Learning To Waste A Fair Wind

JHH5II-15735We have spent much of the last twenty years voyaging in the northern North Atlantic and adjacent Arctic waters where the sailing season is short and the penalties for being late are unpleasant. Even when we have voyaged to more benign waters, like the Bahamas or south eastern USA, we are usually way early northbound and way late southbound.  The result is that our schedule has always been driven by the weather—a fair wind and we go, no matter how wonderful the place we are in is. This year, we are working on that compulsive behaviour.

But it’s not easy. Just as soon as we arrive somewhere I’m programmed to start looking for a window to leave. So before we even get to know a place or meet anybody, the clock is ticking. Not exactly a prescription for living in the moment.

So this year, for the first time in our voyaging lives, we are not setting a goal that must be reached. Sure, we would like to get to Newfoundland to spend time in one of our favourite places that was just a fleeting blur during last year’s Arctic voyage. But if other places and wonderful experiences intervene between us and that goal, we will let them.

This year when we arrive at a place, we will start by planning how we can enjoy our stay, not how we can leave. And when we are ready to leave, then, and only then, we will look for a fair wind. The change may sound subtle to you, but for us, it’s huge.

Will this be a permanent change? I doubt it. My guess is that sooner or later we will hatch a plan for a goal driven voyage. But for now and this season, we are already enjoying the new way. That is in-between staving off fair wind guilt.

How do you voyage? Driven by the goal, or in the moment? Please leave a comment.

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

20 comments… add one
  • Tate Apr 26, 2012, 11:59 am


    Would you call it the difference between voyaging and cruising? I’ve heard definitions sort of like that.


    • John Apr 27, 2012, 9:14 am

      Hi Tate,

      Hum, interesting question. I guess you could say that, in that I think of a voyage as having a specific goal and cruising as a bit more aimless. On the other hand, we have some pretty specific goals for this summer that are not destination oriented including being more in the moment, working more on photography and writing as well as taking this site to new places. So, for us at least, it still feels like a voyage.

  • Rikki Apr 26, 2012, 3:30 pm

    Sounds a bit like being or existing. Either way, sounds nice. Next weather window…..

  • Paul Mills Apr 26, 2012, 3:53 pm

    Hi John,

    I think it’s the difference between being a ‘human being’ and a ‘human doing’. Society teaches us to be human doings – doing the bidding of our boss, of advertising, of other peoples agendas of consumer culture etc, etc. Just keep doing, doing, doing because if you start ‘being’ you might just take the time to realise what load of twaddle most of it is……

    Sailing with kids really helps Hazel and I maintain the real priorities; I would be hung from the yard arm if I allowed a mere weather window to get in the way of exploring ruins, woods, dam building sand castle building and deserted islands….. . Maybe you would like to borrow our Ben and Josh to help in your aim this year, if you buy 1 months hire of them, the second month is free 🙂

    On amore serious note, reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle was a read that led to a seminal moment in my life.


    • John Apr 27, 2012, 9:20 am

      Hi Paul,

      Great comment. I love the idea of human being and human doing. We too have read Tolle, and, although I think he could have said the whole thing in a book of half the length, he certainly makes the point well and a very good point it is. It’s the practice that’s hard.

      I think we will take a pass on your kind offer, but thank you.

  • Chris Apr 27, 2012, 9:51 am

    “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Victor Raymond Apr 27, 2012, 10:44 am

    Hello John,
    I, too, am destination oriented. As soon as I arrive one place, I am anxious to get to the next which means checking weather, traffic, etc. depending whether sailing, flying or driving. I am hoping to learn to enjoy the moment more and less concerned about the future. I don’t know if this my nature or stress driven. In either case it would be nice if it went away.

  • Sixbears Apr 27, 2012, 10:46 am

    As fairly new sailors in a small boat, my wife and I avoid schedules like the plague. That way we don’t leave a nice place to see a new place or sail in iffy conditions. It’s pretty laid back, but it’s been working for us. We also discovered a place can completely change its character while we are hanging around. It’s like seeing a new place without moving.

