Cruiser Talk

‘It was the best sailing advice anyone gave me,’ Steve, the dad on Wild Thing III told us. ‘The guy said, “When you get to port, don’t tell people your traumatic sailing stories. Nobody wants to hear them and they don’t care.” At least don’t tell people until you’ve accepted them into your lives – about the six month mark.’

I nodded duly. We were sitting and having dinner with Wild Thing. It was a pot luck dinner – we’d brought what we had and they mixed it with what they had. Pot luck was Krista’s idea and a damn smart one. For nine people, we’d collected a great spread of food. Chick pea curry, chicken wings, rice salad, coleslaw. After eating, the kids retreated down below to play board games.

‘Yep, we’ve had some learning experiences,’ Steve continued. Despite his earlier advice. he proceeded to tell us some of them – though in fairness not quite in the trauma-releasing style he’d been warned about.

We listened. We’re pretty good at listening – having heard lots of sailing stories and experienced dramas ourselves. Tight marinas, storms catching you off guard, things breaking when you don’t need them to break. This stuff happens.

Steve’s stories made clear the cruising experience. Particularly the part that, when you first buy your boat, you learn not just the handling of her, but what isn’t right on her. It made me think back to Quest – to when she sat neglected in the marina in Gosport. It’s taken us years to have her sailing the way she was designed to be sailed. Even with this, she’ll have some more tricks up her sleeve. Bound to.

I’m not being blasé. For me, it comes as a paradox that our jobs to protect our children are offset by putting them in hairy sailing situations. When things break or conditions become unexpectedly heavy, it’s the ‘what are we doing here?’ moment. And we brought our kids.

Steve may have picked up my dilemma. For not long after, talking about our children, he maintained, ‘If you give kids responsibility, they’ll step up to it.’

I took a breath with his words. This was after I revealed that, during our sailing, neither of our girls do night watches. Their boys, on the other hand, do do them. They did two-hour watches all the way across the Atlantic.

In fairness though, our girls were younger (8 and 10) when we crossed and since then, the sailing around the Caribbean has been decidedly upwind.

Imaginary pie chart time. I’d map sailing winds along the Antilles chain at about 75% upwind, 20% on the beam and a paltry 5% for the heady downwind experience. It may be warm here, but wind conditions are typically pirate-style. Unless you like tacking. Plus, Lulu always falls asleep at 10pm and Delph gets cold.

I don’t mind though.. and I get it. Steve is right. Children do need to be given responsibility to prove themselves. It’s key for their own development and self-confidence.

Meanwhile, the kids’ board games were flagging. They all came up for some fresh air and soon started swinging into the blackened sea off their genoa pole. The boys did, that is. Our girls sat and watched.

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