May 19, 2013

Cruising in the golden years

CONTRARY TO WHAT many people believe, age of itself is not a major barrier to cruising under sail. If you can climb the companionway steps, you’re probably fit enough to sail the boat. And if you have been wondering how long you can safely leave it, be assured that it is possible to start cruising in the golden years of your life, provided you’re still reasonably sane and reasonably healthy.

Tom Anderson, a New England cruiser I met in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, told me of a 40-foot yacht that arrived one day from Venezuela with an elderly couple on board, both in their middle seventies.

Tom watched with fascination while the man wrestled to free the pin of an old and very rusty shackle on his anchor.

“I would have taken a hacksaw to it and replaced it in five minutes with a new, two-dollar shackle,” said Tom, “But not him. He was obviously prepared to fight.”

Eventually Tom started to make polite conversation, as cruisers do, and remarked that there always seemed to be something to do on a boat.

“Yes, it’s true,” said the old-timer. “If this old bitch didn’t keep me so busy I would have died peacefully years ago.”

There are many sailors in their sixties and seventies cruising the oceans of the world these days, aided by modern materials and designs that make boat-handling easier.

Francis Chichester was 66 when he made his famous circumnavigation in the 54-foot ketch Gipsy Moth IV. In fact, people over 60 years old are now racing around the world singlehanded. That’s not for everybody, but it does illustrate the possibilities for those who, for some reason or another, were not able to fulfill their cruising dreams at a younger age.

Today’s Thought
Life is precious to the old person. He is not interested merely in thoughts of yesterday’s good life and tomorrow’s path to the grave. He does not want his later years to be a sentence or solitary confinement in society. Nor does he want them to be a death watch.
— Dr. David Allman, former president of the American Medical Association

An elderly man put a five-dollar bill into the Salvation Army kettle. Then a thought struck him.
“What happens to this money?” he asked.
“I give it to the Lord,” the young woman replied.
“And how old are you now, Miss?” the old gent asked.
“I’m 21,” she said.
“Well,” he said, taking his five dollars back, “no need for you to bother. I’ll be seeing Him long before you.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Nikolay said...

Hello John,
I'd appreciate your input on a cabin sole question.
The floor in my Tartan T30 is more of a pan, lower in the middle and raised towards the sides. Now this wouldn't be so much of a problem if it weren't so slippery - especially when there's some water on it.
I've considered levelling it a bit, but level or not, I'm still debating about material.
I've read some people putting down cork, as an alternative to bare teak.
What about other woods, with and without any particular finishes, or other options like paint on non-skid, etc?

John Vigor said...

Nikolay, tis is a case of safety versus beauty. If your slippery floor constitutes a danger to life and limb, you will have to forgo the pleasure of varnished teak and resort to a practical non-skid surface.
Bare teak gives quite a good footing when it's wet, so you might try taking the slippery finish off.
Alternatively, you could make a floormat of Treadmaster M or Vetus deck covering.
Or you could re-varnish or paint with a non-skid incorporated, either sawdust or sand.
I'd recommend you experiment by adding non-skid to a spare piece of plywood.
Lay down a coat of varnish and while it's still wet sprinkle a #30grit dry sand thickly all over through a sieve or a can with holes punched in the bottom.. Leave for a day or so and when the varnish is dry, brush the extra sand off the top gently, leaving the gritty surface that is stuck firmly down. Now varnish over the sanded surface, let it dry, and then give it another coat.
You might be surprised how nice this looks.
You might also experiment with a patch of sawdust instead of sand but the sawdust will soak up much more varnish.
Finally, you might experiment with a piece of carpet cut to shape. Spray the underneath with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive, or a similar rubber solution, and let it dry.
(Don't stick the carpet to the sole.) This way, you'll be able to remove your non-skid carpet when you want and also keep the original teak sole floor looking good.


John V.

David said...

Our good friends Jill and Rod are both in their 70's. Recently changed cruising grounds from the eastern Caribbean to the ABCs. Rod just this week finished varnishing ALL of their 50+ foot boat. As far as I can tell, the best way to be fit and vigorous in your later years is to go cruising.