Plenty of people worry about plenty of things when they consider the prospect of cruising. Looking in from the outside, the fears we hear voiced from those who wonder about cruising are centered around a few themes. We mostly hear about about pirates and storms.
None of these have ever played significantly in our fears. They are factors that we address, but they’re not fears per se. If you accept headlines from sensation-oriented media, then yeah, any one of them seem pretty freaky. But practically speaking, careful planning keeps them from being part of your reality (fingers crossed that never comes back to bite me). The short version is that we avoid regions with pirate activity and make conservative routing choices based on weather. It isn’t rocket science, and I don’t expect to feel more in danger on the ocean than I do on a highway. Highways…now, that’s more rationally scary!
So what am I afraid of? It depends on the timeframe.
Leading up to our departure into cruising, the one thing I worried about the most was the education of our children. I grew up as an academic traditionalist, and breaking out of the mold was scary. How can I make sure that they grow up as empowered individuals: sure of themselves, loving to learn, and willing to tackle whatever path their heart desires? How can I not screw up my kids?
I’m not even going to address that except to say- ha! Why was I worried? Taking our children out of the mainstream and giving them this opportunity has felt like the a great set of stepping stones on the path in fulfilling those goals for future.
My fears today are different. The biggest one can be summed by this image.
Many of our cruising miles have been through open ocean, far from shipping lanes. Outside of a “tuna-for-cake” trade with friends a couple of hundred miles off Mexico, we saw exactly one other boat on the nearly 3,000 miles to French Polynesia. But much of what we do is coastswise, with abundant local traffic. And shipping lanes can be hard to avoid, because they’re following the same clear path you probably want to be on. The rules of the road are nice, but COLREGs are immaterial if the guys on the bridge aren’t paying attention.
Just a few months ago, a cruising boat we met in the Marquesas was hit by a bulk carrier off Australia. Riga was aware of the vessel, but unable to make contact with them over the radio. It seems that the bridge not only weren’t paying attention, but inexplicably altered course to continue a collision course toward Riga. Unsuccessful in their effort to avoid collision, Riga was dismasted and suffered substantial damage – but thankfully, no serious injuries.
We can’t avoid shipping lanes, and we can’t fix stupid. So instead, we’ll arm ourselves with information, resources, be alert, and then hope for the best. Then, we have to make sure we don’t let fear rule us. It is kind of interesting that so often, people who want to talk about our different way of life, focus their questions on these fears and disaster scenarios. It’s not our nature to live in gloom and doom. Being optimistic for us is also a function of rational thinking, but ultimately, it’s a choice: life is far to short to filter through your worries instead of your dreams.