May 11, 2014

Patience and good seamanship

BRITISH AUTHOR AND SAILOR Dylan Winter, producer of the popular video series Keep Turning Left, says patience is the sailor’s best friend. That seems to be one of the major lessons he has learned during his quest to sail around Britain in small boats.

“When correctly applied in large quantities, it will keep you out of trouble,” he says. “Patience can also be of great assistance when trying to get out of trouble.”

The problem is that many people find it very difficult to be patient in a modern world where we have got gotten used to instant results.

There seems to have been much more patience around in the days of the old windjammers. When people and cargo were moved around the globe by sail it was only natural to wait for a fair wind before starting your passage, out or home. Ships sometimes waited at anchor for weeks for conditions to improve, and everybody accepted this as the conventional wisdom. Patience was regarded as an important part of good seamanship, even though the owners of ships and consignors of cargoes did their best to hurry things along.

But we don’t hear much about patience in connection with seamanship these days, especially among weekend yachtsmen, many of whom are committed to be in their offices by 9 a.m. on Monday.

Last time I sailed around Vancouver Island I was accompanied by a buddy boat. Both of us were singlehanding, and we managed to stay together most of the way. But there came a time when my companion ran out of patience and broke away, running ahead non-stop for home.

I had stopped because the forecasts were for contrary winds in the open Pacific and I knew from experience what it would be like to try to beat 40 miles to windward to the next anchorage in a heavy cruising boat.

“But I have raced,” my companion protested. “I know how to beat. C’mon, let’s go.”

But I was stubborn. I waited three days for the wind to change. I went ashore every day in that deserted part of the world and smelled the wild roses. I was perfectly happy, in no hurry at all.

My buddy boat went on its way without me, though, motor-sailing down the coast, and I have to admit that my former companion made good progress and experienced no trouble.

I guess I can’t claim to possess superior seamanship because I was more patient than he was. Patience just comes naturally to me, though some people might describe it, in my case, as more of a combination of caution and laziness. Yes, I love the quiet, lazy days. And if other people think that my patience makes me a better sailor, who am I to disabuse them of that fine notion?

Today’s Thought
Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

“Barman! Barman! Do your lemons have legs?”
“No, sir, of course not.”
“Then I guess I just squeezed your canary into my drink.”

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



Jack said...

your piece today made me smile. Last friday night I arrived to sail the weekend on a Scilly Isles Pilot Cutter out of Poole Harbour,U.K. The plan, to drop the topmast and sail out of Poole and dodge up the coast to the Solent and spend a pleasant weekend in Lymington.
We knew the wind was going to pick up over night. Morning broke and the work was done. The wind had picked up to F8-9 and by the pm it was increasing.
Decision, we all wanted to go sailing but we all wanted to get back. So just under 24 hours of humming and harring we chose to abandon any sailing . We made the right call, at 1800hrs it was F10 and that really would of taken the "fun" out of it! Stupid thing is if I had been 30 yrs younger I would of been really thinking different.

Sixbears said...

My lovely wife and I sat out three days in Flamingo FL in my Oday 19 due to thunderstorms. A couple in beautiful 17 foot boat decided to cross Florida bay during that time.

We met up with them later on at an anchorage near Long Key. They'd gotten caught in the storm and dragged 2 anchors 1000 meters. He said he was caught in a tornado once and this storm was worse. They survived but took one heck of a beating.