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From the Editor: Hurts So Good

As President Teddy Roosevelt once said: “Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. No kind of life is worth leading if it is always an easy life.” Words to live by! And one of the many reasons I’m so fond of sailing. Talk about difficulty!

I found myself mulling these and other similarly deep thoughts working on this latest issue of SAIL. Take, for example, the piece by inveterate DIYer and regular SAIL contributor Roger Hughes on installing a new bit of cabin sole. He makes it all sound so easy, at least until you get to the part of the story when he mentions—ever so briefly, and with admirable British aplomb—the job it did on his back, an admission anyone who has done any kind of boat work can sympathize with. Bleeding knuckles, aching shoulders you name it, whether it’s sanding off last year’s antifouling or something as little as having to deal with a recalcitrant block. Fortunately, the feeling when you’re back underway and your boat is reeling off the knots like a house afire can’t be beat—in no small part because you’ve earned it.

Same thing with bareboat chartering. The dirty little secret—well, not so secret if you’re a regular reader of Zuzana Prochazka’s monthly Sail Away column—is that it can also be a lot of work, something I was reminded of editing this month’s “Off the Beaten Path” charter section. One time my wife, then 7-year-old daughter and I did a weeklong charter up in Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. Our first night out, it didn’t take long before a line of storms had us dragging anchor. Worse yet, it took my wife and me three tries to get the thing dug in again, and the following day dawned equally squally, forcing us to take shelter in a nearby marina. A funny thing happened, though, on the way to wishing we were somewhere else—we had the time of our lives. Not only did we thoroughly enjoy hanging out that day, drinking coffee, playing cards and reading in the saloon, but the rest of the week we enjoyed great sailing on one of the most beautiful bodies of water I’ve ever seen—an experience made all the more gratifying given the trip’s rocky start.

Finally, there’s the nature of sailing itself. Heavy weather, headwinds, annoying swells, there’s no getting around the fact it ain’t exactly the easiest way to get around, especially if you’re sailing solo and/or have only a modicum of auxiliary power at your disposal. Case in point, SAIL contributor Emily Greenberg and her tale of how she transited Long Island Sound this past fall (See Escape from New York, page 22). Imagine it, while thousands of people ashore were sitting at home staring at the TV or wondering what to do with themselves that evening, there was Emily, little more than a hop, skip and jump away, having the adventure of a lifetime. Obviously, this kind of adventuring isn’t for everyone. But then again, maybe it should be. When I look back on my many years of sailing, I find myself treasuring the challenges faced just as much, if not more so than those times when everything went right. Not only that, but my memories of the high points are all the more satisfying due to their having been the exception, not the rule. To borrow a line from the immortal John Mellencamp, sailing “hurts so good!” And we sailors wouldn’t want it any other way. 

April 2022

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