  • Dick Stevenson Apr 27, 2012, 11:17 am

    John, The longer we live aboard, the slower we go. To me it is all goal dependent. We cruise to see new places, experience different cultures and immerse ourselves more fully in history and nature. When in Turkey and the eastern Med we met lots of boats coming through whose goal was to sail around the world. Others intend to challenge personal (and public) records of various sorts. Sounds like your goals are shifting or broadening. It is good to have choices and know how to be in what I call “delivery” mode when necessary and then know how and when to stop and sniff the roses you wish to sniff. Best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Apr 27, 2012, 4:48 pm

      Hi Dick,

      That’s a great way to look at it: “delivery mode” when you need it and slowing down when you don’t. We learned a long time ago that it is often more relaxing to get offshore and do one or two nights and then stop for a while, than day sail every day.

  • Pete Worrell Apr 27, 2012, 11:25 am

    Hi John:

    In cruising, is the fun in the striving, or the arriving?

    Pete & Kareen Worrell

  • Andre Apr 27, 2012, 12:28 pm

    Hi John, sailing, cruising or racing, if you live it with passion, is the right way to do it.
    SY. Coup de Soleil

  • RDE (Richard Elder) Apr 27, 2012, 1:02 pm

    What is the difference between a sailboat and a powerboat? When you are on a sailboat you are already there!

  • Jon T Apr 27, 2012, 3:39 pm

    I just love this site.

    I keep telling people it is one of the very few sites by sailors that is completely genuine, passionate, and informative. And not “clever clever”, if you understand what I mean by that.

    Thanks guys.

    • John Apr 27, 2012, 4:49 pm

      Hi Jon,

      Thanks for the very kind comment. Makes it worth while.

  • Bob Groves Apr 27, 2012, 4:37 pm

    This winter we have tried cruising instead of voyaging for the first time on Easy Go. It is a very tough transition but after being battered yet again in a late season storm Sean last November and needing new sails as a result we have been chilling in the Caribbean. Now we’re looking for a window back to Nova Scotia and counting the days between lows off Hatteras. We never used to do this but being stuck on the beach in Dominica or hove to off Hatteras? Not a tough decision!

  • Niels Wind-J. Apr 28, 2012, 7:27 pm

    Lucky to be stuck on a mooring of Clifden Boat Club for three weeks while the storm ‘Katia’ made its way over the Atlantic past Ireland in September 2011.

    It would not have been nice to be on a fixed scheduled trip.

    Instead we now had the time and fortune to get to know a bunch of friendly and most helpful people.
    And to be ‘forced’ to take part in the Clifden Arts Festival came as an added bonus with 14 days of festivities The Irish Way.
    But in the end we had to look for a weather window where wind and swell were palatable for heading into the Atlantic again for the Winter port.

    Indeed we look forward to continuing round Ireland this Summer. And we just cannot be hurried….

    Love your comments one and all !

    Ellinor & Niels Otto
    s/y AUK

  • Eric Apr 29, 2012, 10:56 am

    I saw a beautiful sight on the Tred Avon on Friday… An amazing, evening sun lit, sailboat dropped the hook off of Bellevue on the Tred Avon. I wanted to know more about this sailboat. I wanted to know what brought them to these beautiful waters.

    The next morning, I grabbed the name off the transom as they headed off under power. Morgan’s Cloud.

    I hated to see them powering away into a day of little hope for wind and missing so much life here and so much peace here. The Tred Avon has been a goal and a destination so often in my life. I wish I had the chance to share how living in the moment here on, and around, these waters have enriched and empowered my life.

    If I saw Morgans Cloud sailing off into a day of fair breezes….maybe it would not have hurt me quite as much!
    It was painful to see Morgans Cloud motor away from such a perfect opportunity to “live in the moment”. (at least for an additional day of moments).

    Bellevue, Maryland

    • John Apr 29, 2012, 7:27 pm

      Hi Eric,

      Oops, sorry to cause pain. It make make you feel better to know that we had already spent two days on the Tred Avon, at Oxford and were motoring off to another lovely Chesapeake anchorage to meet some friends and spend an evening filled with fine food and wine and great conversation.

      For us it was definitely living in the moment since at first we did not even intend to come up the Bay!

  • John Apr 29, 2012, 7:29 pm

    Hi All,

    Thanks to everyone for all the great comments that have reinforced our decision to slow down and have helped to stave of fair-wind-guilt.

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