Tuesday, 17 September 2013

More Time On The Water

  Whether working a 9 to 5 day, shift work 2 till 10 or night work, even for the retired among us, with added family commitments and jobs to do around the house such as cutting the grass or decorating the spare room or whatever it may be it can feel as if there is always something getting in the way of simply getting out on the water for a sail. All this is on top of fickle weather and precious time needed to fit out the boat and keep her in sailing trim. To mention a few more I may as well add arranging the lift in or the launch, all repeated for the layup as well. You may avoid this by being on a pontoon or swinging all year round but still may want a lift to anti foul or scrub. And of course we still have to sort out the mooring with a new bit of chain perhaps and keep an eye during the year on wear on the boat while she’s in commission. This could mean new dock lines or halyards to whip and rove or repairs to the trailer or yard trolley maybe. There’s the on-going scrubbing and cleaning of the boat to tend to as well. Filling the water cans and, if you have one, service the engine and getting more fuel - is this in cans or do you need to visit a marina to top up the tank? If your boat demands more than one crew there are those phone calls and emails trying to fit in with oneanother’s calendar.  You might want to fit a new sounder or chart plotter, buy a new self-steering arrangement? Valet the sails, have a UV strip fitted or service the engine. The list of things to do around owning a boat can go on for ever.
  With the above said lets be brutally honest about it and say that for some of us sailing can get a little tiresome at times. All of this effort, and it is effort to get your own cruiser into a seaworthy condition and keep it that way, can seem overwhelming at times. Give the majority of people an easy option or a hard option and I’m quite confident that they will always take the easy route. In sailing that means to avoid the above we become a millionaire and pay someone to do it for us or give it up to escape the tiredness.  If you find that owning a boat is becoming a downward slide on wet seaweed and feel you may fall off the quayside because actually getting more sailing in is a thing of the past, don’t despair as you are not alone. Everyone has down days as well as up. 
  For a start let's remember all the effort that I mentioned earlier does not go unpaid for you know that when the weather, wind and tide do eventually all pull together and you invariably have a great sail that ends with a warm night in a quiet anchorage sipping a favourite tipple all those stresses that came with the preparation seem to fade away into a distant place.

  There is always more we can do to increase the odds of getting us out on the water.  
 A significant phrase that springs to mind is ‘goals move mountains’ as one major factor for successful cruising is to have goals and we'll more likely do what it takes to achieve a goal. Even move a mountain? For the cruising sailor the goal can be as simple as planning a few destinations to aim for during the season and putting a certain number of days aside as ‘sailing days’ and stick them in the diary. Be careful of becoming port bound too as this can creep up on us in various ways. The most obvious is taking a look at the forecast and sea state and convincing yourself that the Force 5 to 6 lifting the spume is far too fierce for your liking so you head back home when in fact it is flat calm in the lee of the seawall and the creek across river where you could be sailing for hours and camping out overnight. The other port bound is slipping into a comfort zone of a mundane routine of cruising the same old handful of passages. Keep pushing the boundaries just a little can keep things challenging and helps keep things fresh. Sail at night, sail for longer periods, sail further, sail when the chop is kicking up. Join another club and meet new friends interested in your kind of sailing. Mooring your cruiser in another area is refreshing and another good way of meeting new people and learning more about how others do things with their boats. If you are long-term paid into an association and have become engulfed in politics get out into the real world. There are many other groups and associations. The barge club at Maldon is just one of them and who have a Thursday gang repairing and maintaining the barges and then sailing in them on weekends.   A couple of sailors I know like to stay afloat on Christmas day. They freeze their bits and came home numb but throughout the year are driven by Christmas to keep the boat in commission and they can say how hardy they are too… I say whatever floats your boat!  The bloke next door may have crossed the Atlantic and it may inspire you but don’t let this concern you too much to the extent that if you can’t do this right here and now then you won’t bother at all. For you the achievement could be in the trip to the end of your local river. It may be to cross that bay or to adventure in the North Sea even. Start with one major trip a month eg - a whole day out on a tide and return on the following tide. Progress to one night, two nights three nights - a week even. Try aiming (not literally) for interesting seamarks, a new river or creek. Here on the East Coast our Thames Estuary rivers and creeks team with maritime history – see some of it... Cruising is an activity that combines well with other interests you may have such as photography, art, fishing, swimming, rambling, naturalist, archaeology, history etc.  

  Cruising objectives such as photographing or painting a certain seascape for example can drive you on for weeks until the shot is in the bag. Places for anchoring can be the focus of a whole day or weekend. By scanning the chart and Ordnance Survey map for new places to anchor before sailing to check them out. I have a whole arm’s length list of anchorages - places I know it is safe to dry in or stay afloat all state of tide in many rivers and areas of coast - so that if you get caught out you always have a place to pull out the bag. Knowing where to anchor will extend your cruising ground trebling or quadrupling possible places to visit. How many waterside towns are there? Some are predominantly fishing ports, others pure yacht stations that have interesting classes of boats that are not seen in numbers elsewhere. How many places are there were you will not see another soul? Visit a new (to you) marina, similar inside wherever you go perhaps but a different journey getting there? If you sail mainly a couple of hours around high water as a surprising number of folk do then make it your purpose to cruise at low water when the place is a different world. Buying a new piece of equipment is another way to inspire you to get afloat as you will want to use it. If you sail big cruisers try a dinghy and dinghy sailors try crewing on someone’s cruiser. If you sail over the soft muds and never run aground for fear of doing so then run aground as it will open up a whole new world to you... For some of us yearning for distant shores a visit to the next creek upstream just may be the tonic for us to realise what we are missing on our own doorstep.  Having a goal means you’ll be more likely to happily tend to the boat with a chirp and whistle and you just may end up spending more time on the water. 

Good sailing, TS

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