Wednesday, February 8, 2012

To Nowhere and Back

Scott Bradley


A pivotal lesson in the art of cruising under sail is knowing when to turn around and return to that place from which you began. Considering the suffering for oneself, boat and crew that may result in failing to do so, it would seem an easy enough lesson to learn and apply. But the will is a force as strong as any adverse wind, and does not always easily give way. Fear of failure can be stronger still.

I was once holed up behind the mangroves with three or four other boats waiting for a ‘norther’ to pass. We were on the north side of Cuba, at the extreme western end, waiting to pass around Cabo San Antonio to the south side of the island. While visiting another boat, I suggested that the wind seemed to have moderated and perhaps we could have left that morning. "I would rather be in here, wishing I was out there," replied the skipper, "than out there, wishing I was in here." Those words have guided my decision-making ever since. And I have added the corollary, when faced with negative conditions I cannot change, I would rather 'give-up' and turn-tail, than obstinately stick to plan A.

If you are planning a passage to the South Pacific, I would recommend you plan well. It would be advisable to arrive just after the cyclone season, for example. But I would advise against telling a friend you'll meet her in Tahiti on Bastille Day. The best plans are the ones most easily changed. This, too, is going with the flow, and "following along with the rightness of the present 'this'".

I've made a lot of passages, crossed three oceans, but one that brings me the greatest sense of accomplishment was a thousand miles to nowhere and back. Conditions weren't right. Instead, we later flew to those islands, the Seychelles.

I have been slower to apply these lessons to relationships of love and even friendship, but, alas, sometimes you have to admit that conditions aren’t right and that change is beyond your control. Sometimes you just have to choose another point of sail.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. What a great story; I would like to hear more of these. My father was a Merchant Seaman during WW2 and he had truly awesome tales to tell. Lessons all.

    There's something to be said for proper preparation, too. I have a friend here who was first mate on a run to bring a 60-foot ketch from Barcelona to somewhere in the Caribbean...in November. When they got to the boat it was in no condition to sail, and they lost a month in making repairs and such. Somewhere near Gibraltar they encountered a bad storm; the captain, my friend's best friend, had a heart attack and died in my friend's arms; he broke his own arm fighting the rough conditions. They returned to Ibiza and gave up. (There was definitely something odd about this job, strange cargo or something.) I think that experience changed him, as my father was changed during the war.

    More sea stories, please!

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