Leaving the Shallows

I’ve enjoyed every salty drip of several offshore passages. They’ve made for some of my most vivid and fulfilling memories on the water.
Sailboat in blue water
Embracing adventure makes us masters of our destiny. It teaches us to be bold yet cautious, brave but not reckless. And at the end of the voyage, we’re all the better for it. Bäckersjunge/ stock.adobe.com

I describe my home port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as the unofficial waterway capital of the world. In fact, many of the boaters with whom I belly up to bars here are fair-weather cruisers like me, quite content hanging around the shallows, where boating tends to be more comfortable, safe and manageable for our children. 

Great pleasure can be had with that type of boating, which is vastly different from the bold offshore endeavors some of our readers undertake. I’m basically playing in the kiddie pool, which is fine, though sometimes it feels like a waste of a perfectly good ocean. Sure, I’ve also enjoyed every drip of some salty offshore legs. They’ve made for some of my most vivid and fulfilling memories on the water. Still, like many of you, I’ve yet to cross an ocean under sail, and a circumnavigation is more a fantasy than a reality. 

Where I’m lucky is that I can embrace my role of helping make the truly adventurous stories come to life within the pages of Cruising World. I can’t imagine the sense of pride and achievement (and relief) that comes with catching that first glimpse of land on the other side of an ocean, or from crossing one’s wake after circling the globe, but I can read and dream about it. 

Cruisers are an adventure-oriented breed. A lust for open water and a healthy respect for Mother Nature run thick in our DNA. Our happy place is any lat/lon where the sea reveals its serene beauty and formidable power. The allure of offshore sailing lies in its ability to transport us to uncharted waters, literally and metaphorically. As we cast off lines and bid farewell to familiar shores, we embark on a transformative journey where self-reliance and resilience become our trusted companions. Each voyage is a unique story, etched with the imprints of challenges overcome, camaraderie forged and dreams realized.

One of the most profound lessons we learn at sea is humility. The vastness of the ocean humbles us, reminding us of our insignificance in the grand scheme of nature. This humility is what drives us to become better sailors, better stewards of the sea. It fuels our thirst for knowledge and our relentless pursuit of skills that can mean the difference between life and death in the unpredictable theater of the deep.

Little boy on board of sailing yacht on summer cruise. Travel adventure, yachting with child on family vacation.
The unpredictable theater of the deep fuels our thirst for knowledge and our relentless pursuit of skills that can mean the difference between life and death beyond the reef. Max Topchii/ stock.adobe.com

In our sport, safety and preparedness are paramount. We pursue mastery of navigation, where technology and tradition coexist to guide us safely through the labyrinth of currents and weather patterns. We stress the importance of proper maintenance and equipment checks, where vigilant attention to the smallest details can prevent catastrophe. We also learn from stories of survival, where sailors confronted the harshest of conditions and emerged as stronger, wiser mariners. 

Safety at sea is also about the profound connection we share with our fellow sailors. The bonds formed at sea are unique, born out of shared challenges, triumphs and the understanding that we are one another’s lifelines. To that effect, I’m drawn to the stories told by fellow sailors who are out there—many of them way off the grid—facing those challenges and experiencing those triumphs every day. For a shining example of this spirit of camaraderie, look no further than Cruising Club of America member Steve Brown, a venerable skipper who knows a thing or two about heavy weather. Throughout his sailing career, Brown and his wife, Trish, took on a four-year circumnavigation aboard their Oyster 56, Curious, sailed a 30,000-mile circumnavigation of the Americas—sailing north from Camden, Maine, and then an east-to-west transit of the Northwest Passage—and spent more than his fair share of time in the Southern Ocean. 

Brown is up for debating the superlatively inhospitable places on Earth. Along the way, there’s been brash ice and icebergs, rogue waves and drogues, penguins and polar bears. He’s a sailor who’s had the real-life experience of switching from gale-force storm management to survival tactics after conditions transcend control—just the kind of expert you want to lean in to for heavy weather sailing strategies that may save your life. And the recent story about how he managed to lift up a battle-weary crew in the harshest of elements off Antarctica is a must-read.

If you’re like me, perhaps you’ve recently developed an itch to leave the shallows once more, to let your mind wander and wonder about aspiring to that next tier. I’m all for it but with one caveat: Know your limits. With great adventure comes great responsibility.