Here’s the spot where I’ll mark out our sailing school adventures. S & I have about seven years to puzzle out several things. A. Do we really want to cruise in the Caribbean for a few years after she retires? B. Do we have the know-how to pull it off? C. Are we fit for the life aboard and the life abroad? [Answer Key – A: Apparently, but with some reservations on S’s part. B: No, but we’re both willing to learn. C. Mentally, yes, on both our parts. Physically S is a yes; me…not hardly, but I’m back to running several days each week, so I’ll get there.]
We know that we love sailing/boating respectively. I grew up sailing with my grandfather on an inland lake, the dammed Susquehanna. S grew up on the edge of the high seas, fishing off the coast of South Carolina. We’ve both had other boating experiences, as I’ve been on my grandfather’s and my father’s bay boats, and plenty of charter fishing boats. S & I have both sailed and motored as guests here and there. Do you know The Owl & The Pussy-Cat? * Well, they went to sea, as you’ll see if you reread Lear’s poem at the bottom of this page. And by curious happenstance, after a childhood in which that poem was read to me many times by my mother, I’ve nearly sailed upon the cutter, Owl, with some of the kids and our entire family sailed with the Aristocat for a day.
If you’re looking for day sailing in Maine:
https://maineschooners.com/ – Angus, Drake, Alex, & I did a double sunset cruise and a day sail on Owl’s larger ‘sister’ ship, the Schooner Olad. Yes, we saw the sun set twice on a perfectly timed trip down the coast of Maine…it set behind a mountain then reappeared as we sailed past the mountain only to set again into the foothills with twilight descending over the boat as we swung into the harbor.
If you’re out and about in the British Virgin Islands:
https://aristocatcharters.com/daysailing/ – The whole gang was along for this ride, sailing out of Tortola’s Soper’s Hole Marina, stopping now and then to snorkel. I’ll have to dig up pictures.
So we thoroughly enjoy boating. But enjoying being on a boat, even occasionally being captain and first mate, as we were on a tiny catamaran in the Dominican Republic, is dramatically different than walking away from fifty-six or fifty-seven landlubbing years and taking to the sea on a 40-ish foot live-aboard sailing vessel. We need to test this theoretically happy challenge with a few weeks spent at sea. If we chase the sea for one traveling vacation in each of the seven intervening years, that’s only going to have us on the water for a maximum of 70 days, probably less as the formal classes tend to be five or seven day sailing trips. We’ve decided we’ll also be signing up for local sailing lessons on the very laked river that my grandad sailed on when I was a boy. We’re aiming for 150 sailing days before we entirely risk our necks. While S will join me for much of this sailing, I may also travel with one or more of the kids for additional experience. Both Drake & Angus are experienced sailors and capable hands, though neither is ready to captain their own sailing yacht. Either young man would serve well if we brought them on as crew when making longer passages, but only if they keep their skills up.
For S & I, our first formal sailing lessons should be happening early in 2021. Our winter trip, after an entire Covidious** year absent from the islands, will, I hope, be spent on a sail boat of some sort. I’ll have been over the hill for a decade in February of 2021 and S is as determined as I am to get our pasty selves into the tropical sun on or near my birthday. Our favorite island is, as I type this, still closed to Americans – a decision clearly more political than medical, more spiteful on the part of their lockdown decision makers than wise – so we started looking into other islands, places we’ve been and places we haven’t. Nevis is opening, and we haven’t hiked up the volcano yet. St. Kitts is open alongside Nevis and we haven’t spent any appreciable time exploring this island as it was just our jumping off point for our previous trip to Nevis. Surely other islands would be opening, too, and S is itching for the sand between her toes, an island drink, a novel on a beach towel beneath the blistering sun. But the sailing life is calling louder, and this next trip is my gettin’ old birthday trip, so I may call in birthday chits. That’s what I was thinking.
Then I opened Cruising World magazine’s Covid Chronicles (August/September 2020) issue and saw the ASA (American Sailing Assoc.) coupon. They had me at 10% OFF. No, it’s not the greatest discount, but what many folks don’t realize is that for small businesses, that 10% is more or less matched with their corporate profit margin. If someone is offering 10% off a fairly priced item or service, yes, they’re still getting paid, but they are also taking a real hit in order to drum up business. Sailing schools are scrambling in the time of Corona to manage all their expenses – talented staff, boat mortgages or leases, insurance, mooring, office overhead, and more – and the best way to do that when the various islands are locked down is to secure future bookings. They’re offer a discount, and we’d be taking a gamble that the school would be open, and as importantly that their island base would be open for incoming flights. That slight discount created a win-win scenario…we save a bit that can be used to further enjoy our trip with an on island dinner, or an extra couple nights in a hotel after the sail. The sailing school nets two more first-time clients. Hmmmm….the wheels started spinning. How do I get S’s mind shifted from sunny beaches to sunny boat decks; from reading a novel on the trip, to reading books worth of instructional pages pre-class and taking tests on the trip; from lounging around a little cottage for two, to bunking up with other students and sharing a head?
(to be continued…emails with sailing schools, etc.)
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
by Edward Lear
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing!
Oh! let us be married; too long we have tarried,
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the bong-tree grows;
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
**Covidious: here’s your portmanteau word of the day, stitched up from covid and insidious.