The ARC ( Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) has just left Gran Caneria in the Canary Islands on the annual migration of boats from Europe to the Caribbean. With over 200 boats ranging from 27' to over 80', I imagine it must be quite a sight as they get under way in 20 knots of wind.
There is a great deal of debate in British sailing forums on the merit (or otherwise) of sailing in such a large group. We were NARC's (Not with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). Why? Well I have never had a desire to be one of a pack; group-think does not really describe how I want to sail! It also seems an expensive way of getting invited to a couple of parties!
It has also made me think again about the practice of 'sailing in company' or 'buddy boating'. We have done both in our time but have decided that it's not for us. Not a reflection of the boats we have sailed with, we have without exception enjoyed their company, but more an indictment of my indecisive nature!
You know how it is, one day is just more right than another for getting under way... sometimes it's the weather, sometimes it's just a state of mind, but I cannot handle the subtle pressures of taking another boat into consideration in my decision making. Call it old age, selfishness or whatever but I must say that the longer we cruise, the less I am prepared to compromise on my decisions.
I feel it's quite an interesting character development. On the one hand I have become more open to new ideas and philosophies and yet, on the other, I am far tougher in my dealings with others. I suffer fools less easily and am fascinated at the prejudices that slip so easily into a conversation. Was it always like that?
Once upon a time I would keep quiet if a conversation went in a direction that I disagreed with, playing the part of peacemaker. Now I speak up and state my viewpoint, often in a strong manner! ( You may have noticed that in this blog from time to time!) Is it possibly the knowledge that we are constantly moving on and subconsciously I understand that I will not have to relate to these ideas again? Although have you noticed that if you really have a 'set-to' with another boat how that boat seems to haunt you for months in every anchorage that you pull in to! (You know who you are!)
Cruising has allowed me to develop a stronger sense of myself than when we were busy chasing around in the frenetic land based life of 'the before'. I sometimes wonder if others feel the same way after a number of years outside the mainstream of life? It seems to be a strange juxtaposition of living in almost total isolation from other human beings and then the most intimate of social relationships for brief and intense periods. I guess it becomes almost an over-sensitization?
We have enjoyed some really fascinating and provocative debates with the global community that we meet on the ocean. The best conversations are the ones that allow disagreement without judgment and ill temper. When that happens the mental stimulation is exhilarating and I love it. Something about cruising, facing the fears, the challenges, has inoculated me against blandness and sycophancy. Or maybe I am just growing older!