If all good things must come to an end, then it had to happen sooner or later. After 7 years and nearly 400 tips, DIY projects, yarns, and wordy expressions of opinion, we have decided to end our Monday posts and shut down the website. We will still be sharing tips and great information on our facebook page, and pictures of both the practical and eye candy variety on Instagram. So as we and technology move along, please move with us and like and follow us at either or both of those locations. And as always, feel free to swing by and say hi when you share an anchorage with Eurisko. Thanks for all the support. See you out there.

Because We Row

August 8, 2016

Rowing is really starting to piss Dave off. Not because we don't have to carry gasoline. Nor because we get to sit in comfort, perfectly dry in our beautiful dinghy. Not even because every outing in the dinghy is a relaxing expedition, not just a tedious ride to be gotten over with as quickly as possible. It has nothing to do with the dinghy or even us. It's everyone else who is pissing him off.

We are accustomed to being viewed as "not real" cruisers by the motoring masses in their over-sized plastic tubs with larger motors than the size of their captain's sailing skills. The fact that we actually sail our sailing vessel generally gets us chastised (by the cowards on social media) at the worst, frowned upon in person at the least. But even those who are smart (or wise) enough to keep their "you're not real cruisers in that little sailboat" ideas to themselves can't seem to keep their mouths shut once they see us rowing our hard dinghy rather than annoying the neighborhood with an outboard on an inflatable pool toy. We've actually been told, "You can't cruise very long with one of those things! If you plan to do any 'real' cruising, you'll have to buy an outboard." Right.... Frankly, I'd say the 25,000 miles of cruising we've done in the past 15 years have been pretty real. But maybe I'm wrong.

Miaja, one of the dinghies Dave built in St. Croix

Our fellow cruisers who try to disguise their disdain for our means of transportation often offer "assistance." Perhaps it's the way they ask, "Are you going to be OK?? Would you like a tow?" We appreciate the offer. It's the mentality that goes with it that is hard to swallow. We are both very physically fit. We eat well, play smart, and work hard. The combination keeps us looking (and moving) like people much younger than we. When I see a man who is 80 pounds overweight who can barely exert enough energy to pull the starter cord on the outboard look at us with pity because we "have" to row, I realize that there is something seriously wrong with society. That's the mentality that pisses us off.

Perhaps it's a simple matter of misunderstanding. A lack of education. So let me clarify and educate. We don't row because we have to. We, too, could afford a blow up rubber pool toy for a dinghy. But why would we waste our money? We, too, could afford the offending outboard necessary to power said pool toy. If we were willing to make some sacrifices. Not financially, that's not the issue. Sacrifices to our lifestyle would be necessary to tolerate such inappropriateness. We would have to be willing to give up all the benefits of rowing just to be like everyone else.

Our grandson gets the benefits of his father's rowing.

For those of you who don't have the pleasure of owning a rowing dinghy, let me explain how our lives differ. We get to see dolphins, turtles, rays, and sharks as they follow nearby or behind us while we row, like we're part of the family. I've watched two things occur around outboards. First, the people in them are going too quickly to see or hear any wildlife around them. And secondly, the wildlife is less likely to make an appearance with one of those around. Can you blame them? (Yes, I know, someone is going to tell me a great story about how a dolphin came right up to them in their power dinghy. That's great. But think about all you've missed, too. We watch it every time we're out in the dinghy. We always spot some wildlife that no one nearby has a clue is there.)

Because we have a rowing dinghy rather than a deflatable, we get to sail our dinghy. If you think that's not worth much, you should ride along with us some day as we sail to town for water and groceries and watch the smiles and the faces light up as we sail by. There is something special about sailing an 8-foot dinghy through anchored boats, chatting with people as they sit on deck and watch you tack, sharing stories of "Oh, we have one of those. But we left it at home." I've yet to ask aloud, "Why?" The answer is obvious. They're too concerned about the amount of "work" involved. What others see as work, we see as exercise. We also walk to the grocery store rather than taking a taxi. We have a manual windlass, we raise the dinghy on board using a manual winch, we even have a foot pump for water rather than a wasteful electric pump. My point is, we're not afraid of a little work. What is everyone doing all day that they can't take 15 minutes to get to shore instead of 5? I don't get how busy all these cruisers are that 10 extra minutes of commute time makes them pity us.

