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Story by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tips



Taking a Break from Paradise

© 2011 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved


Most of us go cruising for the adventure, the soul-freedom, the zest for life that is too often lacking in our modern society. We sail to remote harbors to live simpler lifestyles, closer to nature and to ourselves, to sample other cultures, bear witness to the ocean's majesty, and savor our time on Earth. I cruise for all those reasons, but mostly I just go for the fun of it.

Cruising under sail is fun. That's why Iíve spent much of my adult life doing it, sometimes for years at a stretch. Aboard my former cutter, Sparrow, I sailed for 6 years and 30,000 nautical miles with only one winterís break to work ashore and I learned something that surprised me. No matter how good it is, no matter how exotic and challenging and beautiful, cruising eventually becomesÖ ordinary. The routines, the ordeals, the whole lifestyle can get a bit dull. Itís amazing to say that, let alone to experience it, but itís true. After years adventuring in paradise I've caught myself thinking, ďHo-hum, hereís another living coral reef. Should I bother to dive on it or should I start another paperback?Ē Or, ďThereís another perfect, crescent white-sand beach flanked by palm trees with a hiking trail leading into the rainforestÖ yawn

Itís like eating candy all the time. You can only fully appreciate the sweetness of the cruising life if you have something against which to compare it. But isnít this true of life in general? Isn't it most keen and stimulating when there is some contrast? Contrast, thatís the key!

People who only use their boats seasonally, like northern sailors who haul out every winter, already have contrast built into their sailing style. But long-term cruisers, those who live aboard full time and wander as wind and whim dictate, may someday be surprised to find a certain blandness creeping into their lives and lifestyle. When that happens it might be time to consider a change. I donít mean you have to stop adventuring or stop having fun, and I'm certainly not urging you to quit cruising altogether. Iím only suggesting a temporary change of scene, perhaps an alternate lifestyle to vary the pattern.

A lot of cruisers have to earn money periodically, interrupting their vagabond life with work stints, and guess what. When they return to the boat and set sail again itís like falling in love all over. Others store their boats in the tropics and return to northern homes ashore each summer, the better able to enjoy both worlds. One long-term cruising couple I know secures their boat in a marina or boat yard from time to time and takes of on extended  backpacking treks, completely changing their environment and their routine. 

I haven't forgotten the lesson I learned aboard Sparrow, that endless cruising isnít my ideal. So now Iím doing things differently. The first 3 years with my present boat, the good ketch Silverheels, were spent in the boat yard doing a stem to stern refit. For me it was an immensely rewarding experience, and when it was finished setting sail was a real high. But after 2 years cruising I began to notice that subtle dullness and lethargy that eventually surfaces when you do anything all the time, and I knew it was my time for a change. So I stored the boat on the hard, bought a campervan and hit the road for the summer, bound for the mountain forests of the American Northwest. What fun!

click to enlarge             

Now, as I sit writing this beside a mountain stream deep in the Clearwater National Forest in north-central Idaho, thereís one thing I know for sure. When I put the van in storage this fall and get back to Silverheels Ė and I can hardly wait Ė Iím going to savor every passage and every landfall as we continue our cruising adventures together. And when the time comes again for a change, as it inevitably will, Iíve got a campervan waiting out west where the wild mountain forests beckon and Alaska is just up the road.

It doesn't matter so much whether you stop to work, return home, backpack through a new country, or head for the hills in an RV. It's all good. The trick is to allow some space between cruises so that each and every one is a highlight. Contrast cruising. Thatís what keeps it fresh and fun.


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