In the Great Age of Exploration, all sea voyages were adventures, of course. Charts, such as they were, were marked with areas that said “Here be dragons,” and “Terra Incognita.” Fearsome sea creatures—krakens and giant octopuses—adorned the borders. But now we know what to expect. The dragons these days come in the form of government officials, greater regulation, more rules, and more paperwork.
Nevertheless, in an age of ease and luxury enjoyed by many, it’s not so easy to have a real adventure nowadays unless you try very hard. A rifle and $5 in cash don’t make it any more.
Cruising under sail these days is split into two categories: 1. The liveaboard wanderers, and 2. The dedicated adventurers.
They’re not hard to tell apart.
The wanderers are probably older, richer, and more cautious. They own over-appointed and complicated boats. They don’t like to be confronted by the unexpected. They prefer an orderly, regulated life and no surprises — or at least, just little adventures, if any. They spend a lot of time planning.
The dedicated adventurers are usually fewer, younger, poorer, and less worried about taking risks. Their boats are simpler and more Spartan. They live on adrenalin. They thrive on not knowing what’s going to happen next. They cultivate an almost carefree confidence in their ability to cope with any sudden new circumstances. To them, just about everything is unexpected. And exciting.
My dictionary describes an adventure as a “daring enterprise, an unexpected or exciting incident, a hazardous activity.” It sounds very much like something parents strive hard to prevent happening to their children.
I would class Eric and Susan Hiscock as liveaboard wanderers (in fact, they had boats called Wanderer) and Bernard Moitessier as an adventurer. The Hiscocks planned meticulously and worked hard to bring their plans to a successful conclusion. Moitessier, on the other hand, was a nautical hippie who shot cormorants for the pot with a catapult. He gathered the eggs of protected sea-birds and begged a dog-food manufacturer for free samples of their product for his pantry.
They say that poor preparation and lack of experience are the parents of adventure, and there’s no gainsaying the fact that a modicum of planning is necessary for any sensible sea voyage, if only to avoid being in hurricane territory at the wrong time of the year.
But we also need the adventurers. Human beings have a unremitting urge to explore the limits of their accomplishments. Every year we break records. We run faster, we jump higher, we climb taller mountains, and we reach farther into the stars. We constantly transcend ourselves.
And in the small world of ocean cruising, we need the dedicated few to go out and throw themselves fearlessly into adventure, to discover, to explore new horizons. It’s our small contribution to the store of human knowledge and experience that will enable us one far-off day to make the greatest discovery mankind can ever hope for — to know who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going.
Ø Dana Lamb’s book, Enchanted Vagabonds, is now available as a print-on-demand volume. If your local bookseller can’t print it, go to abebooks.com
Today’s ThoughtLife ought to be a struggle of desire toward adventures whose nobility will fertilize the soul.
— Rebecca West
Tailpiece“I want one of those new terrorist stoves.”
“What the heck’s that?”
“One with an eye-level guerilla.”
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