The Joys of Cruising

“If you’re always excited to move forward, you won’t ever be sad looking back.”

The only thing of note at Cape Bowling Green, the sunrise.

Getting a taste of a new lifestyle is quite an intoxicating experience. Cruising is a world far removed from mountains and snow, and even what I know as work in restaurants is not the same in other parts of the world. Every day is a new adventure in a very literal sense as more often than not we wake up in a different place than we were before, and I’m finding that there is a lot of truth in the cliche, “the more I see, the less I know”. 

Our new friends ‘Mikado’ against a sunrise cloud bank

A sailboat is a lot of work to live on in the sense that there is always something that needs doing. Our grill is stowed away and requires some fair effort to deploy whenever we want to grill steaks, veggies, or burgers. Getting to shore after a passage is preceded by 10 minutes of wrestling the dinghy off the foredeck and then wrestling an outboard motor into place on the dinghy.  The small space is not much effort to keep clean, but it is a persistent effort on all three of our parts to keep it tidy. Stainless steel always needs polishing (my restaurant friends are familiar with this) and woodwork always needs sanding and varnishing. Even just general organization of things in and on the boat is always an ongoing process of tweaking and refining baskets and storage spaces, and there is an entire wall space devoted to post-it notes with various larger scale tasks that need doing that I have not even mentioned. 

Paddle boarding in the rain with myself (front), Nat (right), and Heidi (left)

The work pays off tenfold though. There’s a pride in living on something you actively work to keep beautiful, and when someone compliments how good your boat looks it’s hard not to beam knowing you had a hand in it. All the maintenance and projects keep us moving to and from dozens of tropical paradises each more beautiful than the next, and I’ll be damned if the work of putting the grill in place doesn’t make the food taste that much better. Reeling in and cleaning fish in the middle of a sail is quite a messy task, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re eating piles of bluefin tuna sashimi two hours later. True to all walks of life, you truly get back all the effort you put into this lifestyle.

Me trying desperately to not dunk Josh and myself into the water, 2 people on a board is hard!

The best part of it all though is the people. Even though I’ve only had a combined total of about 3 and a half months of “cruising experience” over the last three years, the people you meet and the stories you hear are the richest reward. The cruising community is small and everyone is bound by the same weather constraints, so you end up seeing the same boats repeatedly even if you don’t ever meet the sailors that belong to them. Inevitably though you end up at a nothing bar on a nothing island with some of the neighbors you’ve shared anchorages and marinas with for days and weeks on end, and sailors being a generally agreeable lot with all the same problems and similar dreams friends are made quickly and happily. 

Natalie handled her passenger much more gracefully than I did

This was the exact case with our new friends Chris, Nat, and their two boys Josh and Sam on Mikado. A quick meeting on Middle Percy Island a couple weeks back has led to smiling friendly faces at several anchorages since, and it’s wonderful to have curry nights and paddle boarding expeditions with new friends. They also are excellent at translating and teaching all of the Aussie slang that sounds so bizarre to my American ears (a barney is not a children’s TV character, but rather an argument, for example). Of course, eventually our paths will split as we continue north towards Indonesia and they round west from Cape York towards Darwin. But that’s the nature of Cruising as well, you meet fantastic people along the way and you share different pieces of your journey with different people. Everyone is a beautiful chapter in someone else’s story, but the length of that chapter in no way impacts its value or the stories and memories made therein.

The rainbow lorikeets are extremely friendly

This life is perhaps more centered around enjoying the present moment than any other lifestyle I’ve experienced or encountered. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of planning and forecasting involved, but the purpose of it all is to make now as beautiful and enjoyable a moment as possible. So it teaches you not to be sad about leaving a gorgeous postcard landscape or close friends behind, but rather to look forward to the next vista, the next ocean, the next beer and the next step with as much excitement as possible. If you’re always excited to move forward, you won’t ever be sad looking back.

Currently we’re anchored for our third day at Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island (which confusingly is in no way Magnetic beyond its jaw dropping landscapes) off the coast of Queensland, preparing to move north once again. This time we are moving towards the Hinchenbrook Channel and Island, by some accounts one of the most beautiful places in Australia. The coastlines have grown less mountainous and more tropical by the day, and the weather and water gets warmer even though we can’t swim much after this stop due to Crocodiles, but who can complain from paradise? Cheers everyone, I’ll talk to you again from Cairns!

Closer shot of ‘Mikado’ under sail.

The Journey West

“Great things have never once been done with certainty.”

     Shrinking an entire life to fit into one backpack provides some unique perspective on what is important. Oddly enough, it was easy to dispose of all the toys and things that one becomes accustomed to in the modern world; computers, phones, snowboards, skateboards, clothes for all occasions, all went into the trash or to charity. The harder thing is leaving behind the people that have carved places for themselves in your life and the places that fill memories with familiarity and comfort. 

     I’ve always been restless and have wanted to undertake a trip like this for a long time, so I was surprised at how sad I was to leave. My last few weeks in Colorado were filled with equal parts excitement, joy, nostalgia, and trepidation. Seeing old friends and new ones to celebrate a next great step makes you realize how much value is in the place you call home, and reminds you how much of yourself was built by things, people, and places that were entirely out of your control. 

     Shortly before I left a dear friend said something that really resonated though. She said: “That feeling of uncertainty and fear you have right now is a feeling we should always chase.” She’s right. That feeling of building trepidation is the same one I’ve felt before. It’s the fear before the plunge into a ski jump for the first time. It’s the nervousness of showing a chef a dish I had made for a nightly special. It’s the tongue-freezing anxiety of presenting a company to would-be customers and investors, a project that mentors had said was doomed to failure.

     I know what comes next.

     Adrenaline. Joy. Victory. An irresistible smile of rare confidence, and an insatiable desire for more. My finest moments, the ones that define me and that represent significant crossroads in my life have all been preceded by this exact same feeling. We as people are at our best and strongest not when we know the way forward, but when we forge our own way into the unknown. Great things have never once been done with certainty.

    So it was with new calm and resolution and a total of about 27 hours of planes, airports, shuttles, and one international date line that I arrived at the other side of the world in Australia. It took all of 30 minutes to see Kangaroos, they seem to have the same frequency of appearance of deer back in the states. Awesome, inquisitive, interesting creatures. Of more concern than giant hopping mammals though is the insane price of beer on this side of the Pacific, it’s nearly twice what it is in the states. Oh well, I suppose there must be some downside to long beautiful coastlines and fantastic, friendly people.

     It’s amazing after leaving one family back in Colorado that I am greeted here by another. We’ve got a condo by the beach for the next week or so as my cousin who is also visiting isn’t quite as keen on sailing as I am, but I don’t mind. I think that the best way to celebrate arriving at my new home after all these months of preparation will be to relax, catch up, and soak up sunlight as only a late-winter Coloradoan can. Cheers!