Boating has always been an adventure: from the first mariners that set sail to discover new worlds to the commercial fishermen and merchant seamen even today who go down to the sea in ships. The seamen who opened world trade routes around the Horn, the captains and crew who fought the world’s great sea battles, and the birch bark canoe men were adventurers all. Whenever or wherever you take to the water in your boat, from a dinghy to a yacht, you are joining the ranks of marine adventurers of all time. There is always an unknown ahead of you -- an adventure awaits.
You can, of course, boat alone, but the greater satisfaction is in boating with others, bonding with family and friends, and developing teamwork that makes your boat go better. Working together to leave the dock, racing, cruising, anchoring, and returning to harbor can expand your life and relationships. Sailing, perhaps, offers the greatest opportunity for team building, but so does two man canoeing, even pedal boating.
Boats, more than automobiles or airplanes, require craftsmen. There is always something to fix or improve on a boat that you must do yourself, not contract for. There’s a crack to mend, or a leak to plug, or a bottom to clean; something to paint, varnish, or polish, or a broken line (boaters don’t call them “ropes” see Education, below) to splice or replace. Perhaps there is a bolt to tighten or a block to grease. If you have an engine, there may be oil to change or packing to stuff. It is an endless source of satisfaction for a job well done.
Developing skills, wisdom, and confidence
There is never a day when you will go out in a boat that you do not learn something new or sharpen a skill. There is never a day when you are not required to make a decision, often quickly, that you have not made in quite the same way before. Boats are not as life threatening as automobiles, but they seem to be. The bigger risk in boating is to your ego, for there are times when wind, wave, or current becomes the master. And with loss of ego, as the Maine sage says, comes wisdom. In this way you develop confidence in yourself and in your ability to handle unexpected situations.
First of all, you have to learn a new language. Boats don’t have fronts or rears. Even canoes and dinghies have bows and sterns, with bow lines and stern lines. There are knots you must learn to tie. There is nothing intuitive about making boats go, either, and you will always want to make the boat go better, or faster, or safer, requiring education in seamanship, rules of the road, and safety. You need to learn piloting and chart reading, how to anchor, and how to read the weather and the water. If you trailer your boat, you need an education in how to launch and retrieve, and how to balance your load; it is not as easy as it looks. In boating, continuing education is the name of the game.
Lots about boating is just plain fun: towing youngsters in a tube, wake boarding and wake surfing, shooting white water in a kayak, skimming at high speed over flat water, heeling a sailboat into the wind, diving into dark blue water in the middle of a lake, trolling for fish, or just rocking gently at anchor in a quite cove and reading a book or magazine. It’s major fun.
Getting away from it all
No matter how much stress you have at work, at home, or at school, when you take your boat out you leave that stress behind. Boating is all-consuming of your attention. You are aware of each minute, what is happening right now, and what is ahead. The more daring your trip, or the more you venture into a new place or try out a new seamanship technique, the more you get away from terrestrial worries.
Boating is exercise. It is not aerobic unless you are in a canoe race, or paddling a kayak into a stiff headwind, or cranking winches on a racing yacht, or making long offshore passages that “trawlerdog”, a veteran of Alaska to Mexico runs, calls “terror aerobics”. Every muscle in your body works in a boat. Even when you are just sitting at anchor your body is working as the boat rocks and rolls. You are getting lots of fresh air and Vitamin D (and don’t forget the sunscreen).
It takes some intrepidness just to buy a boat. You are committing to a non-essential capital expenditure, perhaps to lessons, to continued maintenance costs, and, for some boats, mooring expenses. It takes still more intrepidness to venture out into the unknown, even if the unknown is a small lake. Not everyone can be a boater. If you are, you are special. You are intrepid.
This is reason number ten, just because this list is alphabetical, but it probably should be number one. Joy is more than happiness or gaiety. It is an elevation of your entire spirit – a rejoicing. Can boating give you joy? You bet. Ask a kayaker who has come out of a Class 4 or 5 rapids, a racing sailor who has made all the right tacks at the right times to take first place in a windy race, a power boater who followed the moon on the water to a lovely anchorage, a wake boarder who has gotten major air, or a young child back from his first pedal boat excursion. Your adventures are out there, your joy unbounded.
You do not have to own a boat to be a boater. You can charter or rent, by the hour, the day, or the month. You can crew for boat owners. You can partner with boat owners who want you to share only in expenses. If even those commitments are more than you desire, you can hop on a scheduled ferry, sign up for a guided kayak tour, board a fishing party boat, or join a group excursion. Whatever. Get out there!