From the June 2013 issue of SAIL
Walking along the dock at the Sunsail base in Tortola, BVI, one evening in March, I noticed a most peculiar thing. It was changeover day, when one lot of charters departs and the next lot arrives and spends the night in the marina to settle in before heading out the following morning.
To me, this has always been a perfect excuse to go and hang out by the pool or relax in the cockpit enjoying a sundowner while planning the amazing cruise ahead. Usually there’s a buzz of conversation, bursts of laughter, parents bent over charts, and overtired and overexcited children pestering their siblings or running up and down the dock.
This time the silence was broken only by the usual marina soundtrack of halyards tapping against masts and flags snapping in the wind. In one cockpit a family of five, straight out of a northern winter going by their prison pallor, sat engrossed not in cruising guides but in iPads and smartphones. In another, an attractive young couple gave their undivided attention not to one another but to whomever each was texting or e-mailing; a beautiful Caribbean sunset going to waste. Variations on these themes were seen on another dozen boats.
I wondered how many agendas would be governed not by the beauty or otherwise of anchorages and snorkeling spots, but by their proximity to establishments where Wi-Fi might be found. Reformed smokers may recall planning out certain days around cigarette breaks—I know I did, the embarrassing knowledge of which eventually prompted me to quit—but do people taking an expensive vacation in a gorgeous part of the world do the same thing around cyber breaks? I rather fear they might.
A world without cell phones and tablets and near-universal Internet accessibility is impossible for anyone under the age of 20 or so to truly comprehend, but as far as I recall it was pretty damned good. I liked being able to drop off the grid and go sailing for a few days or even a couple of weeks—“if you don’t hear from me by the end of July at the latest, maybe you should start to worry.” The ability to communicate with anyone from anywhere at any time has perhaps enabled more people to take time off to go sailing—but this kind of freedom comes at the cost of never being able to tune out the static of everyday life and lose yourself in the voyage. It’s hard to commune with nature when you’re cleaning out your spam filter every chance you get.
With the start of the America’s Cup series in San Francisco only weeks away, it’s a good time to reflect on how much the AC45 cats and now the fast and complex 72-footers have raised awareness of multihulls in general. The entire niche has emerged from the shadows; sales are flourishing and exciting new models are announced almost every week. In other words, the timing is perfect for the debut of MultiHull Sailor, a brand new magazine from the editors of SAIL. It hits newsstands in early September, packed with great stories about cats, tris and the people who sail them. Reserve your copy now.