When are la­bor-sav­ing gad­gets good for sail­ing?

SAIL - - January 2019 Vol 50, Issue 1 - BY PETER NIELSEN

Some­time on a pitch-black night off the New Jersey coast this past Novem­ber, I was hav­ing se­ri­ous reser­va­tions about cruis­ing un­der sail. The promised 15-20 knot northerly had mor­phed into a 20-25 knot easterly with pro­longed gusts in the low 30s, and the sea state was, to put it char­i­ta­bly, con­fused—“a ce­ment mixer,” as one of the cruis­ers who fol­lowed us into At­lantic City later that day de­scribed it. I’ve sat out 50-knot blows in the Gulf Stream that were a hayride by com­par­i­son. In those long hours be­tween 0200 and dawn, I would have given al­most any­thing to be some­where else.

Yet just 12 hours ear­lier we’d been close-reach­ing down the Long Is­land coast­line on a beau­ti­ful sunny af­ter­noon, the wind in the north­west and pro­pel­ling us across the flat wa­ter at 7-plus knots. Life was good, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be any­where else—some­where trop­i­cal ex­cepted, be­cause it was a tri­fle chilly.

Some days dog, some days lamp­post, as the say­ing goes. Such are the ex­tremes of the sail­ing game. It seems to me that one of the pre­req­ui­sites of be­ing a sailor is a se­lec­tive mem­ory. So many voy­ages I’ve made have been bor­der­line or­deals dur­ing which pa­tience was stretched to the limit and per­sonal com­fort be­came a dis­tant mem­ory. Yet when I look back at these ex­pe­ri­ences, I’ve al­ways had a grand old time and emerged with a few new sea sto­ries. Why is it that so many voy­ages are mis­er­able at the time but en­joy­able in ret­ro­spect?

Were it not for such for­tu­itous in­stances of par­tial am­ne­sia, I sus­pect I’d have hung up my seaboots long ago and found a new pas­sion that didn’t in­volve wet bunks, bruises in pe­cu­liar places, in­ter­mit­tent star­va­tion and sea­sick­ness, nag­ging un­cer­tainly and some­times fear, and the ex­pen­di­ture of con­sid­er­able sums of money and time.

But where would be the fun in that? s

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