This month’s raft-upquestion is a good one, if a little self-indulgent;) Was I a sailor or a traveler first? Jane asked us to take a stand so I will, sort of.:
The answer is cruiser—I think I’ve always been a cruiser.
There is a chance I may not have been either and sailor or traveler. But when I was five and was walking the docks at Comox Harbour with my dad I discovered a different future. Most of the dock was taken up by fishing boats; their wooden hulls bright white, their trim painted in jaunty contrast. Here and there were little sailboats. It was those we stopped for most often. “Sweet lines,” I remember hearing, when we stood in front of one just a little longer than all the rest.
The one with sweet lines seemed nice, but there was a different boat that really caught my eye: Strong and long and dark, where the others were light and graceful. I sounded out the hailing port as a question for my dad: Hawaii. With his explanation I understood that small boats could cross oceans. And as pretty as my little town was; with her mountains, winding river, white sand beaches and dense forests, I knew in that moment I was destined to leave.
|17 years ago we set sail on this little boat-- after eight years away we came home with a baby|
I’m not the first in my family to suffer from wanderlust. Family genealogists place Alexander Selkirk (the ‘real’ Robinson Crusoe) in our lineage. But no one else in the family (at least in the modern bunch-I’m a 6th generation Vancouver Islander) is a sailor and most are confirmed homebodies. That day at the dock was more than likely the result of my mum kicking me and my dad out of the house so she could vacuum, than any real desire on my dad’s part to look at boats.
But the result—the planting of a dream—is one that most sailors can relate to. Every cruiser (and wannabe) can tell you about a moment, a book, a boat, or a sailor who opened up the world of possibility to them.
Where Did Cruisers Come From?
Knowing that cruising exists is different than packing up your life and moving aboard a boat though. And I wonder if part my answer lies in the fact that so many of the cruising pioneers have Canadian roots: Joshua Slocum who circumnavigated the world between 1895 and 1898; John Voss who sailed the Tilikum from Vancouver to England in 1901; Miles and Beryl Smeeton; Larry Pardey, who along with his wife Lin taught us simple boats and small budgets weren’t a barrier to cruising; the Copeland family, who inspired couples with children to set off.
Or perhaps my inspiration came on a school visit to the Maritime Museum in Victoria when I saw the Tilikum on display. Maybe seeing this small voyaging boat somehow colluded with my glimpse of that first tantalizing boat from Hawaii--and rather than setting off on a practical path (which would eventually result in a land-based home and a decent retirement fund) I was compelled to follow in Voss’s rather riskier wake.
I might credit Voss. But Voss credits Joshua Slocum’s three year circumnavigation for prompting his own 40,000 mile trip. Slocum set off alone from Boston in 1895 in Spray, a “rotting old oyster sloop” that he had rebuilt. His achievement, becoming the first man to sail around the world single handed (and for the fun of it) brought him fame. And the book he wrote, Sailing Alone Around the World, encouraged throngs of small-boat voyagers and adventurers to set sail.
I went on to learn to sail. Initially it was just so I could race. Then I learned more so I could teach. But the plan was always to follow in the wake of those early sailors—to ghost into a village at dawn; to meet people in their homes, not at tourist attractions. I never actually left my little slice of the North West until I sailed off. The furthest I’ve ever travelled has been while under sail.
Dana asks if my view on travel and sailing has changed at all since I started? My answer to this is no, it’s as magical as I expected. And yes, I could never have imagined what it would truly be like to be on a small boat in the middle of the ocean before we actually did it.
Travelling this way has always been all I ever hoped for and now it's even more as it expands to encompass our daughter.
Check out how the other raft-up members answered and are answering this question