Thursday, October 2, 2014

900 days of sailing

Today marks exactly 2.5 years or 30 months that we’ve lived aboard Shiloh. That we’ve been cruising. That we’ve been sailors.
I can’t quite believe it to be honest. I still feel like a newbie, an observer, a wannabe. But at the same time, I can’t imagine living on land.
We ticked a bucket list item last month – sailing up to the statue of liberty. It was amazing, tingles all over. 6 months before that it seemed a distant dream. That was back when I imagined that once we’d sailed all the way up to New York city, I’d finally be a ‘real sailor’!
Recently though I’ve realised something profound. (For me at least!) I’d been silently assessing, researching and compiling data from all the sailing folk we’ve met. Trying to ascertain how we fit in to the cruising life. What kind of sailors we are. Which box we should slot ourselves into. And that was exactly the wrong perspective to have. 

Like anywhere, you invent your own life. Your own style of doing things. Carve out your own comfort zones, and then as far as sailing goes, pushing that envelope all the time.
Every time we find ourselves in a big storm with zero visibility, whipping winds, huge waves tossing us around, lightning snapping the water surface all around us, my boundaries are pushed a bit further.
Then there are the days where your boat is anchored directly across from the Manhattan skyline and you find yourself clad in your flip flops and ‘cruiser’ backpack, navigating the eclectic neighborhoods of NYC on foot. You gotta pinch yourself on those days.
Somewhere in my distant tactical memory are the days I pinched myself in the crystal blue turquoise waters of the Exumas in the Bahamas. It was like a different world. Yet what connects the two worlds is us, and our experience of both, and all the amazing worlds in between.
For the first 2 years I imagined that being a cruiser was living on your boat in tropical heat, with no a/c, swimming daily, listening to the ‘cruiser net’ on the VHF radio and enveloping yourself or at least observing the politics of the cruiser community in the islands. It was all about rum punches with frequent squalls, anchoring in clear sandy bottom places, spotting sting rays and turtles, enduring rough seas from island to island.
This year I’ve learned so much more. Cruising is what you make it, where you make it.
I haven’t swam in months, haven’t seen the bottom where we drop the anchor in about as long (there is a correspondence there!), and our VHF radio is constantly buzzing with local fishing boat traffic. I’m wearing faux fur-lined tights and fuzzy slippers and I can’t remember when I last broke a sweat. Cheap golden rum has been replaced with red wine and tots of whisky to warm the chilled soul.
Downtown Boston


Provincetown, Cape Cod

Provincetown dock

Gotta love Provincetown

Guest House Provincetown

But still, we are the observers. Taking our home with us, from bay to bay, city to village, climate to climate.
I’ve learned there is no such thing as a perfect sailor, we are learning more but we still make mistakes. But even my sailing heros make mistakes from time to time. We’re finding the intracoastal sailing quite easy, but we did buy a membership to TowBoatUS, so our confidence extends only that far! (They are on call to tow out boats that frequently find themselves ‘aground in the shoaling mud’).
We’ll be leaving this autumn wonderland soon, heading back to more southern climes, but the world lies ahead, undiscovered, beckoning a couple people who live on a boat, who crave the adventure and the thrill of the unknown. I’ve peeled back the box I started building for Shiloh, choosing instead the fluid, non defined beauty that is this experience. Like the ocean herself, we are moving.

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