STERNLINES

Yachts International - - Contents - By DuD­Ley Daw­son

THE UNIQUE PLEA­SURES OF CRUIS­ING ON SMALL BOATS

When the metallic clank of the oar­locks stopped, it was so quiet you could hear the gen­tle hum of the four-winged drag­on­flies as they landed on the shiny green lily pads. A few more mo­ments and you’d spot the pro­trud­ing beak and eyes of a tur­tle, maybe the ser­pen­tine trail of a wa­ter moc­casin as it tra­versed the swamp that flanked each side of the shal­low, me­an­der­ing creek. Ven­ture too far, as I did on oc­ca­sion, and you’d have to go over­board to push off from the muck, risk­ing an at­tack by leeches, the evil lit­tle beasts that were the in­domitable Bo­gie’s neme­sis on the African Queen.

That first ves­sel I com­manded as a child was an old Ch­e­sa­peake Bay row­boat, a “be­spoke yacht” built of Vir­ginia long-leaf pine, and my Tahiti was Marum­sco Creek, now part of the Oc­co­quan Bay Na­tional Wildlife Refuge in Wood­bridge, Vir­ginia.

Don’t get me wrong: I love big yachts and the op­por­tu­ni­ties they af­ford. Joni, my auburn-haired sweet­heart, and I have fond mem­o­ries of a week spent in the Vir­gin Is­lands en­joy­ing life aboard a 120foot mo­to­ry­acht while the folks back home shiv­ered through the last gasps of win­ter. Cruis­ing the wa­ters sur­round­ing the beautiful Door County penin­sula aboard the 195-foot La Baronessa as Wis­con­sin’s mag­nif­i­cent autumn dis­play of color passed by was in­com­pa­ra­ble, and sail­ing aboard the 289-foot Perini Navi Mal­tese Fal­con as she passed along the stun­ning coast­line of Italy’s Cinque Terre, near Portofino, was time well spent. Per­haps most mem­o­rable was not even at sea, but in­stead sit­ting on the aft deck of the 257-foot Abeking & Ras­mussen Ex­cel­lence IV, en­joy­ing a drink as the sun set over the stone wall of An­tibes’ old port.

As won­der­ful as these ex­pe­ri­ences were, each one could just as well have been done on a smaller boat. In fact, on each oc­ca­sion, smaller ves­sels shad­owed our yacht, and I’d guess that the ex­pe­ri­ences were just as mem­o­rable for the peo­ple aboard them as they were for me. There are, of course, some spots that can be en­joyed only aboard a large yacht, but for many cruis­ers, a smaller ves­sel should be an op­tion. Even if you can af­ford it, big­ger is not al­ways bet­ter. Size is a rel­a­tive term, and smaller doesn’t have to mean too small.

Dur­ing one Septem­ber to re­mem­ber—as the su­pery­achts headed north on the In­side Passage to Alaska, con­fined to the main chan­nel by their size— Joni and I spent 10 days ex­plor­ing the hid­den trea­sures of Bri­tish Columbia’s Fiord­land Con­ser­vancy aboard a 58-footer. Like my lit­tle row­boat from years be­fore, this smaller craft of­fered a unique per­spec­tive. Once again, I could hear wings, but this time, not a drag­on­fly. It was a cu­ri­ous bald ea­gle pass­ing within arm’s reach as we had a quiet break­fast on the fly­bridge. Morn­ing also brought griz­zlies and their young to dine on salmon along the beaches at the head of many of the fjords, and the fre­quent rain show­ers gave quick birth to water­falls spring­ing from the cliffs above.

If you’re among the for­tu­nate few, I cer­tainly don’t be­grudge you ev­ery­thing your big yacht af­fords. As a for­tu­nate yacht­ing jour­nal­ist, I’ve sam­pled the life­style, and it’s very good. Just don’t over­look the ad­di­tional delights that come only with a smaller boat. Carry one or two or a few with you on that big yacht.

And for those, like me, who can’t af­ford the su­pery­acht, don’t de­spair. You can still have one or two or a few. I peaked at nine and am now down to just four, but I’m shop­ping. Small boats can ful­fill big dreams and make big mem­o­ries.

The unique plea­sures of cruis­ing on small boats.

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