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.

The Freedom of Being Newbies

October 10, 2016

It's here! My latest book, Years of Ideas from a Simple Sailor is now available on Amazon.

We seem to spend a lot of time on this site talking about things you either can't or shouldn't do. But we have a friend who often responds to our admonishments of "You can't DO that!" with "Why?" Sometimes we have legitimate reasons: it's not safe because... or it's likely to have these consequences... or just because it's a stupid idea. If we say it's unsafe in a big following sea, he'll say, "I don't plan on being offshore in those conditions." If we say, it will make the boat have an uncomfortable motion, he said, "I'll deal with it." If, out of frustration, we say, "Because you just can't!" he gives us a knowing smile that says, "So you don't have a good reason, huh?"

I sincerely believe the cliché that ignorance is bliss. Not that I condone ignorance, or wish it on anyone, but here's a little yarn about a father and son and the freedom of not knowing better.

While we were sailing toward Bimini last summer (Neptune have mercy on them this week!) we saw a small sailboat struggling to fight the Gulf Stream to get back south to the entrance, where we were. Dave commented that they must have overshot the entrance when they crossed from Florida. Not hard to do, but a seriously newbie mistake. We had no idea how right we were.

Once we entered the channel and felt the current (we couldn't wait for slack tide because the marina was closing, and we knew we'd need a hand docking in the wind we had), we knew getting Eurisko to the dock was going to be tricky. Dave passed the marina, spun her around (no easy trick with her full keel) and slid her onto the dock. It was a rare Captain Ron moment for him, though his docking skills are much better than he gives himself credit for. While we were adjusting lines to accommodate varying tides and atrocious wakes from the nearby channel, we wondered aloud about the boat we'd seen trying to motor against the Stream. We showered, wandered the town, went out to dinner, and just when we were settling in for the night, here came the boat we'd seen. Dave went out to help them dock (in the dark). Several of our neighbors joined him. Five pairs of hands plus the two on board could not keep the boat from getting almost sideways in the slip, banging off pilings, scraping down the side of the dock, and scaring the crap out of everyone watching. "And I thought my docking skills were lacking!" Yes, Dave, but the difference is, as it turns out, they have an excuse.


We greeted the crew with the usual "How ya doin', Where ya comin' from, Where ya goin'?" questions. But this time, the answers actually scored them a few points in our book. That's rare.

The crew were father and son. They had come to the Bahamas (by airplane) earlier in the year on vacation, and outside their hotel window they could see several sailboats. Interested, they started talking to some cruisers, learned of a lifestyle they'd never heard of before, and by the end of their week vacation, the son had convinced his father "We have to go get a boat and do this!" Once they got home to Florida, they found a boat they could afford, and with no prior sailing experience, without the years of planning, purchasing, studying, going to school, reading books and magazines, discussing their plans with everyone on every dock who would listen, in fact, without any of the BS that so often accompanies those who think they want to pursue this lifestyle, they threw some provisions in the boat and left. Six months from learning it was possible to sailing away. That takes some guts.

Their boat had an electric motor, so they didn't have a very large range. They didn't know how to sail, didn't understand the effects of the Gulf Stream, and were completely surprised when they "sailed" right past the entrance to Bimini. They were even more shocked when they turned around and tried to motor against the Stream (and wind) back to the entrance with their little electric motor. They had no way to get weather, didn't know there even was tide in Bimini, and had never put the boat in a slip before. Given their level of experience, I think they did a fine docking job.

While Dave was getting their story, I was sitting in our cockpit surveying their boat. They had crossed the Gulf Stream with some sort of exercise equipment on deck, a cooler strapped to the aft rail, and two lawn chairs hanging from the transom. Seeing these serious breaches of common sense made me realize that their lack of flag etiquette was the least of their worries. Their solar panel was in the path of the boom, a generator lived on their bow (always), and they weren't sure how to install the canvas for the bimini, so they were going to figure that out later. Until I heard their story, I was shaking my head. But once I realized that they were on a true adventure, that they were likely to have more fun with less risk and less stress than most cruisers we've met, I started to look at their situation a little differently. Here's how I see things.

No, I could never do what they're doing how they're doing it, but that's because I KNOW better. I've been in situation that would scrape off everything hanging from and sitting on their deck and rails. They haven't.

BUT, while we sat in Bimini watching wind (they had no way to get weather other than NOAA), waiting for a good time to cross the Stream, they loaded up their cooler (hanging from the rail) with goodies (they hadn't had time to buy much before they left, just enough for a few days: we leave the States with 6 months of food), and were ready to head across the Banks the next day.

"Are you guys going to sail all night?"
"NO! Never. We're just not comfortable with that."
"You know the weather's really not good for the next week or so for sleeping on the Banks? You don't want to try it with these winds. See our anchor roller? We did that last night in less wind than this."
"You can't just sleep wherever you want? Why does the wind matter?"

While Dave tried to explain what would take years to learn, I tuned them out and pictured their future. They are going to have some horrendous nights. They're going to be in winds, seas, and general conditions that most cruisers avoid any way possible. They may lose their rig. They may lose their boat. They may lose everything in the boat. But realistically, they probably won't lose their lives. And they have so little time, money, and sweat invested in the boat that they probably wouldn't care too much to lose it anyway. On the flip side, they're also going to have TONS of fun! They're going on a grand adventure with no preconceived notions, not ideas about how it "should" be, no sense of "you can't DO that!"

Is that so wrong? Hell no! Will they make it? Likely, if their goal is simply to have fun in the Bahamas for a while and not "sail around the world" like every third person you meet with a boat. Some say God looks after drunks and fools. I say Neptune watches over those "bag of tools" sailors. And hopefully newbies.

MONDAY we'll share our Matthew story.


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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