A Good Day’s Sail

This picture has intrigued me for a long time…carina

It’s of a young Hungarian, Aron Meder, sailing around the world in a 19′ boat. It’s not something I would want to do, sailing around the world that is, but the picture tickles my imagination. The wonderful thing about sailing is that if you have enough food, water and desire the whole world is open to you.  Another thing I like about this picture is that it is sort of a kick in the pants to those people who believe that the only way you can go cruising is if you have at least a 40 foot boat to do it. I’m not saying people should try and circumnavigate the globe in an eight foot boat like Kristofer J. “Harley” Harlson intends on doing, or an 11’10″ boat as Serge Testa did. But I’m a firm believer in the credo that if you want to go cruising take the boat you have and go.

Ninety nine and forty four one hundredths of a percent of people who dream about going cruising never do because they’ve been brainwashed by the slick commercial boating publications who perpetuate their advertisers propaganda that if you somehow manage to clear the breakwater in anything less than a 40 footer you will instantly die. So they toil away at jobs they basically detest trying to save up enough money to buy that unatainable dream and it’s nearly always impossible to sustain a dream that long.

Sterling Hayden hit the nail on the head in his book Wanderer when he wrote: “‘… men often say ‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.’  What these men can’t afford is not to go.  They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security.’  And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine–and before we know it our lives are gone.

“What does a man need–really need?  A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in–and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment.  That’s all–in the material sense. And we know it.  But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

“The years thunder by.  The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience.  Before we know it the tomb is sealed.”

We also have to address the definition of “cruising.” Too often people, I think, believe that a “cruise” has to be something of epic proportions. A circumnavigation or at a minimum crossing some vast body of water. That is patently absurd. A three day weekend, like the one coming up this forth of July, can contain a cruise. Someone who packs some food and a tent in their skiff, leaves on Friday, spends a couple of nights out under the stars and is back home Monday night has made a cruise and their souls are better for it.

Another reason I like the photo is because it brings back the memory of one of the best day’s of sailing I ever had. I left Placencia, Belize, heading for the Rio Dulce, Guatemala, in my beloved Nancy Dawson, a Kaiser 26.

I had cleared the Sapodilla Cays in lower Belize and was into the Bay of Honduras in the early afternoon when the trade winds kicked in. Instead of being in the sheltered waters of the Inner Channel, as the call the water between the reef and the mainland of Belize is called, I was now being lifted by ocean swells which were about the size of what you see in the photo above. The sky was blue, the clouds were pure white, the waves were azure and the wind was coming in on the port quarter at about 2o knots.

I put a double reef in the main but kept the genny flying, set Florence, my windvane steering system named for an old girlfriend since they were both French and often a pain in the ass, and delighted in my down-wind ride. My dingy pranced behind like a puppy chasing along in play.

I never knew how fast I was actually sailing. Back then (’92) I couldn’t afford a GPS and I was way out of Loran range. I had a speedometer but who knows how accurate it was? I always felt that if the speedo was clocking along at 5 I was doing well, and I factored in that towing the dinghy slowed me down by probably a knot. But now the speedometer was holding steady at between 6 and 7 knots and as I would surf down the face of the swells the needle would often peg out at 10! Again, I won’t vouch for the veracity of the thing, but the ride was exhilerating. For four hours I froliced along in delight and was actually disappointed when I approached Cabo de Tres Puntas which meant my day was over. I wished I could have gone for days like that.

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