July 1, 2015

Small boats also merit respect

THERE IS A LOT OF TRUTH in the saying that the smaller a boat is, the greater the pleasure it provides. I think we all know what that means, especially with regard to moorage cost and maintenance. Furthermore, small gentle voyages can generate as much joy and satisfaction as long adventurous ones

The man or woman who cautiously sails a dinghy along a friendly shore is no less worthy of our respect than the sailor who braves the mighty ocean. We all have our own areas of anxiety, and doubt in our own abilities, and when we conquer our fears it is just as much a triumph to cross the bay as it is for someone of sterner nature to cross an ocean. And yet, human nature being what it is, we tend to judge other sailors by the size of their boats and how far they’ve traveled, their most distant ports, and the length of their voyages

Now it is true that sailors who cross oceans in small boats perform noteworthy feats of seamanship because they sail the same seas as big ships that have large crews specializing in the various skills needed to move people and cargoes across oceans. Sailboat sailors are their own cooks and navigators. They are their own engineers and riggers. They handle the sails and anchors and electrical circuits. And they face exactly the same hazards as large ships, including the storms, the rocks, and even pirates.

Yet, at the same time, to take a small boat across a body of water of any size is no small feat. To each his own goals and ambitions. We all set our own limits, and who can gainsay our individual achievements? What we all seek deep down is a feeling of ability, of achievement, of confidence. And sailing a small boat on a small voyage often does generate the confidence we need to deal with the greater troubles the world constantly throws at us

Seamanship is as much a set of the mind as anything else. You are the only judge of your seamanship. We challenge ourselves, we feel fear, and sometimes we get more fear than we bargained for, but we learn and we gain confidence, and are not as frightened quite as much the next time. And there always is a next time for those who challenge themselves

Today’s Thought
Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage
— R. L. Stevenson

Mary had a little lamb
That leaped around in hops
It hopped into the road one day
And ended up lamb chops.
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boating column.)

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