A couple of years ago I developed a fascination with yacht cruising and sailing around the world(*). I suppose this had something to do with the idea of needing to learn many different skills to successfully complete a cruise and the fact that it was me against nature rather than me against the politics and rules of other people. To paraphrase George Carlin, it may surprise anyone having read along for a while, but I actually don’t like people very much except in small doses πŸ˜€ .

(*) Maybe the world is too ambitious, but at least I’d like to cross the Atlantic.

Now, what usually happens and happened was that I put the idea on the backburner but kept reading about it. Of course when you’re just thinking about things, nothing happens. Perhaps I wasn’t thinking sufficiently Positive to Resonate with the Vibrations of Universe. Or something. Whatever. Anyway,…

What actually got things going was opening my mouth and talking to people—this usually follows after analyzing a situation sufficiently to make a qualified statement(*). One turned out to have a boat. Another turned out to know someone with a boat looking for crew. I also signed up on a crew list and that brought in a couple of responses although networking worked much better for me. (The same was the case in my working career.)

(*) Yeah, I know, how hard can that be? Pretty hard actually, if you’re me.

Getting on a boat works much like the job market. Either you network which works if you made a good impression or you have to have some experience. Of course the usual catch-22 applies in the latter case: You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. If you have no experience and absolutely no way to get it, one way is to take a certification. A possibly better way would be to start sailing dinghies. This is much cheaper and the principles are the same, so it counts for experience.

One of the websites I read when I was thinking of buying a boat a couple of years ago was Bill Dietrich’s site which is a treasure trove of information for anyone wanting to retire onto a sailboat. He had a log showing his progress (and he eventually made it) and I thought a log would be a neat idea, so here’s mine.

August – Bought new deck shoes on eBay
September – Crewed on a Sea Pearl 21 in the local inlake reservoir
September – Crewed on an Olson 40 in the sf bay
September – Bought manual PFD at Westmarine (don’t buy used)
September – Bought used foul weather bibs on eBay
September – Crewed on the Sea Pearl again
October – Bought sailing gloves at Westmarine
October – Joined racing crew on a J/105 out of Berkeley
October – Got my ham radio technician license
October – Bought a used Icom V8 handheld radio on eBay.
November – Crewed on a Yankee 30 on a bay cruise.
November – Mainsail trimmer on the J/105
November – Crewed on the Yankee 30 cruising in heavy wind.
November – Mainsail trimmer on the J/105
November – Bought strap for sunglasses at Walmart
December – Mainsail trimmer on the J/105
December – Mainsail trimmer on the J/105
December – Mainsail trimmer on the J/105
December – Mainsail trimmer on the J/105
January – Mainsail trimmer on the J/105
January – Jib trimmer on the J/105
January – Jib trimmer on the J/105
February – Pitman on the J/105
February – Pitman on the J/105
February – Foredeck on the J/105
March – Bought a pair of new dinghy boots (on clearance)
March – Foredeck on the J/105

(If I could have bought things differently, I would have started with a better pfd and bought the dinghy boots instead of the deck shoes. Now, I’ll end up with a pair of superfluous shoes and an semi-superfluous life jacket πŸ™ )

I find that I enjoy racing more than cruising because there is more going on. Of course with cruising there is the chance to try things just for fun. I got a crash course in beating, reaching, and running from spending half an hour sailing in figure eights early on. Yacht racing is boring to look at (like watching a soccer match from 2 miles away) but very exciting to participate in(*)(**) and I now agree with the cruising book that stated that if one did not plan to charter but just buy a boat anyway, one would learn much more about sailing and sailtrim on a race boat. This is true. A day cruise may involve a handful of gybes and tacks with little adjustment. A race will involve as many within an hour and adjustments are constant.

(*) It has the right kind of stress, that is, the stress involved when a foot on the stanchion is the only thing preventing one from sliding overboard on a wet heaving deck which is inclined by 20 degrees while trying to douse a spinnaker—like a 45 second MMA fight. Not the wrong kind of stress which is worrying about some presentation or deadline for several days.

(**) Or maybe it’s just me, but I tend to find spectator sports quite boring. I never seem to be able get into the vicarious spirit that others seem to care so much about. Season tickets? No thanks! I’d rather spend my money on actual playing fees and classes.

Recently I got onto the crew list of a boat that participates in ocean racing (25-90 miles). I am very excited about this and if I’m lucky I might get picked for next Saturday. Of course, this means coming up with some serious money for an offshore life jacket and tethers, which will likely result in some emotional trauma (LOL), but hey! This is one point, where I am not going to buy used (never buy used life jackets, they are most likely being sold because they need service, at least as far as I can tell) or go for the cheaper option.