Monday, February 19, 2007

The Cruising Life Times Three

Vero Beach

Many sailing enthusiasts are interested in the cruising life; being so different than conventional land based life styles. In reality there are (at least) three distinct cruising life styles that we have experienced so far.

The first cruising life style is life in port, such as we’re doing right now in Vero Beach. In port life is focused on the activities we can do on land. We can shop. We can shower. We go to the beach, or the library, museums. We can (but usually don’t) eat in restaurants. We ride the bus. We ride our bicycle and we take walks.

A key element of in-port life is that we use our dinghy every day. It is a key component of ship’s equipment when in-port. This contrasts with the cruising style we enjoyed in Sweden. We never had a dinghy in Sweden as do most boats. In Sweden the shore lines tend to be steep. One approaches shore head on while dropping a stern anchor. Then one brings the bow right up to shore and ties it off to one or more trees. Usually the crew goes ashore by simply stepping off the bow onto the rocks.

Another key feature of in-port life is that we get to socialize with other cruisers. The opportunities to socialize are very limited offshore or when on the go.

Books we have read about cruising devote most of their space to descriptions of in-port activities. The travel guides tell about the restaurants and the facilities and the things to do and things to avoid. Memoirs tell about the interesting experiences the sailors had on shore and what they like about the place they are visiting.

A fair number of cruisers intentionally or not become permanent residents of the port they visit. We have been in Vero so long that it is beginning to feel that way for us, but in a week we hope to leave here.

Of all the ports we visited, Marathon, in the Florida Keys is our favorite. Why is difficult to explain. It was pretty but not the prettiest. Convenient but not the most convenient. Perhaps the easy camaraderie that we found there with fellow cruisers. Certainly we made some lasting friendships there. We made lasting friendships here in Vero too, but for some reason Marathon was better.

Blue Water Sailing
We wrote a number of blog articles about our offshore experiences. Although we haven’t done any ocean crossings yet involving weeks at sea, we have had a fair sample passages taking less than a week.

Sailing offshore is a distinctly different life style. When it is just Libby and I onboard, the life is dominated by two things weather and sleep, weather and sleep. The one time when we had extra crew, (when Carmello and Diane sailed with us to Cape May) life changed dramatically. Sleep became less of a factor and social interactions with the crew took its place. In the close circumstances of offshore sailing it is vital that the crew get along well with each other. Whatever benevolent or hostile feelings may exist between crew members get amplified greatly at sea.

We also experienced the beauty of nature at sea. Although there are no trees or hills to look at, there is beauty and there is life. Even on the day when we were hammered by a Northern gale while in the Gulf Stream near Frying Pan Shoals, there was great beauty.

So far we have not experienced any seriously heavy weather in blue water. However we feel that we are well prepared to handle it and Tarwathie is among the world’s most seaworthy sailing boats. Nevertheless, we don’t deliberately put ourselves out there to challenge the storms just to prove the point. Someday we will go through heavy weather and then we’ll have new experiences to write about in our blog.

Inland Sailing
A distinctly different life style is what some people call coastal sailing. We call it inland sailing. Its distinguishing characteristic is that (nearly) every morning we weigh anchor and sail away to a different place. Then at the end of the day we find a new anchorage, anchor, eat a peaceful dinner and get a full night’s sleep. It is a migratory existence.

This year we did coastal sailing from New Jersey, north to Maine and back. We did inland sailing on the Chesapeake and on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

When doing inland sailing we typically sail perhaps five days out of a week and stop for a two or three day stay in one place the other two days. The most difficult part of inland sailing is finding places to replenish our supplies and to do the laundry. Even though we could provision for much longer intervals, we are spoiled. We like fresh milk and bread and ice cream, so we need to find a grocery store pretty often.

The east coast of the USA must be one of the best places in the world for extended inland sailing. There are thousands of safe and pleasant places to anchor. There are also a variety of landscapes and climates from sub arctic to sub tropical. There are urban areas big and small, up to and including New York City. There are marvelously isolated and remote areas where one can be alone with nature. Although we enjoy revisiting some favorite spots, there remain an enormous number of inviting places along the coast that we haven’t seen yet.

A disadvantage of the ICW is that long stretches have such narrow channels that one must motor, not sail the majority of the time. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

We also greatly enjoyed inland sailing the Stockholm Archipelago in Sweden where there are 20,000 islands within 100 kilometers of Stockholm. It was beautiful but there is not the variety of the US east coast.

When we go to the Bahamas we expect to sleep at anchor every night at a different place. In that respect it may resemble inland sailing. When we eventually go to the Caribbean islands and to other lands, we’ll no doubt meet new variations on the in-port, blue water and inland styles of life.

Our Favorite
So, which is our favorite? Actually we like the combination of the three, but in our hearts, inland sailing stands out. We have visited up to 115 places in one year that way. If we could visit 200 places per year, that would be great.

Not surprisingly, therefore, sailing the so-called Great Loop has great appeal for us. To sail the Great Loop from here, we would sail up the coast to New York, up the Hudson River to Albany, across the Erie Canal, across the Great Lakes to Chicago, along the Illinois River Canal to the Mississippi River, down the Mississippi to the Tennessee River, and then across the Tennessee River and various canals to Mobile Alabama, and finally across the Gulf Coast down Western Florida to the Florida Keys.

The high point of the trip would be the Erie Canal. That is our home territory. For nearly 40 years we traveled through the Mohawk Valley between Syracuse and Albany. It’s strikingly beautiful. Our favorite painting has always been Innes’ Peace And Plenty (above), a truly beautiful scene that depicts the Mohawk Valley. Then also we would have the great pleasure of visiting many family and friends along the way. The canal goes within a few miles of our former jobs, within 12 miles of our former home in West Charlton, within 20 miles of the home of our oldest son John and four of our grandchildren, and within 10 miles of our friends Jerry and Phyllis near Syracuse. Not only that, but the towns and villages along the canal go out of their way to be hospitable making it pleasant for cruisers to stay overnight. If and when we do travel the Erie Canal, I suspect that we might take a whole month to traverse it.

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