2011 03 26
Vero Beach, FL
Arriving back in North America I found a number of questions arising out of earlier posts and I will address a couple of them here.
As to the reason for our poor sailing performance we suggest you look no further than the operators of the vessel. On the continuum of sailing competence the BC and I inhabit the line that extends to the left of midpoint. For us mediocrity is a goal not a starting point.
If I had to wait for competence before undertaking a project or voyage I would still be tucked away comfortably in my mother's womb. Imagine: a 60 year gestation period.
Instead the Budget Committee and I have found a lot of fun being mediocre in increasingly challenging conditions. It is the Peter Principle in action - every time we approach mediocrity we give ourselves a promotion and tackle a new challenge. We are forever mediocre as once you have passed the midpoint you no longer track your improvement. It the stuff you don't know that draws your attention, never the stuff you do.
The only problem with our strategy is that we will never, ever become competent.
And this leads to the real purpose of this post: suburban sailors. These are the guys who have met and bested mediocrity in their sailing careers.
Having used the term somewhat derogatorily in a recent post (I must have been under the influence of some mood altering drug if it was only "somewhat" derogatory) I have been called upon to explain what I meant.
Here is what I mean by a "Suburban Sailor"
1. A suburban sailor never sails in bad weather. "There is no need to ever get caught out" you will be informed by some arrogant little dweeb who usually adds a little sniff of derision or maybe perceived self superiority.
Let me tell you something. If you sail any leg of more than 3 hours in length and more than a mile offshore you are going to meet some unexpected bad weather. It is impossible not to. Impossible unless you are one of those guys who sits in Lake Worth for a month or six weeks waiting for "a window" or worse, you are one of those guys who, after Chris Parker has given a pretty comprehensive weather forecast calls and asks for "your recommendations".
Here is how the real world works: Sailing a day out of Puerta Vita towards Hemingway with a three day window we are listening to the 6:30 a.m. weather broadcast live by Chris Parker. Chris is telling us that an anticipated cold front is situate over "West Coast of Cuba". At that very moment, we on the East coast of Cuba mind, we sailed into the cold front. You could see it. They are not hard to spot.
The front brought rain and gusts and squalls and the obligatory windshift to the North and North East. Problem was on much of the Cuban North Shore there are few if any anchorages which offer protection from the North/North East. This put us in uncomfortable wind and waves against which we could make little forward progress and none of that comfortable, even with the diesel supporting full sail. Finally we just stopped trying. We hove to for 12 hours, caught up on some sleep, had a very good meal and slept some more. Meredith did not move 3 miles in 12 hours while hove to. When the wind relented we carried on under sail.
There is no criticism of weather forecasters here. The tools available to forecasters are good but they are not perfect. Nor will they ever be. Unless you plan to never sail anywhere ever you are going to have to learn how to handle bad weather.
It is not hard getting practice. Bad weather will find you. You start out being incompetent and end up, with a bit of practice, being better.
Or just tie your boat up with the grain fed herbivores (suburbanites) and wait and wait and wait for perfection.
2. Suburban Sailors do not change their routes or destinations - ever. One boater, also prominent in the Georgetown social circuit was telling a novice cruiser that he "had been to Bahamas 12 times in 12 years." He "never went across the yellow bank and [he never] went to Nassau because they were dangerous". Now on Meredith the Yellow bank is a nonevent which we have crossed a dozen times without incident and Nassau is an enjoyable city destinations. But old 12 x 12 had never been and would never go. You see he had found a route that was safe. That is more valuable than gold.
3. Suburban Sailors Do Not Sail Alone. These guys love a group. They are pack animals. The groups usually function with all the grace of those high school cliques we used to call the "plastics". A lot of effort is spent by a suburban sailor positioning socially in the group, everyone seeking dominance. Often the women on suburban sailboats will take over the radio scheduling "get togethers" or more importantly declining invitations to another boat. After all the invitee is far too prominent in the group to accept an invitation from a lesser member, who is after all only making the invitation to improve her own status.
It is as tedious as it is transparent.
3. Suburban Sailors like bonfires and barbecues. Got a United Nations protected Environmentally Sensitive Island like Conception Island? Well, have a bonfire and litter the beach. Some boaters come to Conception and spend a day collecting the miles of plastic trash that accumulate on the beaches. Suburbanites come to partay.
4. Suburban Sailors fight their battles using Consumer Proxies. You can always tell the suburban sailing couples at a meet and greet or on the bus. The men are discussing brand names of their equipment - "Well, I bought the Spectra Watermaker. It cost a few thousand more but it is worth every penny." "Oh, I know, we just had our Panda generator installed and you know I paid $20K but the guy who installed it really knew his stuff".
The rest of us carry a Honda and love it. $900 from Mayberry's, no tax no shipping. Most of the rest of us buy our water in Bahamas at $0.25 a gallon. It costs less than $100 for 4 months. And the best part is you do not have to wash your deck. Ever. It costs too much.
Meanwhile the women are discussing real estate as they always do. "You know we looked t houses in Annapolis but there was just nothing suitable. We had to build. Over on $%@#$# street, you know where all the really big houses are going up. You'll have to come see"
Shoot me please. Even if you just wound me the pain will take my mind off the conversation.