May 31, 2016

Are you content to dawdle?

I SOMETIMES WONDER how many sailors are content to dawdle along at a couple of knots when the wind goes light. Not that many, I’m thinking. But I reckon the late Hal Roth was a kindred spirit. Like me, he wasn’t one to start the engine when his speed dropped below 5 knots, as so many sailors do today. When he was sailing around the wine-dark seas of the Mediterranean in the wake of Ulysses, he once took 6 hours to cover 15 miles in Greece — an average of 2 1/2 knots.

Like him, I grew up in an era when sailors actually sailed. The grumpy old salts I learned from frowned upon anybody who switched on an auxiliary engine just because there was no wind. I was actually quite shocked when an American yacht came past me once on a passage around the bottom of Africa. He was actually motor-sailing, and he didn’t look at all guilty about it. We were making a knot-and-a-half and he was making six. Such bad taste, I thought.

On another occasion I was sailing from the British Virgin Islands to Fort Lauderdale when two American sailboats, Pendragon and Escudo, came motoring past our 30-footer in mid-ocean. They were talking about us on VHF. They couldn’t understand why we weren’t motoring in the very light air. There was a lot of discussion about how much ice their freezers were making, with their engines running all the time.

When the wind hauled aft we were able to raise our twin running jibs. “Well, whaddya know?” said the radio. “The guy’s got his spinnaker up at last.”

“Yeah, slow thinker,” came the reply.

We thought they were very rude. I contemplated hitting back at them on the VHF with some powerful invective or some scornful, withering sarcasm, but in the end we held our tongues and slid over the calm waters leading to the Bahamas in stately silence, as all decent sailors should. Motors be damned.

Today’s Thought
One of the greatest sounds of them all—and to me it is a sound—is utter, complete silence.
— André Kostelanetz

“What’s Monica’s last name?”
“Monica who?”

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


Matt said...

I love the fact you still remember their boat names!

Anonymous said...

The other boats were rude, indeed. If you're enjoying the slow ride, so be it. Live and let live.

Washington & Main said...

If I turned on my engine every time the speed fell to 2 knots, I'd never sail. And.. though I was NOT the boat in the story...mine is an Alberg 35 named Pendragon!...sails out of Baltimore.