Cruising

After reading “The Essence of Seamanship” (July 2013) by Tom Cunliffe, as well as the online banter that followed, it became apparent that the topic of “seamanship” is a hot one, especially in today’s ever-changing world of on-water and systems technology. Here’s my take: 


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We at SAIL don’t tend to dwell on the darker side of the sailing life—boats lost, sailors drowned. The monthly “Voice of Experience” column has its share of drama, but it’s the kind in which, to channel the radio cliché, “luckily, no one was hurt.” Quite honestly we’d rather focus on reasons to go sailing rather give anyone a reason not to.


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When I first purchased my 1987 Beneteau First 375, I had visions of mimicking the exploits of Tania Aebi, the Martin family and other daring sailors I admired.


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Back in the day I owned a salty gaff-rigged ketch named Autant. Traditional to a fault, she had no electricity, plumbing, winches, roller-furling or any other modern conveniences. Nor did she have an engine, though there were plenty of times when I wished it were otherwise. Like it or not, those years I spent cruising without an engine were emphatically educational.


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Gazing upon Cayuga Lake on a calm August day, I am struck now three decades later by my vivid memories of what must be every sailing instructor’s worst nightmare. It was supposed to have been a picnic, a final exam for the summer sailing program at the local yacht club. Instead, in less than 20 minutes, it turned into a terrifying, life-threatening maelstrom of wind and water.


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