05 June 2017

Taking your time

I've been reading Laura Dekka's book, One Girl, One Dream.  I put off reading it for ages, under the misapprehension that she was another victim of ambitious parents, being persuaded to break a record.  It was only after I heard an interview with her on the radio, that I discovered she was someone very different.

In many ways, Laura is the person I wish I could have been.  Bold, daring, self-confident and a fine sailor.  On the other hand, she's not that practical, although I have to keep reminding myself that she's only 14: she is so mature that she comes across as an adult, and even assuming the self-editing that would have come along when she wrote the book at age 16 or 17, she would still be regarded by most as 'only a kid'. 

However, she is, of course, very twenty-first century.  The boat is put together by Other People and she seems frightened of even mending a sail.  Again, she was only a girl and had hardly had a lifetime to learn skills, but her attitude seemed to be that one does things when one has to, but ideally, you bring in someone else to do the work.  It would be interesting to see what she's like now.  Does she repair her own sails and rigging?  Can she replace wiring?  Has she gone for a simpler boat, or does she still have all the bells and whistles that one can understand a young single-hander would want/be talked into.

I was amused by her feeling of relative poverty: she had, (as far as I can make out) two engines in the boat, AIS, chart plotter, radar, SSB, etc, etc, but in addition she had an inflatable catamaran to play with (what a sailor this girl is!), a small inflatable dinghy and a larger one, so that she could use an outboard motor!  In addition, she regularly ate out and had money for a drink or an ice cream ashore, when the fancy took her, and joined other people in hiring cars and other touristy things ashore.  As I said, very twenty first century.  I'm getting old!

However, I found two rather sad things in the book.  She had no time to cruise - well, she was trying to circumnavigate and while she was at it, she had decided to go for the record of youngest circumnavigator.  And, of course, the lucky girl had her whole life ahead to go cruising, so I can understand that.  But what is far more sad, is that no-one had ever taught her how to heave to and wait it out.  Not only bad weather - she is far too feisty to do that anyway, to her bad weather is a challenge - but tiredness, going too fast, calms for that matter.  She loves being at sea, loves the peace and quiet, but as soon as the boat speed drops - below about 4 knots it would appear - on goes the engine.  She never felt that deep peace of being totally becalmed on a tranquil ocean and simply waiting for the wind.  Nor did she ever appear to enjoy the incredible pleasure of barely trickling along with a hardly discernible chuckle at the bow of the boat.  Worse, I really believe she didn't know how to heave to, because on occasion, she took the risk of going into a strange harbour at night, relying to a certain extent on not having any bad luck, because it would appear she didn't know how to stop her boat and wait.

The poor girl made all her landfalls by GPS (which, again, at 14/15 I can understand).  Doesn't everyone?  I guess so, but it's a shame to miss out on that incredible magic of feeling that you personally created the land that is appearing just where you hoped it would.  All voyagers should do this at least once in their lives.  But it's her relentless urge? conviction? lack of imagination? that made her turn on the motor when the wind dropped, that I feel sorriest for.  The boat always had to be travelling quickly and if the wind dropped, well that's what the engine is for. She probably never even knew what she was missing, but the I deep regret on her behalf that she never got to feel the true peace of being alone with her boat on a completely calm, smooth and empty ocean - empty even of wind.

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