There is a certain amount of comfort derived from planning your future.
A man with a plan usually goes the distance, and a man without a plan goes
nowhere. There's no doubt about it, you need a plan.
But a plan is much different than a scheduled itinerary. A plan is a
general direction with possible stops along the way and suitable
contingencies should problems arise.
Plans are great as long as you don't fall in love with them,
and then get stressed out when things don't work out exactly as hoped.
The plan is there to get you going - it helps you overcome the inertia
caused by fear, indecision, and ambivalence. The plan also tells you
where to take the next step. That's how you make dreams come true; you
take a series of steps, and each step is in the right direction.
When you live your dreams, you don't need to see far into the distance.
You only need to see where to take the next step. The same is true
when you sail across an ocean.
While we were sitting in Gibraltar preparing to cross the Atlantic, we knew
we had to take three giant steps. The first was eight hundred miles
southwest to the Canary Islands. The second was seven-hundred and
fifty miles southwest to the Cape Verde Islands. The third was
two-thousand one hundred miles west to Barbados in the Caribbean. Each
of these steps consisted of smaller ones that we took each day in the right
direction - one day at a time, one step at a time.
The giant step from the Cape Verdes to Barbados required more
than two weeks because there were no trade winds during the first half of
the trip. It was mostly motoring or slow sailing in light
We had a plan, and worked our plan. We carried twelve
jerry cans of fuel because we knew this was a windless year in the eastern
Atlantic. There was a high probability we would need a large amount of
fuel to make it to longitude forty degrees west where reliable trade winds
made their appearance. That meant we needed to carry enough fuel to
motor one-thousand windless miles.
People who didn't have enough fuel drifted west under spinnaker
and light air sails making sixty miles a day toward their destination. One
boat was at sea for nineteen days and still had one-thousand three hundred
and fifty miles to go before arriving in the Caribbean.
If sailors could see into the future, they could always leave port with
favorable winds that would continue all the way to their next
port. Sailing would be a waiting game in which they sailed only when
conditions were perfect. That's exactly what many sailors attempt to
do; they take a trip to fantasyland downloading weather files that purport
to predict wind direction and speed one week in advance. Actually these files should be called computer generated wind
fantasies because the predicted winds frequently don't materialize.
It would be great if long range weather predictions were
accurate. Then crossing an ocean would be like catching a train on
schedule and riding it to your destination. But that's not the way you
sail across oceans. Weather predictions are generally accurate one or
two days in advance, but beyond that they are a trip to fantasy land.
They make excellent fodder for feeding endless speculation regarding what
your weather might be on passage. But highs and lows, fronts and
troughs, and tropical waves and hurricanes are all chaotic in their
behavior, and therefore, unpredictable.
Mariners must accept the chaotic nature of weather and set off with a sea
chest full of contingencies - ready to deal with the
meteorological mysteries that unfold along the way. After all, they
are a sailboat, and sail they must. Port tacks, starboard tacks,
beating, reaching, and running are all in their bag of sailing tricks.
And if they use their common sense, they will arrive at their destination
earlier or later than planned, but they will arrive, and it will be an
adventure. And that is why they sail. Adventure.
Arriving is a great reward giving a sense of accomplishment.
But the voyage is even more important, because in the voyage lies the
adventure. When they are finally in safe harbor, the biggest part of
the adventure is over. They will enjoy their time in port, checking
out the sights and renewing acquaintances with fellow cruisers for a week or
two. There will be plenty of time to discuss their adventures with their
friends until they pull up their anchors, raise their sails, and a new