Offshore Passage: Schooled

Taking the bad with the good is not only all part of passagemaking, but what makes it so special

Pre-cook your meals for the first two days. Reef early. Don’t drink too much the night before departure. Don’t expect to poop until the third day at sea. Don’t sail to a schedule. Some lessons are ubiquitous and obvious (including the pooping one, though it might not be as readily apparent at first). Here are a few more I’ve learned in 15 years of ocean sailing.

The 3-day rule:

Any passage shorter than five days is too short. Even during the best of passages, it takes three days for my body and mind to adapt to life at sea. Prior to that third day, I don’t have my sea legs yet, I’m not getting deep sleep, and if the passage is any sort of uncomfortable—upwind, wet, cold, you name it—I question my career choices and wish I was on the couch watching a movie. This never fails.

And yet, by the beginning of day three, I remember why I do this. I’m well-rested. Well-fed. I’ve gotten my sea legs, and I feel inspired again to do “optional” things on deck, like get out the sextant, or make hurricane eggs in the galley. I find myself waking up before my watch starts because I’ve gotten enough sleep.

I read more off-watch, instead of just sleep. I get more creative. In fact, as I write this column, I’m about halfway between the Canary Islands and the Azores, and guess what—it’s day three.

“The more you know, the less you need”

If I could distill my philosophy on seamanship into one bite-sized quote, it would be the one above from famed mountaineer and businessman Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. He was talking about climbing, but it doesn’t take much imagination to apply it to sailing…

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