“…there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
…from “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame
When I first read this passage several years ago, it immediately took me back to how I felt the day I began racing on a 40 ft. Luder’s Yawl at the Naval Academy in the spring of my first year. As we headed to the start line, the engine rumbled and sails whipped about in the winds as we prepared for the race. The skipper bore off the wind and the sails snapped into place as he brought us to just the right course, and he ordered the engine shut down.
As the rumbling diesel engine died, the silence it left behind was broken only by the sound of water rushing along the hull as we accelerated towards the start line. In that moment I was hooked. I knew that I liked this place. I don’t remember how well we did in the race that afternoon; what I do remember is how thoroughly I enjoyed the next two and a half hours, forgetting whatever else may have happened that day.
Today I heard that sound again. We motored Brilliant out of Marsh Harbour in the Abacos at mid morning and set our sails for, believe it or not, the very first time since purchasing her. When Carrie shut the engine off and we heard the sounds of water lapping against the hull as the wind silently pushed us along once again, we both laughingly said, “Now I remember!”
We sailed on through the day over the azure blue waters among the islands, winding south towards Little Harbor and our anchorage for the night. The winds were perfect for a leisurely sail, about 10-12 knots, aft of the beam, with hardly any chop in the water; pleasant enough to sail yet providing enough power to leave the engine off for most of the day. You don’t get many days sailing like this.
Cruising encompasses much more than just sailing, it’s a lifestyle, and not always an easy one. It encompasses a lot more facets of boating, like maintenance and repairs, handling the boat in rough weather, even paying bills from remote places. Sailing becomes more the means of transportation, not a leisure activity.
It’s a little different when your home is tilted 25 degrees on its side as you transit the open ocean, rolling and bouncing constantly with the swells and winds. Even on a “good” day out there the swells are usually 3-4 foot high, and when they’re on or aft of the beam the ride can wear you out. During the past 10 years of cruising we have rarely enjoyed a day of just sailing; rather we have enjoyed sailing as a byproduct of transporting the boat somewhere.
But once in a while we find ourselves in conditions that remind me of “simply messing about in boats”. Today is just one of the many positive aspects of cruising that we remember when we’re dealing with the nasty storm or the difficult repair project. I’ve made a mental note to seek out more days like this.