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.
Oh the people you meet. One of my favorite parts of cruising is pulling into an anchorage and seeing a familiar boat. Or watching a sail on the horizon, rooting for them to beat the setting sun, finally catching a glimpse of a familiar hull and thinking, "I know that boat." More than the palm trees, sandy beaches, volcanoes, and tropical reefs, it's the people who make this lifestyle fun.
We hadn't even left the Chesapeake Bay when we met Pat as he rowed past us in Spa Creek Annapolis, back when you could still anchor there. Drawn to another rower, we shouted our greetings and were soon invited for coffee on his boat. Single handing a 31-foot plywood Golden Hind, he wasn't too worried about the hole in the side.
"Oh that? It's no big deal. It's above the water line and none of my books in that locker have ever gotten wet before, so it must be fine."
It was over an inch in diameter.
We called him Full Main Pat. Screaming down the Bay, double reefed main and stay sail, we saw Pat flying a full main on the horizon. Adhering to our "See you when we see you" form of buddy boating, we were thrilled when Pat motored next to us a few hours later.
"Why are you motoring, Pat?"
"Well, I was cruising along close to 7 knots, just gettin' it when all of a sudden I heard this horrendous noise. I looked up and my main was split nearly in two."
"That's because you were flying a full main!"
"We had two reefs in."
"Oh, well, you know, reefs are a pain when you're single handing. Who needs them? I have a self-reefing main!" His laugh and insouciance left us shaking our heads. And smiling.
That same trip south we joined cruisers for the Friday night feast at Back Street Pub in Beaufort, NC where we met Deiter, a single handing German who was fond of beer. Dave expressed his admiration for single handers.
"Everything must be so much harder. There is no one to hold the wheel while you read the chart, no one to make you a sandwich, no one to take over for you so you can hit the head."
"The head is no problem. I use the Pringle."
"Pringle? What are you talking about, Deiter?"
"You don't know the Pringle?" He mimed relieving himself into a Pringle can.
Twelve years later, all one of us has to say in our best German accent is, "You don't know the Pringle?" and the other one will shoot coffee out his nose laughing.
Though we do seem to be drawn to single handers (probably because they often sail simply, so we can relate) we have met many cruising couples over the years, too. The Browns are now in Grenada, but we met them in Trinidad, along with their sword-wielding seven-year-old, Adam. On a yellow boat they had sailed from England, they were our heroes, and the first couple we met who were successfully homeschooling. She and I spent hours together, comparing American commercialism with her experiences at home in Portugal, lamenting Trinidad's lack of "paradise" qualities, and comparing techniques for raising kids on boats. Adam had his father's British accent, which only compounded the humor in his entertaining tales.
Cruising is the great equalizer. Though we are drawn to those on small, simple boats, we have made great friends with people cruising on the opposite end of the spectrum, as well. In Guadeloupe we were "stuck" for a month because of weather, but we were not alone. The couple on Grano de Oro could not be more different from us (politically, economically, spiritually) yet we shared some great times with them. They sailed for six months, then flew back to California to run their coffee concession for six months to pay for their time off. A great idea and some wonderful people whom we would have never met in any other circumstances.
The kids also benefited from the idea that we're all in the same anchorage, snorkeling the same reefs, seeing the same sunsets. When the 80-foot converted shrimp trawler anchored next to us in Bequia, we assumed these were "not our kind of people," but thankfully our kids had none of those notions. By the end of the day the three of them were jumping off the raised outriggers with the two boys off Tara. When we were invited aboard for dinner, we couldn't very well refuse--they were so indulgent of our kids. Not only was dinner relaxing, friendly, and tasty, but it was also a reminder that we shouldn't be so quick to judge. Sam and Virginie were boat-flippers. They bought boats, made them attractive for cruising, and sold them for a profit. Sometimes a huge profit. They had started with a sailboat twenty years earlier. By the time they purchased Tara they were ready for the big time. She was a shrimp trawler that had been sold at auction when the economy took a tumble and the Gulf Coast of the US suffered accordingly. They took it to Venezuela where materials and labor were cheap and converted it into a luxurious cruising trawler. (I saw it listed for sale a year or so later for over a million.)
No other place in our lives have we encountered the variety of interesting people that we do on the water. Cruising is not for the TV-watching couch potato conformist who can only dream. It is for the do-ers, the outside-the-box thinkers, the imaginative, inquisitive, and adventurous. Regardless of your political or religious views, regardless of your past life, current income, or the color of your working collar, cruising is the great equalizer. It puts us all in the same boat. So the next time you see a boat pull into the anchorage that you don't recognize, row over and introduce yourself. You'll be surprised by the people you meet.
MONDAY we'll share my favorite seasickness remedy and where you can purchase it for much less than at your local pharmacy.
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