Issue: July 2007
OFF THE CHARTS: A Change Will Do You Good

Some people say change is good. I think that's an oversimplification. The fact is change is inevitable—good, bad or indifferent. We're not the same one moment to the next and neither is the world around us. Why should our lives on boats be any different? I was considering this as we were sailing past Thomas Point in Osprey, the 45-foot cutter we bought last fall. It was about 40 degrees, we were reaching in 30 knots of wind. The calendar said spring; the Bay said winter. No one else was crazy enough to be out there. Just us and the birds. Here's the thing, though: We were sipping wine. A piquant sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.

I mention this last bit because in the past, similar conditions would have had us cold, wet and more or less on our ear. Definitely no wine. Luna, our previous boat, can be wetter than a water slide when it's blowing like that, and her dodger is really only designed to protect the companionway, not the people in the cockpit. In fact, odds of us even being out there just for fun so early in the year would have been slim. Transformed as she is from a flat-out racing boat to a racer-cruiser, in those conditions Luna's true colors (and ours) would show. She would go upwind like the proverbial bat out of hell. And wet, cold and exhilarated, so would we. We were racing sailors, by God. We liked it. Sort of. We certainly could take it.

Well, I can also take hitting my head with a board, until I wise up and stop. Sitting back with a cool libation is better. But this evolution from racer to racer-cruiser to cruiser has been interesting. Like any form of change, it hasn't come without a certain amount of introspection and self-doubt. I remember the first time we tried to anchor Luna. We hadn't made any changes since we'd bought her late in the season; we just went with what we had. Since she also was firmly attached to her identity as a racer, what we had for anchoring was a glorified lunch hook with an all-rope rode. I'm surprised it even sank, let alone bit into the mud. After an exciting gusty morning of dragging around the Rhode River while trying to cook breakfast, we started modifying the ground tackle. And while my husband the former bowman cringed at the thought, the custom anchor roller we attached to the bow—along with 35 feet of chain and a no-nonsense Delta hook—has made the cruiser in him revel in simplicity and many a good night's sleep.

This new boat doesn't mess around. Windlass as big as a Volkswagen. Enough chain to stop a ship. And a really big dodger. Still, that wasn't quite enough when we woke up that cold weekend morning after a peaceful, if crisp, night. The sun never quite made it out from behind the low clouds, and it was just plain raw out there. The kids and I went to the beach to run around. When we returned, we saw that Johnny had found the rest of the clear curtains that attached to the Bimini and dodger, and he had put them up. "How does it look?" he asked, a bit anxiously. "Like a Winnebago?"

"A little," I admitted. But who cared? The cockpit was now a sunroom. I felt a summery rum drink and a tiki hut theme coming on. We lounged around until it was time to go, and we set out into the Bay where it remained cold, gray and windy. We leaned back, our foul-weather gear still hanging dry down below. There might have been some spray over the bow, we didn't quite notice. We sipped that wine.

The wind shifted a little. Johnny reached over to give a line a tweak, and the brand new genoa tracks with adjustable Harken cars we had spent two whole weekends installing worked like a racer's dream. The new angle of the sheet to the sail gave us an extra half a knot of boat speed. He grinned.

And I thought, change may be inevitable. But a little balance never hurts.