“To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.” – Wilson Mizner
So, I made a post the other day outlining a plan to operate as paid crew aboard someone else’s boat, in order to gain a bit of experience. Afterall, a circumnavigation certainly isn’t a small goal, and with very limited sailing experience – a circumnavigation has many ways of ending badly.
You can find the post here. After writing it, I posted a link to that in a Google + sailing group, and I received a really thoughtful reply from someone who had circumnavigated before. The reply was something I was really glad to hear, but it also helped cement some of the thoughts I’ve had surrounding the mental aspects of circumnavigation.
Here’s the word-for-word advice I received. I’ve bolded the things that I’ve been grappling with.
My points for you:
• You will change.
• It is easy to go but hard to come back: It is easy for a slave to become free, but difficult for a sailor to be slave.
• You cannot go home, as home will have changed.
• It will take longer than you planed.
• You will spend all you will.
• An automatic pilot is more reliable than crew, feed it well, and carry loads of parts.
• 99% of people who talk of going, never go; 99% of people who buy a boat, never leave harbour; 99% of people who leave harbour, never get past 100nm of home. Find a reason to put to sea and not a reason not to.
• Re skills needed: Patience, Acceptance of other ways of living, Accept you cannot control your environment. Learn how to navigate without electricity. Be self sufficient. Try and be as good seaman as your great grandfather was. Learn to: anchor in 25+ kts; anchor in 20 meters of water; to tow; drive the boat backwards in 25+kts. Have a routine before you put to sea, to check the boat and compass.
• My Books I studied and took with me:
Nigel Calder: How to be a diesel mechanic; Refrigeration for boats; Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual (buy him Heineken beer if you see him), Jimmy Cornel ; World Cruising Routes and Pilot; Complete Guide to Anchoring and Line Handling; The 12 Vot doctor; Cook books.
• Where there are no doctors.
• You will lose your last name and that will be replaced with your boat name, so name your boat wisely. John on a boat called Wild angel is John Wild Angel.
• Rough weather: Each boat and each situation is different, so there is no one way. I am a Jordan series fan, but it depends upon the boat and proximity to land. Buy a whitewater kayak helmet with a visor, so you can breathe in the foam that is blown in rough weather. Buy good quality waterproofs, as you will wear them for days. Avoid extreme weather, it is painful. Keep your bunk dry; take the waterproof off as soon as you come below decks. Learn to sleep in the cockpit. Wear a harness all the time on deck, as it does not wear the harness down. If you fall overboard in bad weather..say goodbye. Be careful cooking in bad weather (I wear my waterproof trousers when I cook). Buy a pressure cooker. Buy a stout and a canvas bucket, good for many things.
• Land is danger, when is doubt head out.
• Keep a formal log, along with a social log. The formal log is for any accidents, and should you lose your electronics, then you have a last position and bearing. The social log is so that you can be the old bore at the yacht club bar who has done everything.
I’m not going to attempt to write about those points quite yet, as they’re issues that really require some pondering. I just wanted to point out, that while the idea of this trip sounds kind of dreamy (are you picturing a margarita in some remote spot, as the sun goes down?). The bottom line is that there is a ton of personal, financial, and physical risk involved. This isn’t a sailing trip around a couple of civilized, protected islands. And I’m not going out with a full crew of experienced sailors.
Honestly though, those aren’t even remotely close to my biggest concerns. Here’s what’s been in the back of my mind for the last couple of months:
- A shift in mentality: I’ve been through really life (and mentality) changing scenarios before (see: fighting in Iraq, losing family/friends, etc). When these events happen, even if you are able to become acclimated to “society” again – it takes time and nobody can possibly see things the way you do (their issues revolve around children, jobs, mortgages, etc). And it’s not their fault, it’s yours, you’re the outsider.
- No chance of a career: Anything I’ve gained in my “career” to date will be largely shot. This really isn’t a huge loss, I don’t put much stock in “careers.” It seems too much like indentured servitude. But it will obviously pose problems when I get back and need to find some source of income. More importantly, I believe this will shift my mindset (even more) away from consumerism and the objects others in society deem important. Which isn’t a problem – except that shifts like this largely make you seem anti-social (promise, I’ve been there).
- People move on, the world keeps spinning: Honestly, after the novelty of the idea wears off – people return to their daily lives and (if you’re lucky) you’re an afterthought – “Remember that guy, who I used to work/drink/eat/dive with? Yeah, I think he took off sailing.” Without a doubt, your family, friends, and others move on.
- “Home” loses it’s meaning: Another one of those things that I can live without, but it does have an effect on the lonely wanderer.
- Budget? What budget? I can’t possibly, really budget for this. I know from others trips that they plan to be gone for 3 years and come back in 10, and only after they’ve sold all of their belongings (remember, possessions don’t mean anything anymore). Then they borrow money to start their lives over (from scratch), all the while planning their next escape. So if I’m planning 5, and the experience agrees with me – I suppose I may be starting from scratch at 40.
To be fair, these are incredibly “first-world problems.” And none of them are even remotely insurmountable. That said, I’d be a fool not to consider these points before I drop everything, sell everything – and really, fundamentally change my life.
The bottom line is that I welcome a change – normal life is tedious and boring (on a good day), a life of debt and consumerism isn’t for me, a “career” feels like slow death, and I find myself planning ways to escape daily. More importantly – few people have the gumption to do this, and when (or maybe if) I pull this off – it’ll make for some damn good stories, pictures, and videos.
I hope you folks subscribe, so you’ll get to live this vicariously (or hell, even make a visit to see me). You can also like my Facebook page (up, on the right) or follow me on Instagram (also up, on the right).
Cheers, until next time.