Sailing the Pacific
One of the greatest adventures I’ve ever been on was when I crewed on a ’38 catamaran traveling over 5,200 nautical miles from Panama to Tahiti.
Sailing is a results driven enterprise. There are no extra points for doing things the ‘right’ way if that doesn’t get the desired result. It requires equal amounts of hard work, decision-making, and the simple ability to figure things out.
Decision-making is key. Analyzing the weather forecasts, judging clouds, considering the boats capabilities, navigating in rough waters, they all require focus and attention to detail that has immediate real world consequences.
The responsibility is immense. When you’re in the middle of the ocean you are the person to deal with situations. There is no calling in a professional to help you. You have to figure things out.
When our spinnaker sail ripped in two against an onslaught of wind, we hurriedly tried to get it down onto the boat before it swept underneath and got caught on the engine. I can remember gliding across the bow before slamming into some fiberglass while trying to hold onto the sail filling with wind. We eventually got the sail down, raised a spare sail, and lived to tell the tale.
Another day our water-maker pumped all our fresh water over board in the middle of a 21-day crossing. The lack of freshwater also caused the freezer to break. The next day was spent rationing extra water we had in jerry cans, fixing the freezer from instruction books onboard, and calculating how much water we could use for what activities.
There is also a great deal of work to be done on the boat, and I spent a fair share of my time experiencing the joys of scraping barnacles off the bottom, cleaning out engine parts, spending hours in the middle of the night on watch, and cleaning every dish on board what has to be a million times.
For a resume, I realize there is a lot of ‘we’ instead of ‘I,’ but that’s because everything is a group effort. Sailing takes people from thinking, ‘what’s in it for me?’ and makes them think, ‘what’s in it for us?’ That’s because any problem affects everyone on a boat of five, and most problems aren’t solved by a single individual but by working together.
Besides the technical aspects of sailing, there were some truly magical moments during my 130 days onboard. From drinking fresh rainwater that just fell from the sky to swimming with all manner of sharks, dolphins, turtles, and fish to accidentally jumping on top of a shark, it’s an experience that changed me forever.
Sailing was challenging, stimulating, demanding, pure fun, and worth it.