With this July issue we once again are happy to offer you a look at the world of small boat cruising and voyaging. As the lead feature “Great Voyages in Small Boats” highlights some of the most famous small boat voyages from Joshua Slocum to the present day.
As we were assembling the section, we were struck by how many people over the years have made wonderful and safe voyages in boats less than 30 feet or so. And I don’t mean the stunt sailors who go to sea in eight-foot prams or six-foot pods in an effort to break some record.
The fraternity of small boat offshore sailors is full of characters and individuals. Some are simple adventurers, some are misfits and some are just taking a sabbatical from the workaday life. But all small boat voyagers seem to have one thing in common: they are mightily lured by the call of the sea. Nothing would stop them from sailing over the horizon, especially not the size of the boat they could afford and handle.
In responding to that call, our fellow small boat voyagers have had to use a lot of ingenuity to make their boats suitable for safe ocean sailing. They have added windvanes and storm sails. They have bought para anchors and life rafts. They have figured out how to carry enough water, food and fuel for many days of sailing away from a source of supplies. They have added solar panels and wind mills to provide energy. In short, they have become incredibly self reliant and self-sufficient.
In the tales they tell of storms at sea, invariably, you will hear them calmly recount how they hove to for a day or two while they baked bread and read. In a small boat, you can’t run or hide, so you endure.
And in the tales they tell of meeting natives in exotic and foreign lands, you often will hear how generous and welcoming the locals are to the sailors of small vessels who have come so far in such small boats, and apparently with so little. In a small boat, you are living at a scale that anyone, no matter how humble, can understand.
And in the eyes of small boat sailors, especially those who have made epic cruises across oceans and about the world, you will see a special light that big boat sailors and landsmen rarely display.
Small boat voyagers who have been out there have been very close to the elements. They have seen waves tower over them and been awestruck. They have heard winds whistling in the rigging that stirred them and even made them afraid. They have seen the full moon rise at the instant the sun sets and know that unique and peculiar illumination you get only rarely at sea and with a completely clear horizon. They have been so close to the water that a visiting dolphin or whale or albatross will be able to look them in the eye. They have seen the oceans in all their magic and from the front row.
Small boat voyaging is more intense and challenging than passagemaking in large modern cruisers. Yet it is in that intensity and closeness to nature that the rewards are found. They are sailors whose dreams are too big to be denied, and as such, they are inspirations for us all.