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.
When our neighbor stepped off his sailboat with the end of his power cord in his hand, we knew he hadn't started his motor just for maintenance.
"You going sailing?"
"Yeah, I'm going to head out the inlet, go down to St. Augustine for the weekend. Spend some time sailing in the ocean."
Somehow Dave managed to smile and nod and keep his mouth shut. We didn't want to offend him, but we couldn't help noticing the unseaworthy condition of his vessel. The household air conditioner he had installed a few weeks earlier still sat in the hatch, not secured in any way. Two full-sized bikes leaned against the port lifelines, waiting to catch a flogging genny sheet or flip overboard in the wrong sea. We call these types of people "bag of tools" sailors.
The expression is only meaningful if you understand its origin. Our introduction to the concept came while sitting in the comfortable salon of a singlehander, sipping coffee and exchanging stories. Pat's mannerisms and sound effects as he shared his adventures made us choke on our beverage, but his word choices were even more entertaining: maybe it's his foreign background, but more likely it's just his nature to invent unusual ways of describing situations. Contrasting his own bad luck of hitting bascule bridges, being harassed by local marine officials, and dragging anchors with the unnaturally good luck of others who don't even try to be seamanlike, he said, "These guys can throw a damn bag of tools overboard, attached to a piece of string, sit through a gale, and never move. Me, I put out five anchors and a mile of rode and I drag all over the harbor. Damn bag of tools."
We have adopted Pat's description to apply to those who never consider the "what ifs," never put out that extra anchor, never prepare for the worst, yet still make it out alright. Most of the time.
The problem we have with these types of "sailors" is not jealousy that their luck is so good. Rather, we dislike that they make us look stupid. We who try so hard to be prepared for anything, double up lines when it's going to blow, put out another anchor, take down the awning in squalls, and make sailing safely a priority see the smirks and hear the comments about how we worry too much. We are the ones who prepare for hurricanes that miss us. But we have also ridden out a category 3 hurricane without damage. Because we don't trust a bag of tools.
Our son now lives aboard with his family, within sight of several believers in the bag of tools. One boat had lost all but one piece of standing rigging which was attached to a chainplate that was pulling out of the deck. We watched that rig sway in the summer storms for months, yet never fall down. Our son has spent the previous several months rerigging his boat because he didn't like how some of the swage fittings looked. But then, he's his father's son. Another bag of tools at the marina had a hammock flapping off the forward rigging the entire three months we were visiting. A tarp waved in the squalls, their dinghy deflated on its davits, filled with water, and eventually was dangling from only one attachment. "How is it that they can not take care of anything, but nothing bad ever happens to them? If I left a hammock up it would get tangled in my genny sheet, unfurl the sail, the rig would fall down, something stupid would happen." His exaggerations were indicative of the frustration we often feel at the blind, dumb luck of a bag of tools.
As a sailing writer, I am particularly judgmental of those "worst sailing trip ever" articles that some magazines publish. It saddens me that undereducated captains who make unseamanlike decisions get their mistakes published. It seems nobody wants to hear about uneventful Gulf Stream crossings or our quiet, easy sail across the Mona Passage. Unless the rigging is lost (from lack of maintenance) or the ship is lost (when it runs out in front of a hurricane) it's not print worthy.
What it is, however, is gratifying. To wait for acceptable weather in Georgetown, Bahamas for a month while others go out and break gear and scare the crap out of their crew, and get rewarded with a beautiful three-day drifter run to Turks and Caicos is our prize. The bag of tools may get away with their inattention to detail, their unearned insouciance, and their undeserved bravado, but not forever. Mother Nature demands a toll. Either you pay it in advance, or you pay for it later.
Just because you can, doesn't mean you SHOULD. MONDAY we'll discuss the problems with strong-arm sailing.
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