Reflections on my Cruising Life

One day this month, I’ll no longer be able to say “This time last year…” and refer to my all-too-brief stint as a cruising sailor. Now that a full year has passed, and I’ve reluctantly and only moderately successfully returned to a more conventional life, I’ve had the benefit of time to reflect on what this phase of my life has meant to me as a sailor and otherwise. I feel like a changed person. For the most part, those changes have been positive.1
As a sailor, I’ve done things I never imagined I could do. Though I’m a very reluctant helmsperson, I completed two overnight ocean passages, during both of which I stood watch alone. And I’ve piloted the boat for hours on end. I’ve reached a level of grudging confidence that allows me to consider doing other ocean passages—as long as I don’t have to be on watch by myself.

I think that in order to have a successful cruising experience, one needs confidence not only in their vessel but in their crew.

As far as Calypso goes, she took great care of us. Although we found the inevitable leaks, and handled lots of minor repairs, the boat was rock solid and the gear robust enough for our needs. So many cruising boats we encountered were much bigger and seemingly more luxurious than ours, and it would have been easy to envy watermakers, chest freezers, and walk-in closets. But although we can think of a handful of improvements we could make, we found the comforts offered by our own boat perfectly adequate for us and will plan to stick with the current Calypso when we go cruising again in another decade or so. Besides, even heavily laden with jerry jugs, water toys and other cruising clutter, she still inspired a sigh of pleasure as we eyed her from the shore or down the dock.

2

In terms of crew, I was fortunate enough to have a skipper who offered much more to the equation than I did. Rick handled all of the stereotypically “blue” jobs with skill, while I applied my enthusiasm to the “pink” jobs. We became a well-oiled machine when it came to anchoring, mooring, and docking, accomplishing these tasks on an almost daily basis with seldom a word passing between us, not to mention raised voices. But most importantly, Rick tolerated and worked around my many seafaring fears and insecurities, and never made me feel unsafe while encouraging me to go outside of my comfort zone. I may never become a proficient dinghy driver or standup paddleboarder, but I can do it.

3Living aboard in a sensitive ecosystem reinforced my nascent sense of environmentalism. The same drive that inspired installation of solar panels on our home even before we went cruising carried easily over to boat life, where conservation of resources is necessary. We often relied on muscle power to get around, solar power to heat our bath water, and, of course, wind power for propulsion when possible. Now that I’m back home, I continue to try to tread lightly, and not be as beholden to “stuff.” Admittedly, though, all of those months of water deprivation continue to make me take longer showers than strictly required.

I will concede that at work, I’m not the same. While I can focus as intently and drive as hard as I used to on specific tasks, my long view is that of a lame duck. Sadly, a lame duck with a good 10-15 years left in her term. But my post-career life is clear: I’m going back out on the water.

by Eva Hill