Awakening from a Cruiser's Dream

The following is a reprint of one my articles that was recently published in Good Old Boat magazine (November/December 2011 issue - Thanks Karen!).  I originally titled the article “Awakening from a Cruiser’s Dream”, but the editors went with “A Cruise Feeds the Soul”.  Some of you may have already read this article in the magazine, but it’s some of my most inspired and honest writing so I wanted to also share it here on my website.

A CRUISE FEEDS THE SOUL
By Kevin Walters

The docklines are once again tied and my feet plod once more on solid ground.  My body is back in port, but I don’t know if my sailor’s soul will ever make it back to the dock. 

Perfectly peaceful anchorage in Baie Fine, Ontario
Before we left, I did my research.  I read all I could and talked to everyone who would share their experiences about the pros and cons of taking an extended cruise on a small sailboat.  Now that we’ve returned, I realize most weren’t honest about the most difficult part of cruising: coming home.  As my family (wife and two young daughters, then ages 5 and 8) and I returned to our home port and stepped ashore, I realized that – after more than 1,000 nautical miles and nearly 70 days spent living and cruising aboard our 28-foot sailboat – I am closer to drowning on shore than I ever was while at sea.  On land it’s not water, but rather the pace and particulars of being a landlubber, that’s stealing the breath of life.

Last summer (2010) I lived a cruising fantasy.  I snatched a dream from my sleep and made it reality.  I now have something to write about, something to recall fondly, and something to build upon.  How can I be drowning?

Cruising gave me a clear goal; I knew where I was headed and how to get there.  I have goals when I’m on land, but I don’t always know how to achieve them.  I also have skills on land, but they pale in comparison to my ability to move watercraft from one place to the next.  I’m not a great breadwinner, perhaps, but I’m the best cruiser, navigator, sailor, and captain I can be.

Bridal Veil Falls near Kagawong, Ontario
As we plied the waters of the Great Lakes and headed to the isolation of the islands in Lake Huron's North Channel, I was alive with freedom.  “Sail far and live free!” became our slogan.  I was on fire with ambition.  I was full of the life a cruising sailor longs for in the deep of winter.  It’s not easy to describe how 28 feet of fiberglass suddenly contained all I ever hoped for; my family, my charts, my gear, and my passions were all on board.

Little and Big Point Sable flashed by.  Lonely freighters broke up the horizon.  Our voices echoed in the crescent-shaped bay of South Manitou Island.  The passage to Beaver Island was cold and wet.  Grey's Reef amazed us with turquoise water, massive boulders, and abandoned mid-lake lighthouses.  The Mackinac Bridge soared overhead, and the island gave us sights to see as we biked around her shoreline.  We found peace at sunset in Les Chenneaux Islands.  Monarch caterpillars became our pets on Harbor Island.  A storm blew through in Pilot Cove.  We provisioned in Gore Bay.

Family campfire in Pilot Cove, Drummond Island
The anchor held tight during a stormy night on South Benjamin Island.  We tied stern-to-shore on Heywood Island.  Fish and chips filled our tummies from the old bus in Killarney.  We climbed high in Covered Portage CoveWe watched a bald eagle soar in Baie Fine.  We welcomed July in Little Current.  Sturgeon Cove’s entrance challenged our piloting skills.  We shared a campfire and new-found friendship on Louisa Island…blueberries galore on Croker Island…more friends, campfires, and cozy anchorages in the Benjamin Islands.  Freshly caught walleye fillet encrusted with Frosted Flakes cereal was on our dinner menu in Beardrop Harbor.  We enjoyed the same beautiful views as did the megayachts in Harbor Springs.  Six-foot waves helped us surf home from Pentwater, Michigan.  I pinched myself each morning when I woke, making sure I wasn’t stuck in a January dream.

After years of daydreaming about an extended cruise, I fooled myself into believing I’d feel fulfilled when I returned to the dock.  I thought the itch would have been scratched and the hunger inside would have been fed.  I was wrong.  I am now full of memories but somehow empty.  It took months of planning and preparation for a small old boat to carry a family of four over a thousand miles of Great Lakes water in the period of about three months.  My life on land was focused during months of pre-cruise preparation.  My life at sea for three months was intense and full of passion, challenges, beauty, and closeness to my family.  I won’t forget the quiet reflection during my solo-sailing days at the beginning of the journey, or the sight of my daughters sleeping snugly in their berths below as my wife and I battled through waves and rain in the early hours of morning, or our first night anchored at a deserted island.

