followed with a more thoughtful comment.

"A motor is no substitute for good seamanship. Anchoring in the wrong spot is anchoring in the wrong spot. Often having an engine gives people a false sense of being able to motor their way out of danger. Cabo San Lucas. An engineless sailor is less like to put themselves in that situation because they know they have to sail their way out of it.
Please don't tell me that my ability to sail my sailboat puts you in danger. That's a ridiculous insult."

Her retort was classic female cruiser. Women are not generally very nice to each other most of the time, and cruisers often have a particular disdain for anyone who can and does sail.

"To each his own. I think it a little arrogant and quite frankly I find it offense (sic) to make the assumption because someone opts on the side of caution that their skills are lacking. Our cat is called "Sea Yawl Later", please feel free NOT to anchor beside us."

Oh trust me, I know your type and we can usually spot you immediately. We go so far as to avoid entire islands because your type is known to frequent them.

But as often happens, I was reminded that not everyone who motors more than sails is necessarily a "cruiser." My faith in the possibility of meeting other women who sail who appreciate the skill necessary to sail exclusively was renewed when another member of the group joined in.

"I'm disappointed at the snarkiness of the comments. I'll feel free NOT to anchor near you, and I DO have an engine. You're under the mistaken assumption that someone without a reciprocating internal combustion engine, an invention of the last 200 years aboard boats, is without any form of propulsion. How do you think ships traveled the globe for thousands of years before that? I am very impressed with the skills of those who cruise without an I-C engine, but for me I would find it too limiting in the places I could travel or dock. Also, on my 26 ft 4500 lb sloop, it was perfectly doable to sail through to the back of the marina when the outboard failed somewhere in the middle of the marina, as the cranky little bugger often did. But it's not something I would attempt with my current 41 foot 38,000 lb full keel cruiser. I would have to anchor at my current level of skill."

And I believe that is exactly the point. We ALL need to anchor at our level of skill. Not based on the abilities of your motor, but at YOUR skill level. If you have an engine but can't sail your way out of the anchorage you've chosen, please take a mooring or go to a marina, for it has been my experience that having a motor has absolutely no impact on whether you drag into someone or not. Only your own skill and prudence can do that. Because we sail (and because it would be rude to do otherwise) we always anchor at the back of the field, which means when someone drags, there's a good chance they're going to hit us. The half a dozen times we have been hit by dragging boats, they have ALL had working motors. But it's not like you generally have that kind of time. You barely have time to fend, and some people don't even realize they're dragging until they hit something. How is a motor going to help you then?

In all honesty, we do have a motor and it frequently works, we just choose not to use it, we choose anchorages, marinas, weather windows, neighbors, and channels as if we don't have it. Does that make us dangerous? I think not. If anything, it makes us prudent and quite frankly, better sailors. Because if you don't practice sailing, there is no way you can become a better sailor.

One of my favorite replies to this particular thread says it all.

"I believe everyone who sails should regularly practice sailing on and off the anchor and on and off a mooring. It gives confidence so that when (not if) the engine poo poo hits the fan, you know you have the skills to deal with the situation safely and not rely on someone to bail you out."

Sailing makes you a better sailor and that is the difference between sailors and cruisers. Anyone can drive their boats(or fly, or take a cruise ship) to many of the places we have been, but until you have sailed into that magical port using your own skills (and determination and help from Mother Nature), you will never be able to feel the same appreciation of these lands that sailors do.

Regardless of how many people treat them A BOAT IS NOT A CAR! MONDAY we'll share some dangerous ways in which boaters wrongly assume they can treat their boat like a car.

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