“Y R U Motoring Downwind?”

By , July 31, 2011

Yesterday, the three of us went to the boundary rock on the north end of our beach. The fishing has been pretty good there, and we hoped to catch a pink salmon for dinner. Michelle and I fished while Aly, never that enthusiastic about fishing, whittled, ran errands, and kept us company. The sunny, windy day was quite pleasant, and as we fished, an endless parade of boats passed. Inevitably, we saw a sailboat, which started us joking. Michelle proposed making a giant bed sheet banner to haul out when sailboats pass. It would read “Y R U motoring downwind?”

Lynn Canal can be quite calm at times, but generally, the wind blows briskly north or south. We see a lot of sailboats on its waters. Many are under sail, but the vast majority motor. As sailors, whose homemade sailboats have languished since we took on the homestead, we find this frustrating. While we might understand motoring against the wind to avoid long tacks back and forth in a shipping lane, motoring downwind seems like a waste of resources—not just fuel, but the boat itself.

We see this all the time, and it leaves us confounded. Why own a sailboat at all if you don’t sail it? I suppose it’s a matter of time—people don’t seem to like anything that takes time anymore, even if it’s for pleasure.

Sadly, I think I know the real reason we see so many motoring sailboats. I’m pretty sure that used sailboats are far cheaper than other pleasure craft in Southeast Alaska. People buy a sailboat, planning to learn to sail, and either fail to do so, or learn that our winds can be too strong for their comfort. They sell at a loss to others, who have similar aspirations, or realize that buying a sailboat is the only way they’ll get on the water on their budget.

Whatever the reason, it’s embarrassing to see so many sailboats motoring past. It’s especially frustrating for us, as we see the great sailing conditions these boats have at the moment, and wish we could be out on our sailboat in those same conditions.

I must add, in order to keep this from sounding like another case of “the grass is always greener,” that were our priorities different, we could have our main sailboat overhauled and out there. We speak of the requirements of the homestead holding us back, but the homestead occupies us pleasantly every bit as much as sailboats have in the past. We’d like to have it all, but one takes clear precedent over the other. Momentary regrets aside, we’re certainly content with our present situation.

By the way, we did catch a nice salmon for dinner.

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