You can even tow your boat by rowing.

As rowers, we have other added benefits. We get where we're going dry. Every dinghy ride I've ever had in a deflatable I've arrived with a wet bum. I get to sit on a real seat, rather than on the side of a bouncy toy as it tries to buck me off. We can talk to each other without shouting so the entire harbor can hear us just so we can hear each other. And best of all, we don't disturb others with an obnoxious smell, noise, and wake.

There's a class distinction imposed on us because of our choice. We are shunned, or worse, pitied at the dinghy dock. We get the look that is usually reserved for the blind man on the corner. Even a Bahamian kid watching Dave get in Eureka at the dock the other day said, "You have to use those?"
"No," Dave said. "I get to use them."

Eureka at her finest

A Seven Seas-er tried to give us an outboard 13 years ago in Solomon's, MD. He drove his loud, smelly, obnoxious dinghy over to our beautiful Fatty Knees and offered it to me. "You poor thing, raising 3 kids on this tiny boat and you have to row! Pity, pity," was implied if not all verbally expressed. I politely told him no thank you.
"Um, you might want to talk to your husband before you turn this down! You really need an outboard! This will at least tide you over until you can get an inflatable and a larger outboard."
"We don't plan to get either."
"Oh, I guess you're not going far."
I was too livid to respond.

But the best benefit of rowing is that our son rows, which means our grandson tells stories of manatee, dolphins, and roseate spoonbills he gets to see up close because his daddy's outboard doesn't scare them away. Because his daddy rows.

So the next time you pity the guy who "has" to row, take a look at yourself. There's a good chance he's pitying you.

Some of my favorite cruising moments have been in the dinghy.


I anticipate this post will raise some hackles. I am probably going to hear from the "to each his own" crowd, the "you're so intolerant of anyone who does things differently from you" crowd, and probably even the "We have an outboard, do you think she's talking about us, George?" crowd. Let me just say, I don't care what kind of dinghy you have. Your discomfort and wet ass are none of my concern. This is for the planners. The people who haven't yet been convinced that they have to do something one way because everyone else does. There are other ways. Don't blindly buy what everyone else buys without first looking at the evidence. Below are our responses to people's defenses for owning deflatables and outboards.

We once had someone ask, "But what do you do in strong current? How do you row against that?"
There are few places we have been where the current is stronger in cuts that we have to run in a dinghy than Georgetown, Exumas. We have hit it a max flood and max ebb, and never have we been unable to get through, even with a full load of passengers, water, and groceries. If you try that day one, yes, you may have a problem. But 20 years of rowing has made us rather proficient at it. Before we had the skill to run such cuts, we would simply wait for slack tide and plan accordingly. We're never in that big of a hurry to get anywhere.

"But how do you get to town if you're anchored far away?"
In Georgetown, Bahamas, we rigged Eureka and sailed the two miles to town for water and supplies. In Bocas del Toro, Panama, the round trip was 8 miles. In an 8-foot dinghy. It turns a grocery run into a pleasure sail that we look forward to.

"I like to dive and snorkel, so I need an inflatable."
We snorkel off Eureka all the time. After snorkeling from her and from a friend's inflatable the same week, I can honestly say it's no harder to get in the right hard dinghy than it is to get aboard a deflatable from the water.

"I like to take the dinghy fishing."
Dave has fished 7 miles offshore in the Caribbean in Eureka. You don't have to go any further to find fish. You're just burning fuel.

I'm sure there are more reasons, but these are the frequently given excuses. Listening to them is the biggest inconvenience we face because we row.

MONDAY we'll share a maintenance tip for those slightly less organized, like us.


Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?

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