Great Ad­ven­tures There for the Tak­ing

Yachts International - - From The Masthead -

My first off­shore ad­ven­ture was in 1980 when I sailed from Sc­i­t­u­ate, Mas­sachusetts, to Ber­muda. The boat was a 56-foot fer­ro­ce­ment ketch some restau­rant pals had built over 10 years with tips they’d ac­cu­mu­lated serv­ing seafood in a sweaty joint on the Bos­ton wa­ter­front. I was fis­cally chal­lenged and al­most didn’t make it. I was able to go only be­cause I’d hit the state lottery twice in a week for about $600, enough to con­trib­ute beer and food and buy a plane ticket home.

The con­crete boat, aptly named Per­se­ver­ance, was hardly a tub. Un­like most ce­ment home­builts that lit­tered count­less back­yards and mud­flats in the ’70s—half com­pleted and faired like side­walks— Per­se­ver­ance was a thing of beauty. Her hull was flaw­lessly faired, her join­ery ex­quis­ite and her rig and sails, while bought used, were solid.

We left Sc­i­t­u­ate on a cold morn­ing in Oc­to­ber armed for nav­i­ga­tion and safety with pa­per charts, a sex­tant and sight-re­duc­tion ta­bles, a Walker log, a sin­gle-side­band ra­dio and a Lo­ran-C set that one of the crew had do­nated, pre­sum­ably as a hedge in case our math skills weren’t up to much be­yond cal­cu­lat­ing a tip. Com­pared to the elec­tron­ics on yachts and ships to­day, our gear was down­right prim­i­tive, but we’d all learned to nav­i­gate by dead reck­on­ing. Off­shore work made that tech­nique more com­pli­cated, but it was noth­ing mariners and ad­ven­tur­ers hadn’t em­ployed for cen­turies.

One chal­lenge I took on dur­ing our six days at sea was learn­ing how to use the sex­tant. I was hardly a math sa­vant, but I caught on quickly to the an­cient in­stru­ment. The Walker log, hang­ing on the taff­rail trail­ing its lit­tle spin­ning bul­let, fre­quently gagged on weed in the Gulf Stream, but gen­er­ally worked well, in­di­cat­ing our dis­tance trav­eled. We suc­ceeded at get­ting noon sights al­most ev­ery day, and we all were fairly skilled helms­men, able to hold a re­spectable course as the heavy boat rolled down the swells. We only fired up the Lo­ran to dou­ble-check our ana­log nav­i­ga­tion, which, when we spot­ted the iso­lated is­land group that lies 578 nau­ti­cal miles off the North Carolina coast, proved pretty darn good, I’d say.

As we struck the sails and fired up the diesel on ap­proach to St. Ge­orge’s, a U.S. Navy nu­clear sub­ma­rine, equipped with the best nav­i­ga­tion suite money can buy, sur­faced a quar­ter-mile off our tran­som and steamed past us into the har­bor. We’d ar­rived at the same place the old-fash­ioned way, which we thought was pretty cool. (Iron­i­cally, the U.S. Naval Acad­emy has be­gun teach­ing mid­ship­men ce­les­tial nav­i­ga­tion af­ter a 20-year hia­tus. The rea­son? Risk of cy­ber­at­tacks, po­ten­tial threats to GPS satel­lites and loss of elec­tri­cal power aboard ship.)

Nav­i­ga­tional grat­i­fi­ca­tion not­with­stand­ing, my first so­journ off­shore pro­duced its fair share of plea­sures: ly­ing on the rolling fore­deck on a clear night watch­ing the mast­head con­nect the dots with the stars; mark­ing the Gulf Stream from a dis­tance by tow­er­ing cloud buildups and learn­ing we’d en­tered it by the tem­per­a­ture of the salt­wa­ter in the faucet; dodg­ing gi­ant ships that didn’t know (or care) we were there. What a great ad­ven­ture for a young man who got lucky in the lottery.

This is­sue is ded­i­cated to that same sprit of ad­ven­ture—some­thing the sea has in­spired and en­abled for mil­len­nia. Among our ad­ven­ture-in­spired sto­ries, author and safety-at-sea ex­pert John Rous­man­iere writes about sev­eral Force 10 storms he has weath­ered dur­ing his long sail­ing ca­reer. And Justin Rat­cliffe re­views a yacht de­signed to go any­where and writes about a com­pany that spe­cial­izes in charter in re­mote cor­ners of the globe. Ad­ven­tures are there for the tak­ing. There’s noth­ing like slip­ping the lines and head­ing for the hori­zon.

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