Monday, March 15, 2010

My Second-Most Favorite Form of Transportation (Maybe My First)

This may come as a surprise to you, but I like travelling by bicycle. The pace is right, so you get to see, hear, smell, feel, and even sometimes taste this beautiful world in which we live. There's a sense of accomplishment, because you're getting there under your own power. With loaded touring or randonneuring, you can tote as many creature comforts as will fit in your bags ... and that you're willing to drag up a long hill.

It is freedom. It is refuge. It is an escape pod from the hustle of daily life.

Given that, you should not be surprised that my second most-favorite form of transportation is a sailboat.

As with the bicycle, it is an intimate form of travel. When you are sailing along with the engine off and the wind abeam in a light sea, you are one with the world. The boat rolls along on the waves, the breeze fills the sails, and you rock along in the rhythm. You breath in the clean smell of the ocean solitude, adjust your course to pass downwind of a rocky point, and are at once both completely responsible for what happens to you out five miles from land while simultaneously submitting to the whims of nature.

We like to say that randonneuring is "self-supported." Sailing takes it to a new level.

As with touring or randonneuring, you can work harder for a little extra speed, or ease off and get there when you get there. Usually, if you see something cool, you can stop and check it out. When you get tired and need a little break, instead of stopping a little longer at the next control or finding a hotel or campground, on a boat you head for a good anchorage.

That's one thing that sailing has over touring. When you're touring, you don't always have a lot of options for overnight stops. On a sailboat, you're travelling with your whole house, so it's pretty easy to just keep sailing to the next island group, going through the night if you have to. You've got your bed, kitchen, bathroom, and so forth with you, and most boats have automatic steering (either electronic, wind-vane, or an old-fashioned piece of rope) so you can set the sails and let the boat do its thing. I've biked through the night, and it can be very peaceful. But sailing through the night is zen-like and -- as long as you set your course right and regularly look around for big boats -- you can take a nap.

Depending upon where you're sailing, however, you may also have lots of beautiful coves in which you can stop for the night. These coves may have gorgeous beaches, and nice little restaurants with tiki lamps and fresh fish and drinks with rum and coconut juice and those cute little umbrellas.

My point here is that I am off sailing this week in just such a place with RandoGirl and Lynn and Vida Greer, so you won't get a lot of cycling blather from me. We're in the British Virgin Islands on a 33-foot sloop, sailing and snorkeling and living at island speed. It is extremely doubtful that my butt will even come close to a bicycle seat for at least eight days.

I'll probably post some pictures and tell you about it when I get back. Mostly, I expect this to be one of these trips where there really won't be much to talk about -- kind of a "you had to be there" thing. We sailed, we swam, we ate, we drank, we laughed. We saw some stuff that a picture could never do justice to, we had a rollicking sail on a windward tack that even Hemingway couldn't write about in a way to make you feel half-way close to what it felt like to really be there ... and so he wouldn't ... and we watched the sun set behind a lush island as a calm evening draped over a world that breathed a collective sigh, blinked slowly, and became night.


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