Why Do They "Just Do It"?

What is the purpose of voyaging? Why does one put up with all the inconveniences of small sailboat living? Are we seeking adventure or are we all masochist? Escaping from someone or something? I discovered that there are many fine sailor/authors who gave some very compelling and varied reasons why they do it. Each of us I assume must also share at least part of some of those feelings. So on this page I would like to thank the writers for their inspiring thoughts and to share some of their writings with you.

I hope you will also share some of those that you have discovered too. Just e-mail them to me.

John Steinbeck: "Travels with Charley"
Jack London
Morris West: "The Shoe of the Fisherman"

  • The points of destination are only worth seeking out because of the journey required to reach them. Wherever I may be, if I were told to stay there, even paradise would become hell to me. The thought of having to leave somewhere touches me and endears it to me. And so it is that each time I bury a dream, so quickly forgotten, only to yearn for a new one.
  • Bogdan Szafraniec

    What Better Time Than Now?:
    Why a young couple decide to go cruising now than later.

    Cruising Dreams:
    Realizing Your Dream About Sailboat Cruising by Jack and Sandy Mooney. Challenger 32 "Utopia".

    Cruising Blues and Their Cure
    Robert Pirsig offers some insights and suggest a cure.

    The Station

    Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves an a long trip that spans the continent. We are travelling by train. Out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.

    But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour: we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes of loitering -- waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

    "When we reach the station, that will be it!" we cry, "When I'm 18," "When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz!" "When I put the last kid through college" "When I have paid off the mortgage! "When I get a promotion" "When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after!"

    Sooner or later, we must realise there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all, The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

    "Relish the moment" is a good motto. It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.

    So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along.

    The station will come soon enough.


    Sailing Dreams

    "More dreams have been assassinated by guilt than ever were ended by waking up. The dream of freedom is a yearning towards growth, a need for self-knowledge, not an escape from some half seen, half felt bogeyman. We all have a need, mostly unsatisfied and rarely spoken, to measure ourselves against nature as we were meant to do. To see how far our muscles and our breath and our unaided minds can take us. In a culture that lets us do little for ourselves we have this curious and hidden need to make our way to paradise on our own two feet. Being carried to paradise on a palanquin was, I am sure, as unsatisfying as being carried there on a jet. To sleep away your passage in silk draped sloth, or to murder space in a turbine's roar, gives us no measure of ourselves and the measure of self is the meaning of life.

    The reality of going to sea is a matter of casting aside all that negates your life, the vague imponderables that anchor you to some unknowable future. The passage to reality is littered with sailors stranded on the shoals of their expectations. It is difficult to wrench your world around to allow you freedom. And it is disastrous to have pie-in-the-sky expectations of what freedom will be like. The far shores of sailing are dotted with the abandoned boats and dreams of sailors who finally made it out there but found that all was not beam reaching and glorious sunsets. Sailing is hard, perhaps its chief attraction. On a long passage you either recast your expectations into something closer to the uncomfortable reality that you are experiencing or you will spend those weeks in disappointment, awaiting only the end of the passage to flee ashore.

    Only in a small sailboat at sea are we reminded of our natural place in the universe. The sea forces upon us a natural scale. The sea limits one day's passage to a hundred miles, not too different from the scale used by the ancient Hebrews to measure the throne of God. Small boat sailors parse the structures of the sea in days and weeks and months, not flashing minutes as the land bound do. They have recaptured nature's pendulum. The rhythms and stress of the sea are the ancient imbedded memories of how our bodies want things to be. We sailors press more life into the years we are granted. And, because sailing is unstressing, we are granted more time in which to live. "Old sailors" is a cliche not without content. On the earth we no longer have any subduing measure of greatness. Land has been smoothed for our wheels, and the air above is furrowed by the flashing passage of our jets. Space and time‚ ..these gifts can best be savored from the deck of a cockleshell sailboat. A sailor's whole universe is only a circle with a three-mile radius, the distance his eyes can see to the horizon from sea level. It takes more than an hour of real time to sail from edge to edge of that tiny circle while, in the same sixty minutes, a jet ranges six hundred unfeeling miles. Passing through time and space in the sailor's small and personal world it the measure of natural coil‚ ...and we live better for it.

    On land, companionship is thrust upon us, forcing us to be social long after we have had our fill of society. It is little wonder that we become cynics and come to hate our neighbors. And that is too bad, for beyond the companionship of our neighbors, and for some lucky few, the companionship of their God, we are quite alone in the universe. Only by seeking separation from the human herd can you become lovingly close to it. Just one more gift of paradox of which the sea is blessedly rich."

    Reese Palley

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