Thursday, November 10, 2011


REENACTMENT: This is not the ACTUAL piling.
"Anybody can cruise for one year. It's the second year that's hard."

A fellow cruiser said that the other day, and it has been haunting me ever since with its illogical truth.

It seems to me there are two reasons the second year is more challenging.

Number one: Shit starts breaking. All that hard work before leaving the dock pays off that first year. Systems are in fairly good working condition, and, I suspect, King Neptune offers a one-year grace period.

We sailed through an entire year with relatively few problems, but while we were aging a year, so was Cara Mia. Just this week the solenoid on the propane went out (who knew? Chip), a fuse blew on the electronics and the dinghy motor had a near-death experience. Oh, and the aft cabin door locked itself closed -- while we were underway.

Number two: The French call it laissez-faire. By the second year, you develop that Sophomore bravado, a certain toss of the hair, twitch of the shoulder, been-there-done-that sort of mentality that when exhibited by a movie character, signals certain impending death -- or a least an imminent dose of humiliation.

I had my own dose last week.

Hours at the helm, without the terror of everything being new, gets rather, well, boring. There is a short list of things that have to be monitored while motoring: engine rpms and temp, water depth, speed, traffic, course, upcoming hazards or bridges, sails if you have them up. It's just enough to stave off boredom -- except when you're in a long, straight stretch with no traffic. There's where my problem settled in.

A minor stomach bug had seen me sequestered below for several days, and feeling better, I was chomping at the bit to get back in the action, any action. But my turn at the helm had us going through, on the one hand, a beautiful stretch of water, on the other, a tedious one.

My mind was bouncing all over its echo chamber thinking about book projects, boat projects, Halloween, everything. Well, everything but driving.

In one hideous moment I looked up to see a huge piling just off the starboard bow. AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Cara Mia had a near miss, but the whole episode hit me head on, square on my nose, and I've not yet recovered.

It was the aquatic equivalent of texting while driving, and I'm lucky -- if you can be lucky in the midst of really bad luck.

I have to say though, I've been back in Freshman paranoid mode ever since, barely trusting myself with even the autohelm.

But back to the whole point of numbers one and two: that second year of cruising has an all-new set of challenges that require concentration, homework and a good set of tools. It also helps if you have Chip, who either knew or figured out how to fix all the things that broke this week.

All I could do was pay attention at the helm. A+ for me.

A quiet anchorage in Beaufort, SC.


  1. I love this story and the lessons in it. Can't wait to hear how the Master fixed some things, too.

  2. Just make sure Chip doesn't have to fix the brake lines!! LOL! I'll let him tell you that story! I sure do miss my VW.