Sailor-Punk and the State of Cruising

What’s the best way to recycle old plastic boats? Have adventures in them!
Author:
Publish date:
When it comes to the cruising life, the kids are still alright

When it comes to the cruising life, the kids are still alright

Back when I was a young man, sailing back and forth across the North Atlantic in an old fiberglass sailboat, it seemed fairly obvious to me how all that was wrong in the world might be set right. Everyone should be issued a boat at birth! Or so I declared to any who would listen during a number of alcohol-fueled bluewater philosophy seminars conducted in beach bars and cockpits in Europe, West Africa and the Eastern Caribbean.

I was kidding, of course, but not really. For I did believe, and I still believe, that the economies of life practiced while living aboard a small sailboat are the economies we all need to learn to keep our planet habitable in the long term.

It is fashionable now to decry the gross proliferation of plastic waste on this orb of ours, but there is at least one upside. There are now enough derelict plastic boats lying about that my old edict can be implemented. Old fiberglass sailboats ranging roughly from 22-32ft in size can be had for very little money or in some cases no money at all, which means most everyone who really wants a boat can have one. Not surprisingly, there is a growing legion of idealistic young people who are taking advantage of this.

Exhibit #1 is a young man who calls himself Moxie Marlinspike, founder of what he calls the Anarchist Yacht Clubb. Moxie and three friends (all young women) bought a ruined Pearson 30 in Fort Lauderdale for $1,000 and then rebuilt it in true guerilla refit style. They tabbed in scavenged sheets of plywood as new bulkheads and stepped their mast using the dinghy davit on an unattended superyacht. When they were done, they christened their boat Pestilence and on a no-strings budget cruised it from Florida to the Dominican Republic. Moxie’s hourlong video “Hold Fast” documenting this adventure is a modern classic and nothing less than a manifesto for contemporary post-punk cruisers.

There are more of them out there than you’d think. Being anarchists they are not particularly well organized, but there have been some attempts. On the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, there have been at least three gatherings (in 2010, 2012 and 2016) of DIY punk sailors at an event called first the DIY Sailboat Meetup, then later the Salt Assault Fest. There’s also a desultory Boat Punk/Sailing forum on the Squat the Planet website (squattheplanet.com).

Scratch around and you’ll also find individual DIY youngsters blogging about their adventures. My current favorite is Emily Greenberg. After sailing around playing second fiddle to boyfriend skippers on different boats, she promoted herself to skipper and got a boat of her own. Her first was an old Bristol 24. She then upgraded to an old Pearson Ariel 26 named Vanupied (French for “barefoot peasant”) that she bought off a young Quebecoise cruiser. She’s currently in the middle of a never-ending mobile refit (aren’t they all?) and does deliveries and brokers sales of other small “classic plastic” cruisers to help make ends meet. She documents all this at her blog site Dinghy Dreams (dinghydreams.com). She has great spirit, is unremittingly honest, and it all makes for a great read.

Of course, you can also find these creatures in the wild, when you’re out cruising on your own boat. I very, fortunately, found one myself, a young Canadian fellow named Matthew, who helped me re-anchor my boat last June after she started dragging in the midst of a gale on the New Jersey coast. Matthew, his wife and their two girls were homeward bound at the time after spending a season cruising the Bahamas on a beat-up old Grampian 30. He was a Good Samaritan in the best spirit of cruising and had spent most of that morning touring the anchorage helping out those in need, including another young barebones sailor whose tiny Catalina had been blown up on a beach.

If you follow the racing scene, you’ve probably read a good bit over the past decade about how young people aren’t staying in the sport of sailing. But the people writing these obituaries have been looking at the wrong side of the sport and aren’t interested in the right kind of young people. There’s no doubt about it: for the young and the restless, cruising is where it’s at. 

May 2019

Related

NewBoatsTwitter

New Boats: A Mix of Speed and Smarts

While it’s safe to say that U.S. production boatbuilding is a shadow of its former self, one North American company that is still going strong is Rhode Island-based J/Boats. Not only that, but far from just surviving, the company continues to push the envelope, ...read more

01-LEAD-170914_JR_WCSEnoshima19_327556_0704

Enoshima Japan Olympics

If experience has a tone, it would sound like three-time Olympian and 470 sailor Stu McNay—steady, measured, with a positive, almost Mr. Rogers feeling. “Each Game has a unique flavor,” he says, the day before last spring’s 470 European Championships, one of the rare events he ...read more

Amel50-2048x

Boat Review: Amel 50

It is possible to cross an ocean in almost anything that will float, just as you could cross the United States on anything with wheels. But to voyage safely, swiftly and comfortably calls for a good deal more than the minimum. That’s where bluewater specialist Amel comes into ...read more

01-LEAD-lagoon46-ncz4503-a3

10 Places to Cruise With a Catamaran

Navel gazing doesn’t get much better than from the deck of a sailboat anchored somewhere exotic. You can think great thoughts staring up at the stars from a South Seas anchorage. It’s also better doing so on a catamaran. Full confession: I’m a cat convert, a cat evangelist if ...read more

Radome

Ask SAIL: Some Random TLC

Q: I recently removed my radar’s white radome, which covers the internal rotating antenna. I gave the radome a light sandblasting to clear it of years of grime and discoloring. Should I paint it, too? — B. Anderson, Aberdeen, MD GORDON WEST REPLIES Stop! First, make sure the ...read more

L42-Sea-Trails-3728

Boat Review: Leopard 42

Sticking with its proven design formula, but also cherry-picking popular features from its recent models, Leopard Catamarans has launched a “best of” package with this new boat that sold nearly 30 units before hull #1 even touched water. Like a greatest hits album, the Leopard ...read more

01-LEAD-Cut8

Know how: Reinforcing Engine Stringers

If I were to ask, “What are the top five parts of the engine you want to be able to easily access?” How would you respond? Would it be the dipstick? The overflow coolant? I’d wager the raw water pump and its impeller would also make the list. Am I right? The reason we want to be ...read more

Sail-VOE-4-a

Experience: Under the Eyes of the Bar Bunch

Sitting quietly at the bar of a local yacht club, I gaze out over a rambunctious Lake Michigan on a sunny but blustery spring afternoon. I am enjoying watching a small sloop approaching the marina and recognize it as belonging to one of our newest members. “Pretty little thing. ...read more