The Minimalist Sailor

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I’ve always felt, and have always been told that I have an old soul.  I’m not an altogether spiritual person by any stretch, but I do feel there is some truth to this.  For my entire life, I have always been intrigued by history, learning, and the wonders of the natural world.  When I look around me and see the idiocy of my generation, perpetuated by its unyielding attachment to all things superficial, all I see and hear is useless noise.   My senses are ever-bombarded by advertising, inane politics, and the ceaseless frenzy that is the modern way.  I often wish I could’ve lived in another time, writing this by candlelight with quill and font, with nothing more than the sea lapping nearby and the sound of the wind whispering by.

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My old writing desk. How I miss thee…

And thus Lorilee has become my escape.  The projects have slowed down, she’s in the water, and most importantly, I’m sailing.  Instead of frantically toiling away in the shipyard every weekend, I sleep in late, have my coffee on the foredeck, watching the seabirds over the backdrop of a rising sun.  For the majority of time, the phone gets turned off, severing my connection to the noisy world outside.  I usually accomplish a few small projects, but I take my time, enjoy the work, and sip on a cold beer at the end of the day.  Not that I hadn’t before, but I am sincerely enjoying my time aboard.

I have recently become utterly enthralled by the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O’Brian. Though on the surface the stories are entirely steeped in naval warfare, there is a certain sublime freedom to them.  The setting is mostly 19th century Europe, centered around naval captain Jack Aubrey and his esteemed friend Dr. Stephen Maturin.   Their adventures together over land and sea are both charming and entertaining.  It has been a long, long time since I’ve lost myself in a book.  O’Brian’s vivid description of life at sea, bent sails, and starry nights is something of my dreams – of an age gone by.

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Geoff Hunt – HMS Bellona on blockade duty off Brest

About ten years ago, a movie was made based on some of O’Brian’s stories. It was called Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.  It may sound somewhat melodramatic, but I can say with earnest that this movie changed my life.   Shortly after it came out, I saw the movie, as just the mere premise of it sounded appealing.  I was totally blown away.  It not only entrenched my love for tallships and the sea, but therein I heard something for the first time that I’ll never forget: the music of J.S. Bach.   From that point on, I knew I had to learn and know everything I possibly could about this music.  It prompted me to change my college major, to change my hobbies, my tastes – even my friends.  Down this path, I studied the pipe organ and harpsichord, traveled around Europe, and broadened my mind further than I could have possibly done otherwise.  Even today, every time I hear the prelude to the first suite for solo violincello,  I smile – because I know I would not be where I am today without it.

The engrossing allure of tallships has had me captivated since childhood, long before I ever set foot on a sailing vessel.  I find them simply majestic, with their finely carved planks, polished decks, towering spars, and bronze cannons.  One of man’s greatest technological achievements.   And before I leave this earth, I fully intend to sail aboard one.   My coming plans to voyage may only be a stepping stone to achieving that goal. Who knows?

What I do know is that I’m not meant for this time.  I feel out of place – disconnected with all that spins around me.  Some say that I’m running from something.  That’s partly true, yes, but I also like to think that it’s more of a search for something – something grander.  I have to think that there are answers to my questions out there…

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Overlooking Scion, Switzerland. 2008

 

 

 

 

Updated: August 26, 2015 — 20:33

5 Comments

  1. The tall ship Tres Hombres is a 32 meter schooner that offers 10 people a chance to sail along with the crew of 5. I sailed the Caribbean in this engineless ship last year. You can sail for a day or 6 months. If you want to know more: fairtransport.eu

    1. What a beautiful ship! I may just have use up some vacation time next year :)

  2. I’ve recently developed a fire under my posterior region, and am looking at the same boat you own, the westsail 32. Just checking in to see if your opinion on her, and any tips for survey buying research mode you may recommend. Any advice appreciated…

    1. I’m by far no expert, but after seeing a WS32 for the first time, I was sold. I didn’t even know how to sail when I bought her, but I immediately loved the lines, shapely and true. They have a reputation as strong boats, weathering conditions that many modern production boats would founder. They’re roomy, with lots of storage, and wide spacious decks.

      For surveys, there are a number of things to look for, much the same as other forty year old boats. Deck compression under the mast is an issue, if the compression post isn’t supported properly. Hull blisters aren’t really a big deal, because of the hull’s thickness – up to 1.5″ in some places! Any good surveyor will find anything else that needs addressing. Spend some time reading through Bud Taplin’s site Westsail Parts Company. He has lots of articles about failed components and issues he’s seen over the years.

      As far as the sailing qualities go, I’ve been told they’re slow, but sea-kindly. I haven’t had enough experience to pass judgement, but the few times I’ve taken her out, I’ve seen 6kts in light wind (and my total lack of skill). The only problem I’ve seen so far, and have heard from other owners, is the weather helm. The WS32 is designed with a HUGE mains’l, thus giving you a stiff tiller when heeled. There are few things to be done to counter this. The main/boom can be cut down, or the main reefed, or I’ve seen some talk of a longer bowsprit to accomodate a large heads’l. I’m still learning her ways, but I’m sure I’ll find her balance soon enough!

      Keep an eye on the for sale pages on the Westsail Owner’s Association website:
      http://www.westsail.com/Westfs.htm

      Keep an eye on YachtWorld and SailboatListings.com as well. I bought mine on Craigslist!

      Good luck, and let me know if I can be of any help.

  3. Ryan! You’re on the boat and in the water!! Yeah!!! So happy to read you so happy and inspired. We’re back on Splendid after weeks of running around with land problems and it’s like we can finally breathe again.

    Nothing in the world beats a moonlit deck or waking up and jumping into the ocean even before breakfast. There’s nothing like living on a boat. So happy for you, brother.

    Much love,
    C.

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