Leaving can be hard.
Which seems counter-intuitive, actually. After all, it takes an enormous amount of time, effort, money and energy to get oneself and a boat ready to go cruising, so you’d think that departure day would be eagerly awaited, joyfully greeted, and heartily embraced with a “get-us-the-hell-out-of-here” attitude…
And sometimes it is. But with all the things that must be done to leave shore aboard a boat, the one that’s often not addressed until the very last minute is the emotional process of letting go. Right up until the day, your thoughts are all about planning and logistics and provisions and finishing touches and weather windows. You’re often too busy to think about what you’re leaving behind because all eyes are on what’s ahead.
So what holds you back? It depends.
For some it’s family ties. Parents (perhaps aging), grown children, grand children… if these folks are particularly close to you and important in your daily life, stepping aboard a boat can seem like a giant leap indeed. How will they contact you if you’re needed? How will you keep up with their lives as you move along in your cruise? what if “something happens”? And the same can be true for close friends.
In this age we’ve become accustomed to instant contact and communication. Not so long ago the sudden health issue of a relative had already resolved – for good or ill – days or weeks before the letter informing us of it had arrived. But first the telegraph, then the telephone and now email have shortened that response time to the point where we feel we must be intimately involved in the lives of those we care about, even to the point of – frankly – being intrusive into those lives.
But being on a boat changes that. If we’re on an overnight passage, we may actually go 24 hours or more without internet, phone service or email. That feels very frightening to some people.
And speaking of fear…
There’s a place in the Bahamas called George Town, but known to cruisers as “Chicken Harbor”. It’s located as far south in the Bahamas as you can go without making a passage longer than a boat can sail in daylight. To continue farther, perhaps into the Caribbean, will require an overnight passage – sailing in the dark. You’d be amazed how many people have sailed all their lives, very experienced boaters, who’ve never sailed in the dark more than the minimum required to get back to the harbor after a day afloat.
Nicki and I have done just two overnights so far, and we pretty much had the full gamut of experience in those two nights. The first was the passage from hell: 30 hours of motoring in the fog, in a confused, rolling sea, without even enough of a breeze to raise a sail to stabilize the boat, but just enough wind from astern to keep the exhaust from the diesel right in the cockpit. Awful.
But then there was the second night, the idyllic night, when the wind was perfect, the boat was self-steering at 6 knots, the whales kept us company and we watched the sun set, the moon rise, then the sun rise again…
And finally? Fear of the unknown. This is the one that I don’t quite get, honestly. I find the unknown to be intriguing and exciting and generally cool stuff – but some folks don’t. For them, the idea of heading off without an absolute guarantee of clear skies and fair winds and friendly natives is upsetting. Of course they think nothing of driving on the freeway – an act that’s statistically 100’s of times more likely to end in death or maiming. Go figure.
So the challenge is to just GO. Prepare the boat, make your plans, and when the weather says “go”, you go.
You’ll be alright. And so will they.