I was completely fulfilled while cruising in the wilderness of the North Channel with few amenities, yet I find life can be lacking back here on land.  The great irony is that on land I’m surrounded by high-definition televisions, cell phones, high-speed Internet, cars, DVD players inside of cars, restaurants, shopping malls, and every other “luxury” of the 21st century ashore in America.  If I learned anything from cruising, it’s that material things cannot fill the soul but memories and experiences can make it overflow.

My wife wonders how I can be in such a funk after having lived another of my dreams.  I wonder how I let prudence guide me back to our home port when reckless abandon and my sense of adventure could easily have had the bow headed for the Erie Canal and ultimately the Intracoastal Waterway.  From there, the whole world is just over the horizon.  As I sit at home writing, planning next year’s sailing adventure is what will make the weather a bit warmer and the winter sky brighter until that spring day when our bow once again points away from our life here on land.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for the reprint. I don't have a subscription to GOB mag so the chances of me getting to read this would have been slim at best. I understand just how you feel but doubt I could have writing it as well as to paint such a beautiful picture. My dream is to one day live aboard but until then I will have to be happy with living vicariously though stores such as this. I thoroughly enjoy your blog so keep the great posts coming.
    Mark

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    1. Thanks for the kind words and comment. Living aboard, even for a short time, is truly a life changing experience. It's always good to hear that readers enjoy the reading my website as much as I enjoy creating it.

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  2. Greetings Kevin et, al - I just read your hearfelt piece in my Good Old Boat mag and came to your websiite to comment. I've had my Kelt 7.60 ("Moon Chaser") for 2 seasons now, having gotten her Nov 2009 after taking the 4-day CYA Cert Course - Basic Cruising Standard - On a deal I just couldn't refuse. I haven't looked back since (that is except to look back over the stern at times to get a different view of the lake, sun, rising moon, a loon, etc). I decided during this past season that I can and should sail East on "my" Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence & beyond to where I fell in love with Canada - The Maritimes. It has given me another perspective on upfitting my boat (which I love just about as much as sailing). The list will never stop, eh. Whereas I envision a 2-month cruise, I don't know if other responsibilites will allow this summer. Nonetheless, I WILL cruise this year. Two actual comments on your piece (well ok, 3): 1) Thanks so much for writing it. 2) I hear ya! I have paddled for years prior to sailing. My favourite haunt was my annual Oct week stay on Bear Is off the NC coast. Only accessible by boat with primitive camping - Experiences that venture into the Mystically Sublime (Not to mention out-of-body damn uncomfortable at times [smile]). But the same as you - It gives me a sense of existence I would not have otherwise, and a longing to always be there. In fact, I have withdrawal from just my weekend stays on Moon Chaser at the marina on Frenchman's Bay and daysails. Off season dreams sometimes leave idellible imprints on my soul. I expect the same experience, only deeper, after my 1st cruise. Ok, now what was that 3rd comment? Hmmm. Lost it in the muse of my previous thoughts. Well, I started the CPS 11-wk "Seamanship" course on Mon. It helps the off-season withdrawal symptoms. Funny how working on math formulas/calculations can now be so darn fulfilling! [smile]. Well thanks again for your sharings and efforts. - David Wysocki (& "Moon Chaser"), Frenchman's Bay, Ontario.

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  3. Wow, this is beautiful and moved me to tears. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. WW - Thanks you. This post was straight from the heart and probably the easiest thing I've ever written because it just flowed out of me. I've definitely found cruising to be something that makes you want more of it the more you get it.

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  4. This is a lovely piece of writing here. Having just left New York City a little over a month ago to start a life of cruising, I'm avoiding thinking about ever having to return to land. I guess we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Thanks for posting.

    Tasha (Turf to Surf)

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    1. Tasha - Thanks for the compliment! My "awakening" piece has always been a favorite of mine. It's easy to write inspired posts when you're "out there" cruising. My advice: Don't think about returning to land until you get back. Live in the moment and enjoy cruising while you can.

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  5. Sailing is alot like sex: you can never get enough of it and the harder it blows, the better!

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