Sunday, November 18, 2012


It was the club's Thanksgiving dinner celebration this weekend, perhaps my favorite "party" of the year. As usual things went off without a hitch, lots of good food found its way onto our plates, and lots of good friends gathered over the course of the weekend for many a good conversation. One though, stood out.

A good friend and very experienced sailor, someone whose opinion I value and who has taught Deb and I a lot about sailing, was pretty blunt in suggesting that we are nowhere near ready to go off adventuring in Kintala. He points out, and quite correctly, that I have never been even nominally in charge when picking up a mooring ball, setting the hook in a busy, blue water anchorage, entering a strange port, checking in with a new harbor master, plotting a multi-day run, docking in a strange marina, navigating a busy shipping lane, or mastering any of a dozen other skills necessary to keep out of harm's (or just other sailor's) way. My guess is there have been a few debates among our friends at the marina over just how much experience is enough.

Those doing the debating are seasoned charter customers. Just off hand the places I know they have explored, often many times, include Greece and other ports in the Med, the BVIs, SVIs, Bahamas, Keys, Puerto Rico, most of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, San Fransisco Bay, and parts of the Oregon and Washington coasts. And this just from the stories they tell. Some of these folks go pretty far afield two and three times a year and there always seems to be a trip in the works. In fact, there are at least two being planned in the next couple of months.

These are not wanna-be lake sailors hoping to be cruisers.  They are seasoned wanderers who happen to live and work in and around central IL, where little Lake Carlyle is the only place they can go play when not off getting soaked in salt spray. They have earned the right to have opinions worth listening to.  (A rare treasure in our world today.)

Of course Deb and I are regularly invited to go along ... and we would love to do just that. There is, however, one huge problem. We own a 42 foot sailboat that needs to be readied for blue water sailing. Pretty much every spare dime we have ends up in the boat. (Not to mention every extra minute.) We could take a week long charter to the BVI, or we could buy a self steering system. We could go on another Bahama's Bash, (friend Joel is heading out on one in a couple of weeks) or we could buy a wind generator.

Others are a bit less critical of our lack of experience.  They know of the trip around Long Island, the week spent on a Cat in Pensacola, and the Bahama Bash that took us on a night passage across a playful Gulf Stream, twice. They have watched us go from complete newbies, people to look out for, to capable lake sailors. They watched us go out to learn in Nomad when others were coming in to escape the building winds and waves. And, most critical to least, they approve of our choice of Kintala and the work we are putting into her.

So I don't know. We are in too deep really, to back up now. We took the trips we could to see if this was a real thing we wanted to do and then to narrow down the choice of a boat. The boat is on the lake. The work has to be done (and paid for). The house is for sale. Down sizing our life to fit on a Tartan 42 continues. Though launch day will never be set in stone, (too much an airplane driver to think that is a good idea ... ever) each day is a day closer.

How much of what I don't know can hurt me? I don't know.


Some of which happened with Kintala on an easy reach in light winds, ghosting across a mirror-like lake. Pam, Bill, Spero and Al joined us for what may be the last sail of the season. They watched Deb and I get Kintala off the pier, willing to help but accepting that we like to practice when ever we can. They approve of our change of plan to start out on the East Coast and slowly work our way into blue water sailing while field (or water) testing our work on the boat. (There must be newbies that start out in salt and never spend any time inland, right?) They would like to see us get some more supervised blue water experience, but also suggest that, sooner or later if one is going to go cruising, one just has to go. Cruising is different from chartering, living aboard different than going on vacation.

Lots of good conversations on what was a breathtakingly beautiful weekend in central IL, getting late in November.


Bill K said...

Have you thought about starting on the Great lakes and sailing your way to salt water ?

Bill Kelleher

Capt. Mike said...

Wife and I recently purchased a Baba Panda 40 in Annapolis Md. Happened by accident to be at the same boatyard as Bill from S/V Veranda. (small world). I enjoy your postings and today hit close to home. We have done the Bvi and Hawaii and the gulf side of Florida. I am very excited about spending time on the Chesapeake and growing from there. Pretty big water with places to hide and access outside to stretch. Might be worth considering
Mike Reed
S/V Zoe

TJ said...

In the end we all have to find our own comfort level when it comes time to shove off. Bill, the origional plan was to leave from Chicago and head for the Atlantic. But it looks like Deb and the boat will be leaving at least several weeks, and maybe several months, before I do. (Long Story). That made the weather window in Chicago too short.

Mike McGuire said...

I enjoy reading about people with little or no experience who end up doing the full time live aboard lifestyle, especially since that's where we're headed in three years.

We have no experience yet, but will be taking sailing lessons and we're researching the heck out of everything.

I'm curious, in your experience, do newbies get more help and advice or laughter and condemnation from more experienced cruisers?

I hope it's more the former...everyone is or was a newbie at one point in their life. I hope the saltier cruisers remember that when they encounter newbies like we'll be in three years.


TJ said...

Mike, no one has ever laughed at us. Many have laughed with us, and I'm sure we have made a few experienced sailors wince. The near universal reaction we have gotten is encouragment.

Sailing lessons are a good idea and we have taken our share. But mostly sailing is about doing, there is no replacing time spent on the water.

Mike McGuire said...

That's very encouraging and so good to hear.


Robert Salnick said...

Everybody who is cruising has had a Fest time dropping the anchor, reeding in a storm, navigating thru fog with radar and gps, clearing customs. Everybody has had a first time. And you will too. And so the discussion is not about having experience, but rather about whether youare having your hand held while getting it.

Many, many, MANY people have obtained that experience under way. I think you have chosen a prudent path forward. By the time you are jumping off from Florida for the Bahamas, you'll be ready.

Don't doubt yourselves.

s/v Eolian

Deb said...


Thanks so much for the comment on doubt. I really needed that this morning.


Kyra and Rick said...

At some point, you have to make the leap. There will be many firsts, many nerve-wracking moment, hilarious moments, sobering moments. It's all part of the experience. Just because you haven't been out there yet, doesn't mean you can't do it. I bet you'll surprise yourself. I know I surprised myself once I was out there...