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Last Sunday I ran into a guy down at the marina.  I’d seen his boat come in several times.  He always seemed to have a full group with him.  I was trying to dodge the heat and he just kind of walked up.  He admired our boat, commented as much.  I did the same with his, a smaller yacht but one he’s kept up well.  He was a nice guy, unpretentious.  Not all are so.

 

Later that afternoon, I ran into the guy again as he and his family unloaded their boat and headed back to Beaumont, Texas their home base.  He introduced me to his wife and married children before the conversation eventually turned to my boat and sailing in general.  Some kind of way we got on the subject of the group of people who decide they want to “live the dream” of sailing…and then, in one way or the other, see their dreams crash and burn.

 

They went on to tell me about a couple they knew quite well who got the sailing bug.  They bought a fairly large boat and arranged for these people of whom I was talking to crew for them on bringing the boat back from the Mississippi coast…that is a three or four day sail.  They told me that during the fairly short passage back, the wind picked up and the seas kicked up to “four or five feet”, making for a “great sail.”  At least it was a great sail for these nice people who were telling me the story.  For the owners, it scared them almost to death.  It was the last sail they ever made on their boat…three weeks after they bought the boat, it was put back up for sale.

 

One has no idea how many times I’ve seen this, or something close, happen.  Our 31 foot sloop sits in the same marina as our new Tayana.  The boat that is berthed next to our 31 footer was owned by a guy named John.  He was quite a character.  For two years after we bought our boat it seemed that every time we went to our boat this fellow was on his doing something.  Keep in mind that we completely rebuilt the 31 footer…we were at the marina all the time.  And, so was John.

 

John had the lingo down.  He was constantly refitting his 30 foot or so Bombay Clipper with things.  He replaced all of his ports with new stainless steel ones.  He had all of his teak rails replaced.  He had someone come to his boat every week and wash it down.  He upgraded his bow sprit and had other stainless steel work custom fabricated.  It seemed more likely than not that if we went to our boat there was always some boat contractor working on John’s.

 

John would tell me how he was fixing his boat up so that he could “get the hell out of Dodge”, to use his words.  He told us as soon as he got the boat to his liking he was going to shove off and spend a few years in the Caribbean.  We thought that was great but noticed that for at least two solid years his boat never, ever left the slip.  He never sailed his boat.

 

One day, we noticed that his boat was gone.  As this was so unusual, we both commented on it.  A day or so later his boat showed back up.  There were several big gouges along the starboard side.  It was pretty obvious that he’d crashed the boat somehow.  We never saw John again.  His boat is now up for sale.

 

As John faded from the marina picture, another fellow surfaced.  His boat was berthed directly across from ours.  It was a very small boat; I forget what manufacturer.  The boat’s overall length was only 24 feet…LWL was even shorter.  The owner was extremely proud of her.  He could reel off every single obscure boat statistic about her.  To hear him talk the little boat was unsinkable.  It didn’t have an engine at all, but that was OK with the owner for he was a “purist” and “what do you really need an engine for anyhow…it’s a sailboat.”  This guy and his wife were going to “cruise the world” in this little boat…retirement was only a year or so away.

 

At first he was a bit like our friend John.  Every weekend he was on his boat doing something.  First thing he did was put stereo speakers in the cockpit…then he seemed to struggle for a long time repairing a leak that seemed to located on his handrails.  He absolutely emerged himself in his boat.  But, also, like John, we noticed the boat never left the marina.

 

One day, we took our boat out for a sail.  It was a great day for sailing.  The wind was 10 knots or so, the bay was flat.  When we came in the owner of the little boat was on his boat doing stuff.  We asked him if he was getting ready to go out.  “Oh, no,” he said.  “Conditions are way too nasty to go out this afternoon.”

 

My husband and I looked at each other…but said nothing.  That was about 18 months ago.  We haven’t seen that guy on his boat since.

 

The list just seems to go on and on…

 

A couple of months ago, we were just walking through the marina looking at boats.  We came upon a 50 foot Gulfstar.  A big boat for sure.  Gulfstars are blue water capable for sure.  I’ve never cared for them, but they are pretty good boats.  At first glance, this one looked to be in okay condition.  But, the closer one looked, the more you could tell that there were a ton of band-aid type repairs to it.  There was a middle aged lady on board and when she saw us looking she struck up a conversation.

