A Hard Wake To Ride
If you, dear reader, have a wistful feeling, so do I. Dan Spurr has been towing me along for several months, getting me up to speed, and now he's cast me off, ready or not. Weíre all bobbing in the wake of that fine sailor and writer, but we wonít be bobbing long: Thereís no let-up in the load of gear and boats to look at, or in the flow of communications among us.
As an overture on my part , I thought it might be prudent to get it all out on the table ó the sailing part, anyway ó so as to warn you of biases and blind spots.
I grew up on the water and in boats. I worked summers in a boatyard, swabbing the heads, moving blocking and cribbing, helping to haul and launch, and then moving into more responsible work. I learned the rudiments of painting, varnishing, and fiberglassing. I stepped and unstepped masts, set up standing and running rigging, learned to splice laid rope and braid. I learned something about tools and fasteners. I learned to move boats under their own power and under tow.
Iíve always been an enthusiastic do-it-yourselfer, unfortunately without a marked degree of aptitude in any particular area, except maybe simple mechanics and ropework. Iím inordinately pleased when an electrical repair or installation of mine actually works. I avoid fiberglassing if I can, because I usually glue myself together. I can maintain a diesel engine if itís in good shape to begin with, and can take apart and reassemble a two-speed winch without too many leftover parts.
In my 20s I lived for three years aboard a much-used 33-foot yawl (later a sloop, later still an engineless sloop) at City Island in the Bronx. I learned a great deal about parts and systems aboard that boat, often by breaking them first. Some things I fixed; others I could afford to be without Ė including, eventually, the engine. In the engineless years after I stopped living aboard, I learned about light-air sailing, tidal current, and anchoring. Lots about anchoring.
Since those days much of what Iíve seen of sailing has come about through my long relationship with Sailing World and Cruising World magazines, where I served in various editorial roles and as webmaster.
On boats I favor simplicity, even a certain degree of hardship and inconvenience, over systems and gizmos that promise the comforts of home. Even if they worked as advertised I wouldn't want 'em. They inevitably divert too much attention from what, to me, are the essential attractions of sailing ó the boatís relationship to wind and water, the surroundings, and the habits of seamanship and self-reliance that help a person live happily both afloat and ashore.
My sailing has been slanted toward racing, inshore and offshore, handicap and one-design, mostly bigger boats. These days I race my only sailboat, a Laser, in a local fleet, with horrifying results. While Iím convinced thereís nothing like competition to accelerate learning in this calling, Iím just as happy cruising, and have had a chance to explore a bit in the Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Florida Keys, Sea of Cortez, Newfoundland, and many times along my native New England coast.
Forgive me this general list of experiences. Theyíre typical of a long-term addict, not of an authority. The authority here is developed from the relationship of editors devoted without compromise to the interests of their readers, and readers willing to share expertise and experience with each other. The mutual learning happens at the level of the screw, the grommet, the bead of sealant, the shape of foils and flukes. We have in common a galaxy of parts, our own lexicon, and a sailorís urge to mess about in boats. As the Water Rat said, thereís nothing half so much worth doing. I look forward to comparing notes with you in issues to come.