It conjures up images of the wind in your hair, aquamarine seas, dolphins at the bow, and watching the sunset in a different piece of paradise every night.
I am guilty of posting photographic proof of these very scenes. But don’t be fooled as we were. These images are captured in a split second. The rest of the time, the picture isn’t always so pretty.
Three months into our sailing adventure, we’ve learned that smooth sailing is an oxymoron. So is “pleasure cruiser” which is what our yacht is termed in the boating world.
The reality of sailing hit us just a few hours into our maiden voyage when a huge abandoned rope wrapped itself around our propeller, bringing us to a dead halt in the middle of the English Channel.
There was no wind so we couldn’t sail back to the UK. We were essentially a floating bath tub. Cue the coastguard.
Our boat “Boomerang” had immediately lived up to her name. As we were towed back to Poole by the Swanage RNLI my husband Jonathan suggested we rename the boat “Stick.”
Way of life
In hindsight, that might have been fortuitous given the number of times we’ve had to abandon a trip to a picturesque cove and return to shore to fix something.
We’ve run over at least three ropes (that we know of) in the vast ocean, had the boat hauled out twice to fix the sail drive, motored most of the distance we’ve traveled due to a lack of wind and almost every time we use something for the first time it doesn’t work.
At first we thought we were just unlucky, but it turns out this is what owning a boat is all about. Sailing is not a holiday, it’s a way of life where you are constantly fixing your boat in exotic locations.
Unlike ourselves, most boat owners we’ve met so far on our journey have years of sailing and some form of engineering experience under their belt.
We had our Competent Crew and Day Skipper qualifications and may have checked the oil in our car engine once or twice.
We literally jumped in at the deep end, and for this hubris, are now paying our dues to Neptune in spades.
It feels like we’re undergoing a good old-fashioned rite of passage and the first lesson is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
‘Nautical Naughty Step’
I would liken sleeping on a yacht to being in the womb. At times the gentle sway of the boat hastens sleep, at other times it feels like mum has visited a theme park and taken a ride on the Cha Cha.
The second lesson you learn is patience with the weather, with the boat, with each other. No matter what size your boat is, it often feels too small when tiredness and frustration conspire to disrupt matrimonial harmony.
We have a solution for this. It’s called the “Nautical Naughty Step” and is essentially the dinghy. Whoever started the argument has to have time out in the dinghy until they feel they are ready to return to the mothership in peace. It remains an unbroken rule.
It is fair to say that we underestimated the challenge we set ourselves when we sold up and decided to sail around the world, but to quote Roosevelt: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.”
Owning a boat is like having a naughty two-year old. She demands constant attention, nights are sleepless and every day there’s a new breakage to fix. When she’s good though, it’s utter joy and in a split second, all is forgotten.
It’s those delightful moments that keep us diving ever deeper into this adventure. At least for now.