 

She told us how she, her husband, and teenage daughter were “live aboards.”  They were living aboard as they fixed their yacht up for cruising.  She said they had been kicked out of the marina because of some construction they were doing on the boat, but that work had now been done and they were glad to be berthed again.  (Note:  most marinas, including ours, prohibit boat owners from doing any major construction on their boats for it is said that destroys the ambiance of the marina setting.)  She was very proud of their yacht and invited us aboard to check it out…we took her up on it.  Below decks, their yacht was pitiful.  It was so bad it hurt us to even look at it.  They’d done work below they were quite proud of, but to us it was obvious they were way over their heads.  The lady said that they all couldn’t wait to join “the cruising lifestyle.”

 

A couple of weeks ago, we were talking to a local canvas craftsman.  He knew the Gulfstar people well.  He said they’d thrown in the towel and were putting the boat up for sale. 

 

I was reading a sailing blog the other day.  The blog was written by local people.  The owners had a good boat and were essentially rebuilding it from the keel up.  They’d redone the wiring, redone the plumbing, ripped out one of the heads to expand a berth, rebedded ports, etc…you name it, and they were doing it.

 

It was a good blog and I enjoyed reading it, but couldn’t help thinking that these people seemed to be just another couple who didn’t know what they didn’t know.  I noticed they were going to replace their propane stove/oven with an Origo alcohol one…because they really didn’t “need an oven anyhow” and it would be easier to acquire/stock up on alcohol than “lug all those heavy propane cylinders around.”  There were other things kind of like that.  After reading most of their blog it kind of became obvious that these people pretty much knew it all…but didn’t know what they didn’t know.  Any suggestions one might want to give them would be kind of like trying to teach pigs to sing. 

 

Like the other examples above, at least from their blog, this young couple seemed to almost never actually sail.  I kind of shuddered to myself thinking of how important their pristine wiring and plumbing would be to them after they get caught in bad weather for the first time.  They have two small children, I wondered to myself if the thought had ever crossed their mind that it might be worth actually sailing a bit and seeing if they even like it…before committing to being world cruisers.  I doubt it had.

 

I don’t begrudge any of these people their dreams.  As for the couple I just spoke of, I absolutely hope that things work out for them.  I think their chances would be a bit better if they went into the whole thing with their eyes more wide open.  But, hey, to each their own.

 

One thing all of these people have in common is how they soak themselves in the dream.  To the one, they all couldn’t (or can’t) wait to join “the sailing lifestyle.”  I’ve never quite understood what that is, the sailing lifestyle.  The way some people’s eyes seem to glass over when they repeat that phrase it’s almost like a cult I think…the sailing lifestyle.

 

One reads their blogs, or talks to them on the dock, and at least for my husband and I, we walk away shaking our heads.  Many have big dreams, most have little skill.  Some seem to have just enough smarts to get themselves in real big trouble.  They read sailing blogs (often written by life long sailors) and think it’s nothing to sail around the world…or even make a several hundred mile long passage.  As above…they don’t know what they don’t know.

 

Hopefully, whether their dreams succeed or fail, they will exit the experience safe and sound.

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2 Comments

  1. why so elitest? I commend these people for at least pursuing their dreams. Most just think their dreams are unattainable and never even try. It is clear you are experienced and enjoy sailing. Maybe these people just enjoy being at the marina around the water and putzing about there boat. Maybe they aren’t concerned with their ultimate goal, just the pursuit of a goal. If you really cared they weren’t sailing so much you would offer to crew with them to show them the rewards of sailing and to teach them all this knowledge you were apparently born knowing.

    Some are unrealistic, I agree. Maybe even more than some. But people probably fail for all kinds of reasons. Stuff happens in life. Some their own fault, others not. Plans and interests change, people die, people get sick, life happens. You don’t know, what you don’t know. But I would rather try, enjoy the ride, and fail than just dream about it. The fact that it is so challenging is probably why it appeals to so many. If it was easy and everyone picked it up in no time you probably wouldn’t be sailing. Instead you’d be griping about how so many people leave RVs parked in their driveways most of the year or how people who live in your golf course community never play golf. or how people who have beach houses are only there a few days a year. I don’t mean to pick a fight but I just think you are generalizing all these people who haven’t followed the same path as you. I have heard this attitude a lot latly and I think it is judgmental. I think these people are just dreamers. and I love dreamers. What happened to “shoot for the moon so if you miss you’ll land among the stars”?

    • Well, forgive me…I certainly don’t mean to come across as elitist. The truth is that I agree with everything that you say in your comment. But, please understand, I don’t really give a rat’s ass what these people do. My comment was an observation but, truly, to each their own. Both me and my husband do, in fact, regularly offer to crew for dock mates if we sense they may not be as confident as they’d like to be.

      I realize you say that you say are not here to “pick a fight” but your general sarcasm is a point taken…and that’s fine. I could address each of your points – even the sarcastic ones – but, again, I generally agree with your comment.


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