The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Is It An Adventure?

I was hugely excited when Matt pitched writing about his new starter cruiser. And the process of editing his first two posts has just increased my appreciation of the idea.

And, as you all know, I’m a man of strong views who rarely agrees with all of any article…unless I wrote it myself. But I think Matt and Katy are going about this just about perfectly, and wait until you see the great boat they bought.

That said, there is one thing Matt wrote that I disagree with:

This puts us a little at odds with AAC’s core focus; is it really “adventure cruising” if it’s limited to a single-digit number of days away from home port at a time? Perhaps not.

When Phyllis and I named this site 18 years ago, we added the word “Attainable” to communicate that while we were doing pretty aggressive high latitude stuff at the time, that did not confer any particular virtue to nor make our adventures any more meaningful than anyone else’s.

And we still believe that what makes an adventure is personal and should never be judged or compared to anyone else’s experiences, and, further, that doing so is potentially dangerous since it encourages people to step outside of what is attainable for them at the time.

We only need look at the number of people who attempt the Northwest Passage without the necessary experience and as their first high latitude voyage, just because they want to get the tick—oops, a pet peeve of mine rears its head.

Anyway, my point is that Matt and Katy’s cruises close to home and of short duration are—they have already completed their first one—just as much adventures as our voyages to the high latitudes, and just as worthy of being written about at Attainable Adventure Cruising.

And if you are wondering about the photo at the top of the post, Phyllis is standing next to a sister ship of my first cruising boat, a Sea Sprite 23, in which I had many adventures—often with four of us living aboard for as much as a week—that are just as cherished in my memory as our voyages to Greenland.

No one gets to judge what a meaningful adventure is except the people having it.

Further Reading

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Michael Lambert

My brother had kids before I did, and I’ll always remember something he said about the experience: “Now, going out to eat is an adventure.” And in some ways, sailing our family from MDI to Portland last year FELT more committing than my first offshore trip to Bermuda, but took the same amount of time. It’s about the feeling of commitment. If our 1yo didn’t nap? God help us.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Michael,
Kudos to you for a successful cruise with family/children.
Long ago, I was sharing a beer with someone who had just returned from a Bermuda Race and he was talking about what a challenge it was: high winds and seas, sail changes at zero dark thirty, driving the boat hard, etc. I was impressed and told him so. He came back at me saying that the cruising I did with wife and three children, from his point of view, was far more challenging and impressive. I had never thought of it that way.
I believe that taking loved ones out on a boat is actually a huge responsibility. I think those that come from a racing background have to make significant head-set shifts to make cruising with family work. (Perhaps John could speak to this?) I know a number of family shifts to a summer cabin in the woods from a cruising boat after a skipper has subjected the family to an upwind jaunt and not chosen leisurely fair-weather day sails and extra days at anchor.
One could argue that a partner, husband or wife, is making their own, hopefully informed, choices. But that argument hardly holds any water when it comes to children. Their safety is in the skipper’s hands. In most respects, my goal with the family, was to stay away from adventure. It may be adventure enough (or another definition of adventure) to arrive safely at anchor at your destination when sailing with partner and children. “Adventurous” adventure will come naturally to those who put miles under their keel.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Matt Marsh

Having kids on board really does change things.

Our first passage on this boat – 50 miles in the open in force 3-5, then 15 miles of canal transit (passing 700 foot freighters in a 300 foot wide channel at night), then 80 miles in the open…… that was a lot less stressful and more relaxed than a 6 mile day trip we did in force 2 conditions a week later.

The difference? Sailing double-handed, versus sailing with the kids on board. You lose one adult to taking care of them, so you’re effectively sailing single-handed while also being responsible for a crew…. and kids don’t come pre-programmed to know how to act aboard a boat!

Dick Stevenson

Hi Matt,
I could, perhaps, make the case that many adults do not come “pre-programmed” to know how to act aboard a boat.
And, you are absolutely correct in observing the distribution of work and single-handing with children on board. We had a cannibalized chair with a tray and “seat belt” for the youngest. We figured a small handful of Cheerios spread on the tray gave us 5 minutes while a large handful might give us 10 minutes of working the boat together when single-handing did not suffice.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Michael Lambert

Thanks Dick,
I am coming back to sailing after spending my 20’s and 30’s rock climbing, and in that world there was a theory about how to aid people in dealing with fear, which was to provide for them a long series of positive experiences, with limits pushed very gently. The idea was to create an association between the activity and having fun, so that when the inevitable fear shows up, it is viewed through the lens of fun.

I am very much using this theory in my approach to introducing the family to cruising, not just because I’m experienced enough to know about how much I don’t know, but because if the kids and partner don’t have fun then game over.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Michael
So true, kids definitely have to have fun: all do. And as for having kids aboard, I have commented to my wife that we may have had more fun when we had to push ourselves to go exploring with the kids to keep them entertained and we found fascinating things to do/learn that we may miss nowadays when we loll around after anchoring.
Enjoy, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
I was thinking about the same while reading Matts interesting article. I was also thinking that it’s brilliant to take a look at the 30 grand angle at more or less the same time as looking at the 100 grand angle. Many issues are the same, of course, but the conclusions in each case are often quite different. This might be related to boat size, ocean ambitions, comfort needs or something else. Anyway, I think this exploration of the simpler option fits perfectly on this site. I sometimes like to be provocative and say things like: The smaller and simpler the boat is, the greater the joy will be. That’s not a universal truth, but still not wrong…

Denis Bone

Absolutely correct, cruising sailing is not a competition, it is done for personal satisfaction and enjoyment, not to say ‘I’ve been further and faster than anyody else’, if you want to score points start racing!

