Galway, Ireland. Having been involved in sailing for around a quarter-century at this point (and still learning), I have discovered some interesting facets about the activity which aren’t necessarily documented in the numerous books on sailing.
The first and most important quirk about sailing, is that it hates a schedule. If you’re like me, your life is divided up into little chunks of time. Each one calling on us to perform a specific function at a specific date and time. I know I’ve written about the free feeling you get when released from schedules, but it actually goes further than that.
Living in Ireland, means that we can have all four seasons in one day. People are often amazed by this, and assume it’s some sort of Irish hyperbole, but it’s true. What this means is its very hard to plan things too far into the future. I have often decided to spend a weekend pottering around Galway Bay, perhaps visiting Ballyvaghan or Barna, and possibly spending the night on the hook. Then, reality sets in as wake up on Saturday morning and check the sea area forecast, only to find that a multitude of storms, gales, and other malcontents, are imminent. So, my mind turns to other pursuits, which aren’t dependent on the weather.
Conversely, I can find I have plans to visit friends, or drive somewhere on a particular weekend, only to find that the weather conditions are perfect for an afternoon of sailing, and I’m constrained by other plans. Or, more often, it’s because I’m at work, looking out over a pristine Galway Bay, blue skies and fair winds.
While that’s annoying, I’ve found that the other schedule interference, is much worse. That’s the type which gets in the way while you’re actually sailing. Most often, it manifests itself as a desire to get from A to B, because the boat has to be in “B” by some looming date. So, you throw caution to the wind and depart when your more-reserved self might wait a day or two, for a better weather window. This often happens when chartering for a week, I find. You’re five days in and the boat needs to be back at base by the following evening, and there’s a lot of uphill (or upwind) sailing to do, to get there.
Sometimes it happens because you have crew on board and they need to depart from a specific location. Or else, you need to be somewhere to pick them up. Either way, it’s one of my least-favourite things.
When I’m sailing in Greece (next week!), I have two important rules on board. The first is, that we don’t leave until everyone is ready. That seems obvious, but I’m shocked by the number of times I’ve been on board someone else’s boat, and they’re rousting everyone at 06:00 for some ungodly reason. Sure, maybe you need to catch the tide, but usually it’s for some vague reason about wanting to be somewhere in time for something or other, which never strikes me as that important. The second is that we don’t decide on where we’re going next, until we’ve had breakfast on the day. It is one of the great freedoms when sailing, to be able to say; “it’s nice here, let’s stay another day…”
You can’t do that if you have booked into a hotel, or you’re following some sort of schedule. Likewise, if the great anchorage you’d planned to spend a few days in, turns out to be overcrowded, hot, or just plain uninteresting, you can decide to sling your hook early, and go somewhere else.
It’s funny though, that first rule is often misinterpreted. A few of us chartered a boat in Kinsale some years back. We spent the night on a visitors mooring in delightful Glandore. Morgan and I were up early, sitting in the cockpit and drinking coffee. We decided to head out, not for any schedule reason, but because it was a lovely morning and we felt like it. We fired up the engine to get us out of the bay, and dropped the mooring. Within minutes, a few tired-looking, half-dressed crew appeared in the companionway, ready to pitch in. Had we needed them, we’d have waited for them to get up and have a leisurely breakfast (as per Rule #1). But Morgan and I could handle the boat on our own, and it’s actually fun to lie in your berth, snug and warm, as the boat starts to head out. Instead, everyone down below assumed they were needed and rushed to help out. Too late! Their beauty sleep was disturbed, and our tranquil two-handed cruise out of the estuary, was gone.