A Sailor for Life
Early in September of 1970, I overloaded my 1967 BMW R60 motorcycle and set off on a ride-about—same as the Australian walk-about but less tiring. I was 26 and wanted to find myself. Among the tangibles I'd need to sustain the search, I carried a Kodak Retina III 35-millimeter camera and a small bag of Tri-X black & white film, a Royal typewriter, paper, a two-man tent, sleeping bag, single-burner camp stove, a kit of nesting pots and pans, a coffee pot and a duffle full of clothing. I reckoned that observation and introspection would guide me to the elusive self. Decades later, I continue to search for my "self," but—older and wiser now—I know it changes configuration and theme more rapidly than I can discover relevant pieces.
Still, I have to credit a stop on my ride-about year for leading me to the first and most significant shape in the puzzle. Visiting friends in Painesville, Ohio, I learned to sail! — at night, aboard a 32-foot wooden sloop of unknown design, build and age. When Jake, the boat's owner, suggested that I steer, we were close reaching on starboard tack under genoa and full main. Jake advised me to watch the wool telltales on the windward shroud and keep them flying at about a 45-degree angle. I couldn't see them well enough to discern an angle, so I relied on the feel of the tiller, loading up in the puffs and going slightly soft in the lulls, to keep the little boat on course. When I sailed too close to the wind, I could hear the sails luff and feel the steering go limp. If I steered too low, the tiller felt numb and the boat slowed.
We sailed until dawn, and when I climbed onto my motorcycle a day later to head east, my life had changed. I was a sailor and would be one forever.
From a dinner cruise to a boat parade, we’re easing back into the cruising lifestyle.
Yachts from around the world gather every summer for the Opera House Cup, Nantucket Island's event in the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge series. Though the classic race takes place on Sunday, the island is hopping throughout the week with events as part of Nantucket Community Sailing's annual Nantucket Race Week. Photos by Eleanor Lawson.
Here are just a few opportunities around the country to work as a tall ship’s crew.