Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Minimalist sailing

I recently heard about an article in a cruising magazine where a couple who were out sailing were on a thousand dollar a month budget.  This is supposed to be an impressively low amount and I guess if you were able to obtain figures of what people out cruising are actually spending, a thousand dollars would be comparatively low.  What does a dollar amount actually say about the quality of an experience though? Is that how we approach experiences, by reducing them to a number?

Most of the people who read these magazines will never go cruising and we all know that.  Today, with the odds of achieving an upper middle class life getting slimmer, most are even less willing to take a chance and cast off the dock lines before retirement. What kind of a person might I become?  Would I want to be like that?

There are people out cruising though and, yes, most look like they are retired and right out of the cruising magazines.  Sometimes you see cruisers that definitely do not resemble this profile and I become curious. Take “S“ who arrived about the same time that I did here in Hilo, Hawaii.  I rowed over to his boat and introduced myself one afternoon.   I learned that  he single handed over from California. His thirty foot fiberglass mono hull had the look of a marina lien sale special or the free boat you find posted on Craigslist with the requirement that it be moved by the weekend.   S lost his rudder on the passage over from California with about a third of the distance to go and had to jury rig one out of the panels that walled off the engine compartment.  He claimed he made it into Hilo without “human” assistance.  I learned, very quickly that S is a man of god.   He was glad to have this boat in the islands as it was a replacement for his other that was impounded by the authorities on Kauai.  S has had a few problems with the authorities as they don‘t particularly see eye to eye when it comes to rules, that is, rules made by people.  When it comes to things like valid photo ID, S simply stated his position;  “I don‘t do that“.   Even when discussing the loss of his last boat to the authorities, S lamented,  “It was the Lord‘s boat that they took“. 

I have also met “N” during my time anchored in Hilo.  I met N early one morning when I awoke to the sound of him fending off his boat from mine to avoid a collision.  After helping him, I asked what he was doing.  Apparently, he was trying to pick up a mooring that he knew nothing about which was obviously (but not to him) too close to where I was anchored.  “That mooring is too close to me, why don’t you just use your anchor and find a spot a bit farther out?“  After a short conversation in which I found out that N only had a total of six feet of chain on board, two lengths of three feet each, (which is completely inadequate to safely anchor), I changed my tack.   I became patient and ended up giving him some guidance and help for I know that at one time we were all pretty green ourselves. N had also single handed from the west coast, leaving from Seattle to Eureka, California and then a straight shot to Hilo.  He admitted that he had never had to anchor in his entire sailing career. (He got a slip in Eureka).  The passage over from Eureka took over 30 days which isn’t bad considering he hand steered the entire way as he has no autopilot.   Upon arriving in Hawaii, he promptly got on EBT(electronic benefits transfer), known locally as “eat better today.”  It is the modern non stigma credit card version of food stamps and from what I have seen and heard, Hawaii is about the easiest state to qualify.  When I remarked that he was cruising on not even a low budget but more of a “no” budget, he said that he promised himself he would leave in 2012 no matter what.  I asked N how much he received in food benefits and was told that here in Hawaii they give you $320 a month per person!  With that high a rate, I doubt most of the “poor” here have even heard of TVP (my staple boat food for my 2012 crossing).   In fact I priced TVP at the exorbitantly priced organic food store and found that it was twice the price of ground beef!  Only in America…  N also confided in me that his next destination after Hawaii is the Marshall islands as he claims his EBT card will work there as it is a U.S. territory.  How about that as the criteria for a destination? 

Epic journeys of transformation. To fall in love with the sea and to find your sailor’s soul.  How can I make this happen right now with what I already have?  Isn’t that the minimalist creed?  Or maybe it is really, do all this but make sure you get back within a year so you don’t threaten your career or retirement plan... I don't know if N or S maintain blogs about their trip.  Lots of photos of themselves flashing winning smiles with captions like “Doing it” or “Living the dream!”.  Maybe they do, I didn’t ask.  Do you think the slick glossy cruising magazines would do stories on them?  It could read, “Forget about a $1000 dollar a month budget, do it on a $2000 boat and food stamps.  God will watch over you!”

I am thinking I should just quit working and get on food stamps.  I get tired of my leftover TVP…