Ernest E Vogelsinger

When talking about adventure – the keel of the boat in the picture certainly hides more than one, even before hitting the water!
(sorry, couldn’t resist)

Simon Robinson

My first sea-kayaking ‘expedition’ aged 18 was in retrospect a walk in the park. The one around Svalbard 20 years later markedly less so. But you get there in stages and each is authentic to you. My sailing followed a similar course and I certainly lived my first 21-footer hard (for me) until I felt we kept getting too near the edge and chose to move up one rung.

Simon Robinson

A small achievement – not a circumnavigation but an out-and-back. We didn’t get permission to go past the Nordaustlandet strait, and in retrospect I think they judged us well 🙂

Ralph Rogers

In my twenties, immediately after leaving the NAVY, (an adventure) I singled an Alberg 30 from Honolulu to Midway and back with a Loran, a “borrowed” first gen small craft GPS from Uncle Sam ( don’t worry, I returned it), and a radio direction finder (also from a small military craft), a shortwave radio, and some old charts. Luckily the weather there is quite benign and quite easy to follow from one atoll to the next. That was my first real ocean trip, aside from NAVY things. That was an adventure. Many other adventurous “by myself” things over the years, not all sailing. Now, during the summer, I single out over the Columbia bar, and hang out in the ocean for a few days, maybe a day in some bay, and cross back. That’s all I have time for at the moment. Last year I didn’t have the time. So I crossed the bar, hung over the side, touched the ocean, and crossed back before the tide changed. It was still an adventure.
I don’t have a “big boat”. I single 99.99% of the time. I don’t have the money for all the goodies and boats we talk about here, but the things I learn here, and the ideas, and the things that make think, cross over anyway.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.
Ok, fine, not quite.
Keep up the good work.

Steven Hodder

The adventure is what you make it. Our first boat was a SS23 and I still have a soft spot in my heart for her. I think Carl designed some of the prettiest boats on the water. My wife and I had many trips around the Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound in her, and we’re NOT small people, but man did we have fun! A friend of mine bought her so I still get to enjoy getting out in a “small” boat. An Alberg 30 is our big boat now.

Richard Elder

As other commentators have pointed out, adventure is a state of mind. It has little to do with the size of boat or number of $ spent. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Bill Nance, who circumnavigated on Cardinal Verture, David Lewis’s 27′ Verture from the very first OSTAR and hanging out around John Guzzwell (pioneer circumnavigator on the 21′ cold molded boat he built behind a fish & chips shop.) Adventures for sure. But so are Steven’s experiences gunkholing around southern BC with his significant other. Or how about the current owners of Tristan, the 112′ 220,000# S & S Ketch that I helped build. She was designed with all of the aids available at the time including twin Hundestadts and retractable bow and stern thrusters,—-but a couple sailing her all through the South Pacific for two years with no crew aboard? A little bit more adventure than I’d tackle!

Yaron Hirsch-shahar

Hi John.
My first sea adventure was a few months after getting my sailing license, I took a boat for a week in Turkey and generally did not leave the bay at all. One day just before entering another marina, it started to rain and there was heavy fog, we were all wet, I saw nothing and did not know what to do. But I remembered rule number 31 from the article “John & Phyllis ’36 Immutable Rules of Seamanship”. A simple rule that says: We will attempt never to confuse discomfort with danger. So I just let everyone keep getting wet and did not enter the marina. 5 minutes later the fog disappeared, we went into the marina and went happy to drink tea.

Ben Garvey

My first “Sea Adventure” was on a home-built ‘weekender’ plywood 16′ friendship sloop, built by my dad and I in our basement from Popular Mechanix plans, launched when I was 13 yrs old. Canadian Tire tarps and duct tape for sails, clotheslines and random other string for lines. I spent three summers – first on a lake learning how to sail, then 2 in Halifax Harbour dodging all manner of commercial traffic- having untold (and as a parent now – frankly horrifyingly risky) adventures with a changing cast of friends. All of us under 16. Dismastings (clothesline is only so strong), swampings, collisions, groundings, getting stuck under or on top of docks, fog navigation, becalmings in front of container ships (and the resultant brushes with on-water authorities)… but also fantastic sails, new discoveries, some good fishing, serene anchorages, and access to crazy old forts, institutions, navy structures, and all the excitement of exploration and accessing those places others don’t. it was a pretty dynamic education!

We never left the harbour, but felt like world explorers. It drove me to get my commercial tickets early (I was told earliest in Halifax’s history – but who knows); and become irretrievably connected to the water world.

That whole boat might have cost my dad $1500 to build (1983 dollars) – we re-used a lot of materials from other projects – but it changed the course of my life, and probably a few of my friends as well.

The pleasure and rewards are not connected to the dollars spent at all – if you’re wild enough!

Ben Garvey

yeah, John… I can’t really explain it except to say that youthful ignorance was bliss! we thought that when it hit 15 deg wat temp in August – that WAS tropical!

How’s the water temp at Carter’s beach? wish I coulda joined that cruise…

Petter Mather Simonsen

What constitutes an aventure is most likely a personal thing.
Here is a 2 mins. fun clip; What adventured means for people who do it for a living:

Matt Marsh

One of my favourite boat adventures was in my little open outboard runabout when the boat was only a couple of years old and I was just a couple of years into high school. Dad and I loaded up some tenting gear and food, launched in Georgian Bay, and hopped around the Beausoleil / Honey Harbour area for a few days. It rained, we got tossed around a bit in waves we could barely see over, we helped tow a big powerboat off the middle of a (very well charted) sandbar, we spent half an hour getting the campfire to light, and we only put about 15 miles on the boat the whole time – but man, was that ever fun.