“There’s nothing––absolutely nothing––half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.” -- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in The Willows
Our first overnighter from the British Virgin Islands to San Martin helped us build our confidence in our 45-footer Sail La Vie and in our sailing skills. Although we made many more overnight passages, none were nearly as “exhilarating” as was the Omygoda (Anagada).
Five years spent cruising wasn’t as much about the countries we visited or the beautiful beaches we saw, as it was about the people we met along the way. We did encounter a few couples who actually thought living aboard a boat and cruising would make their relationship better. Wrong! If you can’t get along on land, you certainly won’t get along on a boat. Thankfully, we only met a few of these misguided souls. Fortunately, we met many interesting, talented, and just plain nice folks.
Cruisers are known by their boat names more than their given names. We were no longer Gary and Judy—we were Sail La Vie. In fact, cruisers seldom ask one another about what we did in our land lives, what our occupations were, how much money we earned, and so forth. Most cruising conversations center on: weather, where to get good, low-cost provisions, where to buy boat supplies, and so forth—it’s all about the cruising life!
We met Dream Catcher—(Bob and Diane)—a California couple in the anchorage of Margarita, a small island off Venezuela. Their dingy had been stolen, and they needed to shop for provisions. With that one shared dinghy ride to shore, the four of us became fast friends.
In their seventies at the time, Dream Catcher had been dreamin’ the blue-water dream for a number of years. She said their children wanted them to stop cruising because they feared something “bad” would happen to them or they would have a serious health problem that would disable them from getting help in time. Sort of a role reversal, wasn’t it?
Months later, we caught up with them in Caracas where Diane was recovering from a serious bout of “flesh eating disease.” Later, we heard from mutual acquaintances that Diane had suffered a mild stoke aboard Dream Catcher, had recovered and were off again—making an overnight passage, in fact! That sounded exactly what Bob and Diane would do. I received a Christmas card from Diane ten years ago letting us know Bob had died of a heart attack--ashore. She sold Dream Catcher and was sailing occasionally with friends on their boats.
Bill and Laura McCourt had lived been living aboard Tinamara (Gaelic for “House of the Sea”) for over ten years by the time we met them in Trinidad during the time of Carnival. Laura and I met while doing laundry in the marina’s facilities. The four of us began sharing sailing stories, drinks, and meals. I was fascinated that Laura prepared gourmet meals and served hem on elegant china! Gary and I had the plebian, non-breakable stuff on Sail La Vie, and it was pure pleasure to dine so elegantly aboard Tinamara. One of the best meals ever was Laura’s Oso Buco—delicious! We sailed north together for a while, and then as cruisers do, went separate directions.
Laura developed Leukemia but had a successful bone marrow transplant and has remained in good health for over twelve years now, thanks be to God! Eventually, Tinamara moved ashore in Fort Lauderdale.
A few years ago, Bill passed away from cancer. Laura moved back to Michigan to be near her family, but is as active as ever. She sails on the lake, volunteers, travels, and, of course, still prepares her delicious gourmet meals.
Cruising is never about where you go or how far you go—it’s about the experiences you have and people you meet along the way. Even though this chapter in the book of our lives is over, the amazing characters continue!