The Self-Taught: Distance Cruiser David Tunick

Rather than junior sailing lessons, David Tunick, 68, of New York City, learned sailing by “on-the-job” experience. While his family drove powerboats, he and a friend bought a Lightning in 1966 and started “sleeping-bag cruising.”
Author:
Publish date:
David-Tunick

Rather than junior sailing lessons, David Tunick, 68, of New York City, learned sailing by “on-the-job” experience. While his family drove powerboats, he and a friend bought a Lightning in 1966 and started “sleeping-bag cruising.” In 1977, he purchased Thunderbolt, a 1961 40ft Sparkman & Stephens wooden yawl, which he sailed to Bermuda, the Bras d’or Lakes and Maine. In 1984, he bought his current boat, Night Watch, a 55ft 1967 Sparkman & Stephens aluminum yawl. In 2001, after many crewed and singlehanded cruises to Bermuda, the Caribbean and Down East, Tunick ventured transatlantic alone for two years of what he calls “commuter cruising.” Now, after extensive European cruising and racing, Tunick is considering Night Watch’s homecoming.

How did you start offshore sailing?

I had a friend who had an S&S Loki yawl, and I sailed a few times with him around Nantucket and the Vineyard. I fell in love with it. As soon as I could afford it, I bought a boat and started exploring the waters off Maine and Canada. I never hesitated going offshore to get places. I remember crossing the Gulf of Maine from Cape Cod in 1977. We found Mohegan Island right on the bow—exactly where it was supposed to be. That was such a thrill and gave me confidence.

Did you have any other important

self-affirming experiences?

On my second singlehanded passage to Bermuda, my autopilot and engine both died. I struggled with the fix, but both were irreparable. So, I heaved-to and went to sleep, figuring I would regroup in the morning. The next day dawned bright and beautiful with the wind from abeam, so I set a course for Bermuda, tied off the wheel and used the mizzen to steer. We went straight as an arrow and four days later sailed right into St. George’s.

How have newer technologies 

changed cruisi
ng? 

Before GPS it was really exciting, especially in the fog. Every cruise felt like a passage of discovery. Newer technology makes cruising a lot safer, but you still have to be the backup. I regularly plot courses on paper charts—it’s important to keep these skills sharp. 

What are the biggest lessons that you’ve learned sailing?

Don’t force things—some things are bigger and more important than schedules.

Have you ever been scared for the safety of yourself or your vessel?

I think it’s foolish not to have some healthy fear every time you go out. Anything can happen. The ocean is in charge. You need to work with it. 

What are your sailing goals?

I want to [sail] into my 90s, and I have no reason to think that I won’t. Sailing across the Atlantic singlehanded had been a goal since I was 22. Then, I wanted to circumnavigate alone without stopping. Now, I’m not sure. I’d love to circumnavigate, but work and sailing goals occasionally conflict.

Any advice for younger cruisers?

Don’t just talk about it—do it, especially while the kids are young. Buy the biggest boat you can afford, keeping in mind the economics and the kind of sailing that you want to do. And keep it safe.

Photo by Dan Nerney

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more