When I learned that our staff had to deliver a Cutwater 28—a stout single-engine pocket cruiser—from Newport to Annapolis in September, I jumped at the chance to get out from behind this desk. When my boss and longtime friend Gary De Sanctis mentioned—more than once—that he could free up a day or two between budget meetings, our trip began to gel.
You see, I love passages on any boat. Indeed, this particular trip would only be 48 hours, but sometimes 24 hours is all that’s required to clear the mind and gain some perspective.
I was fortunate enough to enjoy offshore cruising early on when my Dad took me along at age 11 on a delivery from Massachusetts to Maryland. I remember how he calmly, yet sternly, delivered a lecture after finding me asleep at 3 a.m. on my first solo watch off the New Jersey coast. “If you can’t handle the responsibility, then you need to wake me up,” he said.
Of course, this was his method of motivation. It worked. More than 30 years later, when I begin to fade during the graveyard shift the memory of his voice will jolt me awake with more intensity than a gallon of chugged Red Bull.
Gary is a keen boater and one of the most skilled boat-handlers I know, but this trip was his first real overnight ocean passage. Talking to him about the trip after we arrived without incident in Annapolis, I was reminded of the reasons why I like going to sea. Here are a few.
Recharging the Batteries: After a week of airports and commuter trains I’m tired. In fact, my wife and I nearly left a Friday night movie recently when we learned there were subtitles. Why? We didn’t know if we had the energy required to read and process the subtitles after a crazy week. (Although, it would have been cheating the system to leave after ravaging a box of Sno-Caps.) So why would I want to tax myself even more during boat-show season, our busiest time of the year? Well, first of all, long watches in the dead of night offer a different kind of tired. Maybe it’s the difference between being physically tired and mentally exhausted. It’s as if I need to take my body’s energy all the way down to empty as part of some primeval ritual. Only when I’ve hit that base level do I become deeply and fully recharged—ordinarily, I’m just topping off.
Watching the Sun Set: I enjoy the last hour just before the sun dips below the horizon so much more at sea. I think it’s in conjunction with the simple pleasure of completing small tasks where I can instantly see the direct benefit: Organizing the charts, tossing a few flashlights around the cabin, taking a last walk around the deck, one more engine room inspection. I’m also not sure why, in this dusky no-man’s land, a can of La Choy Chicken Chow Mein tastes so delicious. It’s like the foie gras of the sea. Maybe it’s because nobody except your shipmate will witness you slurping down a bowl of sodium, MSG, and crunchy noodles with such gusto.
Seeing the Sun Rise: After spending nine or so hours in complete darkness there’s nothing better than seeing the moon vanish and the sun rise. Gary and I spent most of the night cruising through the busy Ambrose Channel shipping lanes. We had no other choice coming from the eastern end of Long Island. It’s good to test your navigational skills, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved when daylight returned. That first cup of coffee and a runny egg sandwich are a real treat.
Breaking Up the Routine: In the magazine business, an editor’s biggest fear is often monotony. The conventional thinking is that you’re only as good as your last issue. Maybe life is the same way. During a period of crazy travel, I start to yearn for a routine. Yet, after a long run of uninterrupted time behind my desk, I go a little nuts. Boating, in my opinion, is the cure-all for this.
Good Memories are Happiness in the Bank: I’ve made so many boating memories—from a simple overnight to Chebeague Island with my wife, to battling gale-force winds south of Bermuda with this magazine’s publisher Arnie Hammerman, to cruising from Newport to Annapolis with Gary on a 28-footer. And I’m planning for a heck of a winter on the water as well. Thanks, Dad.