I MAY HAVE MENTIONED this before but you probably don’t remember it. Besides, it bears repeating: One of the most valuable assets a sailor can cultivate is patience, followed closely by serenity.
Imagine that you’re nicely tucked into a snug anchorage on the rugged west
coast of Vancouver Island. You got in just before the wind really started
howling, and now the rain is starting to pelt down.
The VHF, tuned to the British Columbian weather forecast, is relaying a doleful
“ ... mostly awful with occasional ghastliness ... periods of low depression
followed by unremitting rain ... wind from the southeast at umpteen knots ...
large-boat advisory for tonight and all day tomorrow ... wind-waves 15 feet
Your course is southeast, of course. So, if you have any sense, you’re stuck.
Well, then, what did sailors do with themselves in the Great Age of Sail when
they were anchored in open roadsteads waiting for the wind to change? How did
they pass the time? If they were in the navy, I expect they painted the anchor
cable and holystoned the deck. But how do people stop themselves from going
crazy on smaller boats? What would you do with yourself while waiting out bad
weather, especially in places where you can’t get cell phone service or browse
You can only sleep or play Patience for so long before you go nuts. You might
take the opportunity to change the engine oil or do some all-day job like
grinding the valves — but what if the forecast is wrong? You wouldn’t want to
miss a good sailing day with bits of engine spread all over the cabin.
You can’t spend days at a time doing nothing but listening to Beethoven or the
Beatles, and if you spend all day cooking you’ll have to eat it all and you
know what that’s going to do to your waistline.
I guess you could call the Coasties on Channel 16 but I suspect that even the
nice, friendly Canadian Coast Guards would get kinda grumpy if you just want to
chat and tell them how depressed you are.
You could make love, I suppose, given the right circumstances, but I’m told
that the average is eight minutes, which doesn’t take up an awful lot of the
For these reasons, yachtsmen cooped up in port — and fearful of being
criticized for wimpishness — often try to make a break for it despite the bad
weather. And all too often that’s a very bad idea unless you have an
exceptional boat and an exceptional crew. If you do that, you might find
yourself talking to the Coasties again pretty soon, and not just for fun.
If ignorance and ill preparation are the parents of adventure, then patience
and serenity are the parents of safe cruising. They don’t come easily. They
have to be cultivated, like most other sailorly pursuits. Learning how to
extend your love life might be a good way to start.
Patience, n. A minor form of despair
disguised as a virtue.
— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
Ms. Smith, your work during your trial period indicates a standard of
mediocrity, inadequacy, and chronic incompetence.”
“Oh thank goodness. I had a silly feeling you weren’t satisfied with me.”