Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Am I still a sailor?

I have been a sailor most of my life. And by "sailor" I mean someone who ventures out on the water in boats propelled by the wind; being a sailor implies being on a sailboat as opposed to a powerboat (aka "stinkpot"). To sail is to be in harmony with the elements, to harness the forces of nature to propel the boat through the water without any other means of propulsion. Sailing is quiet and the experience can range from relaxing to exhilerating depending on the conditions; it does not require the burning of fossil fuels. Sailing is boating at its best.

For the last several years I have had a powerboat, but I have always thought this to be a temporary condition and I have always considered myself still to be a sailor. Now that the new boating season is drawing near I have begun my annual ritual of looking at sailboat ads and visiting boatyards thinking that this might be the year I jettison my powerboat and return to sail. There is even more incentive than ever this year due to the astronomic price of gasoline which my current boat gulps in obscene quantities. Plus my engine needs some work done to the tune of several hundred dollars before I can start the new season. There are lots of good reasons to make my move, and I have seen several boats that interest me - a couple of them are actually pretty affordable, probably not a whole lot more than the repair bill on my current boat will come to. Everything seems to point to this being a perfect time to go back to sail. So the question is, why haven't I made the move?

I've given this question a lot of thought lately, mostly while I'm looking at pictures of sailboats that I would love to own and wondering why I don't contact the seller for more information. And tonight while I was looking at a very pretty boat that's listed at a price I could probably afford I began to understand the answer, and it is this: I really love the boat I have now. It is in all important respects the perfect boat for me at this stage of my life. Yes, it's a stinkpot (just ask the LL Bean kayaking class I inadvertantly enveloped in blue smoke a couple of years ago) but she's just right for what I want to do on the water these days.

Most of my "boating" in recent years has consisted of sitting on the mooring, relaxing, reading and enjoying the sun and salt air, and when I do cast off the mooring pennant it's usually for a casual cruise around the mooring field or maybe a short ride around the local islands or up a nearby river, sightseeing, looking at the seals and osprey, just chillin'. Because I have a powerboat I can go where I want, when I want, so in the (unlikely) event I want to go to Portland or Boothbay or some other similarly distant port it doesn't have to be a weekend-long journey - a cruise there for lunch and back is completely within my capability. Sure, there are trade-offs - noise, gas fumes, expense of gassing up - but I've decided that for me the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

So am I still a "sailor"? Philosphically I think I am - from a purely romanticized point of view I will always regard sailing as superior to powerboating in every way. But from a practical point of view I've crossed over. To me, just being on the water is paramount, and honestly the convenience afforded by having a powerboat makes my time on the water easier and more enjoyable. So I guess I regard myself as a "sailor" in the same sense as anyone in the Navy is called a "sailor" regardless of the type of vessel they may sail on. But if you want to be a purist and say I am not a "sailor", I am a "boater" that's OK. As long as I can get out on the water I really don't care what labels we apply.

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