I grew up sailing, first on my father's boat and then on my own boats (have had 8 of my own over the years). My siblings have boats as well, as do many friends.
When I was a teenager, I used to think that it would be satisfying to spend my life in the manner that the Pardey's have spent theirs - a simple existence moving from port to port. Idyllic - few possessions and fewer cares.
After university I spent a few years in the Navy. My thoughts changed after sailing on a destroyer. There was one particular North Atlantic storm that we were ran in front of for almost four days. The waves (not swells) were higher than the bridge on a 450 foot long ship. Had we risked turning beam on, we might well have been lost.
Although we had cruised many miles on my father's ketch along the shores of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, it was not common for us to be out at sea in any type of weather. We endured a few minor storms but we did not handle them stoically - any of us.
Subsequent to that, I acquired a cold-moulded Tancook schooner designed and built for racing. You couldn't really call her stripped down because there had never been anything there to begin with. We raced her regularly, but I also spent many weeks on the boat alone, cruising the seaboard with a temperamental VHF, an Origo stove, charts, compass and sextant. Never used the sextant at all. Navigated with charts, binoculars and timing lighthouses. No engine, no refrigerator, a Porta Potti and oil lamps. Many books.
Some of the most perfect times I have experienced in my life were on that boat. Spending days lying on the foredeck, naked, in complete solitude thinking of everything and nothing as the boat bit through sun-dappled waves on a course to nowhere in particular.
There was a sail though, from Newfoundland to Cape Breton, that was sheer hell. For two days the boat tossed back and forth, lay on its side, tried to bury itself headfirst and, failing that, to immerse itself arse-deep in the cold, cold water. Winds were not incredibly strong but it rained incessantly and the waves were high.
No spars snapped, no rigging was lost but everything in the cabin was wet and dented - especially me. When you are on a boat in a storm, there is nothing you can do. You can't get off for a two hour break regardless of how tired you are. There is no towel to dry yourself off with, no toasty heater to get rid of the numbness. If you start puking you don't stop until hours after the last ounce of bile has burnt the back of your throat.
And you are so incredibly tired that you start to lose your ability to think properly...
Realised after that experience that I have no desire to deal with a real typhoon on a sailboat. Sold the schooner, moved to Upper Canada and got serious about working.
Owned small daysailors and crewed on friends and acquaintances' boats on the Great Lakes, went back to the Maritimes regularly to sail with friends and family.
Decided to get a larger boat a couple of years ago and do some marina hopping in the Great Lakes region. Got a 30 footer with a diesel, a refrigerator, hot and cold presure water, a good stereo, autopilot, propane stove, BBQ, etc., etc., etc. Have been on boats with more gadgets and conveniences but never really used them.
What a difference between my Dad's old wooden ketch, my beautifully primitive schooner and this current marvel of naval engineering! I am a true convert - plastic all the way baby (or perhaps I am just getting old
In the years to come, we'll be spending increasing amounts of time on our boat and probably end up wintering in the Meditrerranean with it. There will be years that we sail back and forth, years when we leave her there and the odd time we may even load her on to a freighter and ship her around.
It won't be this 30 foot boat though. It will be a strongly built something or other that might not go too fast but has a couple of fuel cells and a washer and dryer. Dishwasher would be nice too - microwave is a necessity. Electronics up the yin-yang, satellite TV and a separate shower stall. Why not ?
I don't think that I'd actually enjoy sailing so far on the schooner anymore. What I used to think of as perfection afloat had hard, uncomfortable cushions and a coaming that was impossible to sit on or against. You couldn't stand up inside and everything got mouldy very quickly.
Dad's big, green ketch was a bit more comfortable, and certainly beautiful, but it still leaked and needed hundreds of hours of maintenance in a year to keep it going. Built before the time of fibreglass pleasure craft, it took my father, my brothers and I as well as several of our friends to get her seaworthy every spring and to get her ready for the winter every October. We did it until we realised that there were easier ways to enjoy the wind on the water.
I guess this means I am getting soft, and maybe a little plastic like the boat I have now - but - too bad. I'm happy