Is there such a thing?
I am a sailor i.e. I sail my boat. A boat of which the primary means of propulsion are sails. The secondary means of propulsion is an outboard motor. A small one. A motor so diminutive, that to a power boater it would be considered a trolling motor. Many a time I have looked at power boats and wondered (depending on the weather): what is the attraction/I wish I had one of those.
The other day I was talking to another boater at the marina. He was explaining to me the time it took him to get from Vancouver to the Sunshine coast.
“About 45 minutes,” says he. I marvelled at that fact. It takes me about 8 hours to go the same distance, provided the weather is in my favour. He in turn, marvelled at that fact. We stood there in silence for a few seconds, marvelling at each other’s situation, no doubt with a bit of sympathy for the other’s misguided ways.
“Well, I have never been on a boat that goes that speed,” says I.
“Wanna come out for a quick spin?” He asks.
“Absolutely!” says I and make haste to climb aboard.
He maneuvered us confidently out of the slip, missing other boats by inches in a way that I would not dream of on my boat. Due to displacement more than anything.
We obey the speed limit until past the lateral marks.
“Let’s see if we can convert you to power boating,” says he looking straight ahead and proceeds to open up the engine.
We reach 36 knots in the time it takes me to catch my breath. The boat is making those long leaps from one wave to another. I thought we were going to go into orbit.
I hung on to the handle on the dashboard in front of me (the boat had a dashboard). The sea slammed beneath us.
Suddenly it all became clear. It was an epiphany. We were on a highway, driving at a good clip, making good time. We had a destination and we were using the water to get us there. Travelling from A to B. I was astounded.
I understood ALL OF IT.
• The big engines
• The big cooler
• The down riggers
• The stereo
When we slowed down again to 5 knots, it felt like we were standing still. I looked on at the other boats and sailboats and wondered how they could enjoy going so slow and why were they making such a fuss about us getting too close to them. I could definitely feel the comfort of the shoe being on the other foot.
After getting back to shore, I thanked my neighbour and extended the invitation to join me on my boat for a quick spin some day. He smiled good-naturedly and every part of him seemed to say,
Fair enough says I. It’s not for everyone.
I wasn’t really converted. I went back to my heavy displacement, long, thin means of transport and reflected on my recent experience. I was very grateful to get that insight into boat travel.
I have always thought that travelling by sailboat is quite a remarkable experience. I don’t often think of my destination until I’m either really tired or wet and cold, even then I might just reluctantly say good-bye to a day of travail. That’s not to say that I don’t get frustrated when sailing to a schedule, which for a coastal cruiser is more of constant than an anomaly. Sailing to a destination to get a good spot in an anchorage or to make a timed passage at slack water or to beat the weather (before the weather beats me) can lead to wishes of a stronger engine or the desire to become a hovercraft. Indeed I have had those days when the wind has died and I end up motoring for hours on end at a steady 5 knots. For the most part however, I don’t mind the variables leading up to my arrival at a destination. For the most part, I enjoy them. There’s a lot to keep me busy.
• The sound of the waves lapping against the hull
• The attention I must pay to being a look out and a navigator
• The detoxification of mental process that occupies me on land
• Dealing with the inevitable list of things that go wrong on any given day
When I have people out on the boat for the first time, they ask me if they can bring wine and snacks. Sure thing, I say. You may find that you don’t actually need them. There will be enough nature occurring to occupy your senses that you won’t need to dull them or fatten your body. Indeed afterwards, you will feel slightly tired from breathing in all that fresh air and concentrating on the tasks at hand, even if what that means is sitting on the fore deck for a couple of hours.
Relaxation for me is not a form of work, rather it is the freeing of my mind from the daily chores and mental processes. Sailing a boat, even though it is my second nature still finds a way to challenge me and shake me up a bit. Perhaps shake me up just enough to keep me in the moment and perhaps enjoy myself. Just a bit.
What we sailors and power boaters share is the unspoken joy of being on the water, of being in a different medium: air, water, wind. The land is beautiful to behold when looking from a boat. Sitting at anchor when a puff of wind catches the bow and moves us gently from side to side.
Often, it’s just being with friends experiencing the waterways in whatever form takes us.