Why we cruise

We often get asked, why do you boat or what do you do out there?  Our answers revolve around experiencing nature and exploring new areas. We enjoy talking about what we have found in our book, Cruising the Secret Coast, and in the blog we maintain.

Recently John Marshall, who owns Nordhavn 55 Serendipity, posted one of best answers we’ve seen to “why we cruise?”  With John’s permission, it follows.

The remarkable thing about cruising on a boat like this is that we can go to truly isolated places and enjoy nature in its rawest and most primal (and beautiful) form, and still have every comfort of home.

Sometimes when I step outside the warm, bright confines of the boat at night and stand out there just listening to the wild, with the boat completely silent, the contrast gives me goose bumps. Inside is 5-star elegance. Outside is wild, cold, primal, uncompromising wilderness. It’s a very bizarre but wonderful kind of transition that occurs in seconds, allowing me as much of either as suits my mood at the moment.

I’ve turned off the TV after watching a movie with the HD plasma screen and sound system delivering a performance that’s as good as any theater, and then stepped outside the boat to find myself standing in the absolutely silent wilderness, without another human being around for tens of miles. A largely untouched wildness of wolves and bears and nature at its finest.

The closest equivalent would be a cabin in the deep woods or high on a mountain side in a wild area. Except you can’t build cabins in places like national parks or many other wilderness areas, and you can’t push a button and move them to someplace else.

Anyway, it’s a mix of perceptions and images and sensations that carry me away every day we’re out. I’ve journeyed many places in the world, lived in far-away lands for many years, traveled in RV’s, backpacked through the Rockies, climbed many peaks in my younger years, and the closest analogy to this feeling is when I was an avid backpacker and could carry my “house on my back”. A snug tent and warm sleeping bag.

Inside my tent, reading a book with a flashlight, I was largely protected from the elements that might be raging outside. Yet one step outside my tent, and the wilderness I had to walk through to get back to civilization was uncompromising. There was no 9-11 to call if I got in trouble.

This boat in Alaska or northern BC is kind of a 5-star equivalent of that. What is common to my backpacking, however, is that despite all the comforts and the gadgets, you can’t let yourself forget that you are on a little boat in a big sea and a deep wilderness far from anyone who could help you, and that piece of chain that leads to the bottom is never completely secure.

That’s where the comparison to a 5-star hotel or cabin in the woods breaks down. On a boat, we are always voyaging, even when we’re anchored in a snug cove. We might turn off the DVD and shut down the cappuccino maker and go to the comfort of our warm bed, crawling under the down blankets, but toss in 40 knots of unexpected wind, fog and driving rain in the middle of the night, and combine that with a dragging anchor, and that DVD and the plasma TV and the surround sound are suddenly completely meaningless toys.

Now its engines and rudders and windlasses and working on deck in the violent conditions and you are suddenly a seaman fighting the cruel sea for your very survival, just as sailors have had to do for millennium.

You have awoken from being cradled in 21st century luxury to find yourself in the midst of an adventure, and only your own skills and those of your mate or crew will take you to safety.

I truly believe that its adventures and unexpected challenges like this that keep us alive and young at heart.


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