Both face the same storms, currents, rocks, winds, and navigation problems. Both have to understand the dangers and problems confronting them, and make plans, and communicate with land-bound authorities. Both are responsible for the safe stowage of ballast and cargo, and both have to ensure there is sufficient food and water aboard. Both are responsible for human lives.
But the big-ship skipper has a whole crew of officers and men to help him, each an expert in his own right. The average cruising sailboat skipper carries this huge burden alone, or, with the help of, at most, a couple of amateur friends or family.
Herman Wouk described the onerous duty of a ship’s captain in The Caine Mutiny:
“You can’t understand command till you’ve had it. It’s the loneliest, most oppressive job in the world. It’s a nightmare, unless you’re an ox. You’re forever teetering along a tiny path of correct decisions and good luck that meanders through an infinite gloom of possible mistakes. . . . “
And Eric Hiscock pointed out that one of cruising’s greatest fascinations is that the basic knowledge you require is identical whether you intend to crawl from gunkhole to gunkhole along the coast or make an ambitious dash across the open ocean. As he said:
“The most modest ditch-crawler must in some part equip himself with the same knowledge and experience that would serve to take his yacht (if she were of a suitable type, and well-found) across the oceans of the world.”
So I don’t scoff at sailboat captains any more. I just wish them good luck while they meander through that infinite gloom.
Today’s ThoughtI believe that all of us have the capacity for one adventure inside us, but great adventure is facing responsibility day after day.
— William Gordon, Episcopal Bishop of Alaska, Time 19 Nov 65
Tailpiece“Any hint of a proposal yet, dear?”
“Yes, Mom, several. But he just ignores them.”
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)