THERE ARE FAR TOO MANY SAILORS who are too cautious for their own good. They plan the hell out of everything. Every little excursion they make must be thoroughly researched. The right charts must be purchased as a backup to the GPS. Relatives must be furnished with a document to hand to the Coast Guard if they go missing. The radar must be working properly before they’ll cast off, as must the AIS and the VHF and the SSB. And so on.
I blame the Nanny State that forces us to wear seat belts and helmets for our own good, and imposes upon us speed limits and laws about not talking on cell phones. People with common sense don’t need this molly-coddling. As for the rest — well, Nature will take care of them. They’ll kill themselves and the human gene pool will be cleansed of their stupidity.
Way back in 1940, The Rudder magazine ran an article by Charles Blackford entitled “How I Cruise.” Charles was an inspiration to all of us. When he was asked what lists he used to provision the boat for a cruise, he said: “When I go cruising, I go for fun. I don’t intend to play valet to an ice box or chef to a five-course dinner. One old carton carries the chow, another the cooking and eating gear. All you have to do is pull them out into the light and dig. No hunting about under berths or in dark lockers.”
His questioner seemed somewhat shaken, but he continued nevertheless and asked how Charles Blackford set about the overall planning for a cruise. According to the article in The Rudder, Blackford replied:
“I don’t plan. I may think about going a certain place five or six years, then when the combination of circumstances seems just right, I collect someone to go along, chuck my gear into the cabin and start.
“Generally, I don’t get there. Quite often I find myself headed in the opposite direction, the wind being what it is. I have places where I want to go in all directions and all distances, so it doesn’t really matter.
“But when I do get started I run day and night as long as the wind is fair. If it heads me before I get to my destination I don’t argue but run into the nearest hole the wind allows me to make. Generally I find it quite as interesting as the place for which I was heading. (I’m always disappointed in my destination if I accidentally happen to arrive there.)
“Coming back, I take it easy, duck from pothole to pothole with a couple of days tucked up my sleeve for bad weather. If I don’t use them up I spend them in a short run from home, just lazing around and finishing up the grub so we won’t have much to lug off the boat. I cruise for fun, not as a self-imposed endurance contest.
“Having spent 15 or more years deep water I get my kick out of browsing in and out of pot holes. Cruising is a time of relaxation to me, not a desperate race against time and wind. I’ve gone out for days, had a good time, and never been twenty miles from my mooring.”
The man is prudent who neither hopes nor fears anything from the uncertain events of the future.
— Anatole France, The Procurator of Judea
Instinct is what allows a man to recognize a mistake the second time he makes it. Experience is what keeps him from admitting it the third time.
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)