It has taken a while to get used to people saying “What? By yourself?” as in “I took the boat down to Falmouth and returned to Plymouth via Fowey? It was a quick three-day trip.” “What? By yourself?”
How do you explain it? To the uninitiated it invites the disapproval of
- the safety industry – “the tiny crew”;
- the health industry – “the older man on his own”;
- the social industry – “all alone”;
- the professionals – “a rank amateur”;
- the bigger boats – “a smaller boat”;
Despite all of them I succeeded – as do many, many others in far more challenging circumstances.
It has taken many years sailing to be able to say with confidence “I do it like this. I know it is possible to do it like that but I have chosen to do it like this. Yes, the most knowledgeable of intellectuals, the most graceful of athletes, the most creative of artists, the grandest of grandees, they all know better than me. But not quite. Individually they know certain areas of my life better than me and combined they know many areas of my life better than me but the whole of my life belongs to me and I choose to live it like this. I will listen to them but I will make up my own mind whether it is useful for me or not. There’s no side to it, no competition, I respect their point of view but I am taking responsibility for me so I can give back what I learn as I go along.”
Time and money – (not enough of either), have meant that it has taken not months but years to bring Blue Mistress to her current standard – a standard that makes me comfortable in taking trips along the South Devon and South Cornwall coastline.
‘Single-handed’ means thinking things through long before they are needed. The layout of the boat, its contents and every maneuver that may or may not be made has been gone through in your head, maybe on paper, certainly on a computer, and books and videos and charts and tables studied, with the intention that all this be absorbed into experience.
Even then mistakes will be made – some of them very memorable with solutions needed in a breath-taking hurry, but mostly things will go right. Very few of the latter are memorable because what is going on outside the boat is as interesting as what is going on inside. Have you ever seen a coastline from the sea? The Devon and Cornish coasts are particularly stunning. (And, yes, there are plenty of other stunning coastlines too).
I like aloneness but enjoy company. A week ago we took my London-based, four-year-old grandson for his first trip. Enthusiasm on all sides. What’s not to like?
And every trip, every voyage is different.
I took few photos on the Falmouth trip but I will make a short storyboard next post. In the meantime, here is Blue Mistress in Fowey on the last day of September 2014 with the morning mist rising. As I say, what’s not to like?
(Image taken by Bill Whateley)