Sailboaters are atunned with nature. Power boaters are anathema to nature.
I began sailing when I was a child. My family had a friend, an older gentleman with a sailboat who had an enormous amount of patience with an 8-year-old rambunctious boy. He taught me boat and water safety, how to handle a small boat in rough waters and most of all taught me respect for the sea.
I grew up around boats. My father was an avid fisherman and had an array of friends with boats and an uncle owned a fish and chip shop and caught a great deal of the fish he sold from his own boat.
My first experience with seasickness was a weekend aboard the latter during a particularly nasty storm. On a boat in a storm, there is nowhere to go except to lie in a bunk and grin and bear it with a bucket close at hand. I found the sea moody, occasionally terrifying and most of the time, endlessly fascinating. When I became a teenager, I took up surfing finding an even greater fascination with the sea and the waves. I loved the way the waves and ocean swells formed as they neared land, the way they broke, the power in them and the feeling of a successful board ride.
When my wife and I decided to start a family and kids came along, we joined a local yacht club and bought our first sailboat. It was an el-cheapo and needed a lot of work but the effort was worth it. It was a great little boat for a young family. As the kids grew older, we invested in a Sabot, a small sailing dinghy for them to sail around in our sheltered cove. We sold our first family boat and moved up to a 26-foot sloop with enough room for two adults and three kids.
From then on, summer vacations were spent sailing the waters of British Columbia, a coastline of moderately safe waters and shared with Washington state. We explored the many gulf islands and had many, many adventures, most of them good, a few bad such as getting caught in a southerly buster with a full head of sail. We survived.
Some nights in the boat were magical. We anchored in a sheltered cove one night. After dark, the moon rose and the water was a mass of sparkling diamonds. The kids and we were awestruck.
We were seeing the phenomenon of bioluminescence which is the activity of phytoplanktons which emit a blue light, making the water look like a sea of stars. It is a scene that everyone should see at least once in a lifetime. This particular night, we were the only boat at anchor in that cove and we all set up our sleeping gear on deck, unable to take our eyes off the magic in the water.
All these trips and experiences made my kids very competent sailors and as teenagers, they were able to take the family boat out with friends for weekend trips. They were members of our yacht club's junior sailing program and each one won several awards in the racing program. Sailing builds confidence in kids and my kids were the envy of many friends whose parents were not boating people.
One summer, we chartered a 49-foot sailboat on Vancouver Island with family friends and their two boys and sailed up the inside passage. This coastal area is one of the most beautiful on the west coast of North America. There are many coves and sheltered bays, a tremendous variety of birdlife and sealife. We caught a lot of fish and there were beaches of clams and oysters and always a small fishing boat somewhere with buckets of shrimp and prawns for sale. One cannot forget the sight of a bald eagle dropping down to water level and grabbing an unwary salmon.
One of the great advantages of sailing over powerboating is the close proximity you can get to pods of Orca whales and dolphins, the latter often swimming alongside and crisscrossing the bow of the boat. These amazing animals seem to consider sailboats acceptable in their domain as opposed to the noise and pollution of powerboats.
Every now and then we had to crank up the iron sail (engine) when winds died but most of the time we had spectacular sailing. The only negative on the occasional night were huge powerboats running their auxiliary engines to power their TV sets, washing machines, microwaves and other luxury electrical gadgets in sheltered coves. Several times we had to up anchor and find a quieter location. The four boys loved the adventure and sailing and each took turns on the helm and became very adept at trimming sails and anchoring.
There is something magical about being on a boat in the ocean under stiff breeze with whitewater curling off the bow, the sound of wind in the rigging and a feeling of being one with the boat and with nature. The occasional power boater friend has commented on the "slowness of sailing". I always point out the advantages:
* Wind is free.
* Sailors aren't in a big hurry to go anywhere. The pleasure is the journey, not the destination.
If you have any comments, disagreements, or additional information on this post, please contact me through my website.
Follow me on TWITTER, FACEBOOK & LINKEDINthrough my website.
My direct email is handshakeconsultantsATshaw.ca