Rites of Non-Passage

Crossing oceans is not for everyone. It’s long, uncomfortable, dangerous, and unpredictable. The truth is that cruising is mostly anchoring out and island hopping and not a whole lot of ocean passages for the most part. So why go through the week or two of passage making if it’s not your cup of tea?

[caption id="attachment_15700" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Alchemy at anchor. Alchemy at anchor.[/caption]

Laura Clinkinbeard already knows she’s not an ocean sailing kind of gal. She and her fiancé Jacob Brynjelsen are based in Solomons, MD, and plan a November departure on their Beneateu Oceanis 400 called Life Aquatic. The plan is for Laura to fly from port to port while Jacob sails the boat. Then they will reunite at anchor and enjoy the good life.15

“When he heads to the Bahamas next November, he will cruise over there with some buddies, and I will fly from Norfolk,” says Laura. “I can handle the idea of island hopping, just not days at sea without seeing land with the ideas of storms, big waves, having to keep watch days on end. I’d have to be on large amounts of Xanax to handle that.”

Laura and Jacob even bought a condo in Florida so that she can have a place to escape when things start to feel uncomfortable. “The idea of living full time in such close quarters makes me crazy,” she states. “Jacob will spend the whole time with the boat most likely. And being with someone who is military, I am already used to long stints of time away from each other.”

[caption id="attachment_15703" align="alignright" width="600"]web1 Not all cruising couples share the dream of long ocean passages. Jacob and Laura have found a way to make it work.[/caption]

Laura doesn’t mind fair-weather coastal sailing with Jacob. She plans to take sailing lessons and hopes to learn a little more about boat handling. She says she’s okay as long as there aren’t long passages away from the sight of land. So, she and Jacob have spent the past four years sailing Life Aquatic all over the Chesapeake.

“It’s nice living in Solomons with the Chesapeake as our playground. It is such an amazing place to live, and I feel so lucky to have called it home for so many years.”
Jacob is an experienced sailor with 20 years under his belt and has no problem single-handing the boat. Laura says every time they tell friends about their plan, people jump at the chance to come along as crew and help Jacob with passages while Laura flies.

This arrangement is not uncommon. In fact, it’s becoming popular enough to merit its own nickname: the Flying Wives Club. Or the 747 Flotilla. Sarah North has heard them all, and she’s not laughing. “Personally, I find them kind of offensive, especially since the main reason I didn’t do the offshore was because of the kids. I like to think I would have done it if we didn’t have kids,” remarks Sarah from Anguilla in the Caribbean.

[caption id="attachment_15702" align="alignright" width="600"]Sarah enjoying a one-year sabbatical on Alchemy. Sarah enjoying a one-year sabbatical on Alchemy.[/caption]

She and her husband Barrie and their three boys are in the middle of a one-year sabbatical onboard their Tartan 41 Alchemy. They left Lake Champlain in their home state of Vermont in August 2014 and made their way to the Chesapeake Bay together as a family. The boys, ages 7, 9, and 11 slid easily into boat schooling and learning the ropes of being cruising kids. But in Norfolk, VA, Mom and Dad made the decision to have Barrie take on crew and bring Alchemy to the Virgin Islands with the Caribbean 1500, without the rest of the family. Sarah and the kids road tripped around the East Coast to see family and then flew to St. Thomas and took the ferry to Tortola to meet with Barrie again.

“We only considered doing the offshore as a family for a few brief seconds. Thank goodness we didn’t,” says Sarah. “The boys and I had no offshore experience, unless you count New York City to Cape May. Zero desire to spend 12 offshore days stuck on a boat with three boys.”

Sarah and the boys were able to track Barrie’s progress through the Caribbean 1500’s web site, and they exchanged emails via satellite phone. Barrie describes the passage as “brutal” with eight days of beating to weather. Now with the big hop behind them, they can take the baby steps together as a family through the Caribbean to gain their sea legs. They already conquered their first overnight passage recently with a trip from Tortola to Anguilla. The plan is to stay together the rest of the year, even on the passages that will bring them eventually back home to Vermont.

Moms with kids and unwilling wives make up the majority of the crew who wing their way from port to port rather than make a long passage. But there are couples where the man books a plane ticket while the woman sails to the next port. Sharon Gladwin has been sailing for more than 20 years, but waited until her daughters were grown before chasing the cruising dream. Now that the girls are in college, Sharon is ready to sail, and her husband Jim is happy to stay on land and support her dream from terra firma.

[caption id="attachment_15701" align="alignright" width="600"]alchemy crew 2 Having Barrie deliver the boat to the Caribbean and Sarah and the boys meeting him there made the most sense when it came to timing and experience levels.[/caption]

“Last summer, after an initial refit of my O’Day 302, I sailed from Kingston, NY, down the Hudson out the East River, Port Washington, New London, Block Island, Montauk, Shinnecock, then offshore to Barnegat Light, NJ. That took three weeks, and I was solo except for the first three days. Jim met me in New London, CT, after my shakedown,” says Sharon.

The plan is for Sharon to spend a month or more each year cruising while Jim cheers from home and meets her in port. At six feet 5 1/2 inches tall, he’s not inclined to live on a boat long term. But he’s all for Sharon planning, sailing, maintaining, and cruising her boat wherever she wants.

Some people may see it as splitting up, but these couples see it as the best way to stay together. “Jacob and I met five years ago, and from the beginning, he told me of his plan to cruise after retirement. This is not something that I have ever thought about or really wanted to do,” says Laura. “I love him, so am willing to give it a try.”

by Cindy Wallach