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
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. Mackinac Bridge
|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 Cove. We 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 . Freshly caught walleye fillet encrusted with Frosted Flakes cereal was on our dinner menu in Benjamin Islands . We enjoyed the same beautiful views as did the megayachts in Harbor Springs. Six-foot waves helped us surf home from Beardrop Harbor . I pinched myself each morning when I woke, making sure I wasn’t stuck in a January dream. Pentwater, Michigan
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 . If I learned anything from cruising, it’s that material things cannot fill the soul but memories and experiences can make it overflow. America
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.