The deep blue hues of the sea, the sound of the hull cutting through the water, the fun of adjusting the sails and feeling its propulsion, and the sense of disconnection from civilization when anchoring in secluded bays… I would have loved to start this cruising story with such a poetic portrayal of the sailing. And I’m happy I did anyway. Even though the journey may have not gone in that manner.
My attraction to sailing has nothing to do with adventure, overcoming obstacles or achieving goals.
“This route is a stepping stone for beginners, allowing them to gain experience before venturing into more challenging waters.” “We wouldn’t even head offshore, instead we’ll dock every evening and spend nights at ports.”
Han, the skipper’s words prompted me pack three swimsuits in my small carrier as I flew to Canada to assist him in his smooth departure, who otherwise would have set sail alone. With no strict timeline and entering ports every evening, there seemed to be little chance for a rough journey.
But as the next morning dawned, my first ever ‘vacance in America’ started to go awry. The environment there was far beyond the imagination of one from the Mediterranean sea, even the act of “entering the port” being technically complicated.
Double-handed sailing refers to when only two people sail a boat. So far, my experience with double-handed sailing has only been with professional skippers who didn’t mind the other hand functioning less or suddenly allowing him to sail single-handed. Here I’m again on a double-handed sailing voyage. This time the two hands being a Dolce-vita sailor with no ocean experience, and a triathlete who swims, cycles and runs the total of 140.6 miles but with a humble experience in sailing.
One Left Hand
I design yachts in Italy. My portfolio mainly consists of designs for superyachts. Although it may sound impressive, the reality is that in projects of this scale, various roles are divided and distributed among many people with specialized skills and that’s the reason why someone like me can make a contribution. This is in contrast to the traditional perception of a yacht designer as an all-arounder, often with a sailing background from a young age. In my case, I had never set foot on a sailing yacht before and my learning path was structured and focused on a specific aspect of the industry, rather than a natural learning process.
Out of the inherent characteristics embedded within me due to my unique background, two became disadvantages during this voyage: my perception of sailing as a ‘playful and fun’ activity, and my passive attitude of accepting the skipper’s words without questioning, due to the significant difference in our capabilities. Additionally, as I have never owned a boat before, my knowledge about its operation is limited. Han claimed he has been trained in boat maintenance and operation, and attended a renowned school for blue water sailing. I believed that working together, we could compensate for each other.
The Other Left Hand
Han’s first sailing experience was an unusual one. He was on a friend’s boat with little wind and decided to jump into the sea and swam next to the boat. He found this experience fascinating and became interested in daysailers as a way to swim in the open sea as a triathlete. He visited a boat show with the intention of purchasing a daysailer, where he met two blue-water sailing veterans and became friends with them. One day they invited him on their boat, which he couldn’t stop thinking about due to its charming classic design and cozy wooden interior. Later, he found the same model of the boat by chance on Craiglist and went to see it out of curiosity, as boats are not usually sold through Craiglist. He ended up buying the boat on the spot because he was fascinated by the aged owner and his cruising story to Mexico. On one voyage, he found himself in a dangerous situation when the boom swung violently, causing the jib sheet to fall into the water and get tangled in the propeller. What this novice sailor chose to do in that situation was to tie a line around his waist and to jump into the rough water. But he was unable to catch up the speed of the boat(of course not!) and just then felt embarrassed. Of course all this story was shared after we left Vancouver.
The Comic Adventure of two left hands
As a aftermath, this double-left-handed sailing journey is plagued by a constant stream of mishaps and errors. We had both hardware and software issues. The 40-year-old engine gave us a ride of a rollercoaster of anxiety and our attempts at repair only dug us deeper into trouble. As if the engine woes weren’t enough, the deck setting decided to join in on the fun revealing its own embarrassing flaws. The software issue was more complicated: Besides grappling with the novice challenges of bar-crossing, tide, and current, we also had to contend with the added difficulty of crossing international borders.
It was only through our firsthand experience that we came to fully appreciate the importance of the US Coast Guard, whom we ended up calling for assistance. Our hilarious call was inadvertently broadcasted for the entire duration on Channel 16, because we had not yet mastered the use of our new VHF radio, adding to our embarrassment was the fact that it was a serene day with the only abnormality being our own fear. Nearby vessels may have been confused by the tension in our communication and the calm weather, wondering if their radio was suddenly receiving a very remote communication or experiencing a time delay.
We set out from Vancouver with the goal of navigating the North Pacific coast along the US, with the ultimate destination of Baja California, Mexico. The journey was full of twists and turns, but the punchline is that we haven’t even reached our destination yet, making it the cherry on top of this whimsical journey.
The dream of a relaxing ‘vacance in America’ turned into an adventure, as we had to navigate and overcome various obstacles to achieve a greater understanding on our boat, the sea and ourselves. Many people who are unfamiliar with sailing may misjudge it to be a lavish pastime. However, in retrospect, the voyage we took was akin to a backpacking trip. The joy of getting off a night train and encountering totally new place in the morning, immersing ourselves in local culture, and meeting new people is something we are experiencing on this voyage. This experience not only allows for a sense of freedom and adventure, but also provides an opportunity to disconnect from our habits and discover our true selves in a new context.
Embracing the vulnerability that comes with relying on the kindness of strangers is also similar. Had we stayed in our comfort zone, we wouldn’t have had chance to come across some truly interesting and unique individuals we encountered during our journey.
The difference would be that while backpacking, we carried all of our belongings on our backs, but on the boat, we had a home that we could come back to each night, It allowed us to have a sense of stability and comfort which enhanced the overall experience of the journey.
Our journey was greatly enhanced by the location in which it took place. We were able to have this experience due to the charm of sailing in the United States. The country, fittingly referred to as the ‘melting pot,’ offers a diverse range of neighborhoods with distinct characteristics within the same framework of language, communication services, and cost guards. It was intriguing to see how the atmosphere changed as we journeyed to different ports further south.
Embark on a journey with us
We will take you on a journey of discovery and adventure as we share our personal stories of sailing on the Pacific coast. From the funny moments to the unique challenges we faced, we will give you an inside look at what it’s like to live on a boat. And most importantly, you’ll be able to learn from our experiences without having to endure the same obstacles and hardships that we faced!