I don't want to suggest we were completely irresponsible. We reefed the sails at night, avoided the typhoon seasons, kept a 24/7 watch, but, at least for me, I sailed with almost no regard for the dangers. It wasn't my boat, I had no valuable possessions at the time, only a sketchbook and a few coconut carvings, so at the invincible age of 24 I had nothing to lose. Now, because I'm sailing with Catherine on our own boat, aware of the potential dangers, ultimately responsible for our safety, and far more fallible at 39 than I was at 24, I've taken precautions that I would have scoffed at 15 years ago.
Some cruisers choose to involve themselves and listen in to the VHF radio network every morning -- local support groups organized by cruisers who provide and share tips, weather information, news etc. The cruisers net is extremely valuable and is maintained by sailors dedicated to helping each other. But for many, the net provides more than just local knowledge and a weather forecast. It provides security -- security in thinking that even thousands of miles from home, in a foreign country, they're not alone, that there are others out here, just like them, that they can rely on and talk to daily, if for no other reason than to hear a reassuringly familiar voice. Likewise, there are sailing regattas that are professionally organized, flotillas of boats crossing oceans together or even circumnavigating the world, comforted by the fact that they're not alone. While I certainly appreciate the benefits of these networks, the fact remains that the captain and crew are responsible for the boat, and when you're sailing thousands of miles from land, you are alone, regardless of who might be over the horizon or listening in on the radio.
I think my last ocean crossing had such a profound effect on my life because we accomplished the journey on our own. Even though it was wrought with potential disaster and we certainly had our fair share of setbacks, we figured them out and moved on, stronger and more competent after overcoming each challenge. If there was a cruisers net back then we weren't even aware of it, so we only had ourselves to rely on, much like how Catherine and I are choosing to experience this journey together now.
We've chosen to sail off around the world for many reasons -- the adventure, the lifestyle, the freedom, the serenity, the incredible experiences, but also for the challenges and the thrill of knowing that we are, for the most part, accomplishing this journey on our own.
So, in just a few days, with no announcement, no farewell party, no broadcast on the Net, Catherine and I will let go of the Americas, slip out of the Gulf of Panama and begin a new adventure together.