A backstory post, sometime in 2009...
First, I should say I have a great track record of choosing humans. All of my previous humans have been courageous, attentive, loving, and strong - perfect humans to take to sea. We sailed many miles together while learning beautiful things about the ocean and life. But, choosing a human is rife with risk for a boat like me. It’s unsafe for a boat to take a poorly maintained or poorly built human to sea. They might lose heart, they might get annoyed with you and decide to sell you a quarter of the way through at a fire sale discount so they can get a bigger boat or (gasp) a catamaran. They may become distracted by Sirens or get too wrapped up into a night watch Netflicks binge and run you up on a reef. They may lose interest and leave you rusting away in a remote anchorage in a third world country, a housing structure for a flock of birds. (I hate birds.)
And, that is if you can convince them to cast off to sea in the first place. Many boats put in years and years of labor and investment trying to get their humans ready to go to sea only to find that these humans can’t do it for any number of reasons: fear, lack of money, love of security, a faltering partnership between two crew mates, diverging priorities. Of course, sometimes bad luck strikes and the humans get injured, sick, or worse even, pass away before a boat can set sail. This happens to boats, too, sometimes we are so weak or sick that we cannot leave our dock. Whether it is the boat or the people, it is very sad when a refit fails and a team can never leave shore.
When my most recent owners came to me and said it is time for us to part ways, I knew I had to gear up for the hunt. I chose my last two sets of humans on instinct, and I didn’t want to tarnish my track record this time! I know I don’t have complete control (choosing good humans is a mixture of skill and luck), but I figured I would do whatever I could to fill the bucket on the side of skill. So, I looked back on my prior history of success and formulated a plan.
Step One: Visualize the Perfect Scenario
You might recall my early years were spent in the Caribbean as a charter boat. I met a lot of sailors in those days (some with banana peel cores, some without), and I studied the benefits of white magic Voodoo with my very own Vudu-Guru. In scary movies, they like to show a Voodoo sorceress creating a doll in the likeness of a person she wants to harm. White magic Voodoo is the same; it helps to have an object to focus your attention. It helps to have a tangible representation of the experience you wish for. So, I spend the rest of that afternoon lallygagging through my imaginary circumnavigation from start to finish. I doodle little pictures of what it might be like, fold up my plan and tuck it away in my bilge right beneath my mast step, right next to my heart. My new people are going to be so pretty...
There are a vast array of humans available to choose from on the market. Some are old, but wise. Some are young, hopeful, and headstrong. Some have great mechanical expertise, but no sailing experience. Some are excellent sailors, but run over and smash their thumbs with hammers whenever you tell them to tighten a screw. Some have plenty of money to keep the dream alive, others think they are heading offshore with $100 and a vacuum sealed bag of brown rice and bread flour. There is no perfect human, so before you get started you have to figure out which tradeoffs you are willing to make. The day Steve-The-Cheerful-Chainsmoker-Broker zipped his “For Sale” sign on my bow pulpit, I sketched out three lists.
Why are these my demands? Well, let's take each point one at a time:
Long Haul Sea Gypsy Spirit. They must have itchy feet and a well developed curiosity for far off, exotic places. I want more new miles under my keel and it will be a LONG HAUL sail to get beyond my prior sailing grounds. I think probably about 12,000 miles or more.
Zen Buddha of Boat Maintenance. He or she doesn’t have to be a genius mechanic, he or she must only be willing to think, research, try, fail, learn, circle back, then succeed. Bonus points if he or she can do this with minimal bitching and moaning.
Someone Who Understands My Spinnaker. A person who understands the power of a spinnaker will know how to use my sails. If they know the risk, they likely know storm tactics, too. If they know the benefit, they likely can trim for speed.
Someone with Excellent Spacial Reasoning. Hey! There is some challenge to moving these voluptuous hips through a tight crowd. Besides, we need to Tetris pack the food and spare parts stores to make it all fit. (Bonus points if they also have large, round stern. Thick thighs save lives, you know.)
Hopeful Circumnavigators. Mostly, I want to travel and see more places, but I’m a Valiant. More of my Sisters have completed circumnavigations than any other make of boat, (*Puff Puff*) and yet, not me. Not yet, anyway. If I could swing it to get someone to take me around the world, that would be ideal.
One Engineer, One Lawyer. My first Pacific Circumnavigation was with a crew of two lawyers. My second Pacific Crossing, with two Engineers. What if I took the benefits from each and combined them? An engineer and a lawyer! This is my preference.
Someone who never gets seasick. Man, this would be awesome. Everyone would always be so much cheerful.
Perfectionists need not apply. I am strong and fantastic for offshore sailing, but I’m still a boat. Things go wrong on boats, and you must fix us. It’s a fact of life. If a potential sailor seems bent out of shape because of a little thing here or a little thing there, he or she will forever be dissatisfied with me. That’s a miserable existence. I need love, too!
Anyone Who Looks Around For an Air Conditioner. What do I fear most? Let’s see: onboard fire, shipping containers, whale strikes, lightning, reefs, and air conditioners. I can’t tell you the number of boats I’ve met permanently stuck in a harbor slip with an air conditioner stuck in her hatch. Air conditioners are the death nell of a cruising boat. Second to this is anyone who talks about a washing machine. We must be realistic; we don't have space for a washing machine.
Step Three: Submit a Well Tailored Request to Neptune.
One last step: I know I am subject to the powers of the Sea. If Neptune has it out for me, there is nothing I can do to avoid his wrath. But, 90% of the time, if you give the Sea her proper respect, she can bring you beautiful gifts: sea shells, flowers, new friends, starry night watches, etc. So, I will consult with Neptune and make him a partner in this project.
I sweat over my request two, three more times trying to spy and fix any typos. Then, I give a nod of approval. Carefully, so as to not crease it anywhere, I roll it up and slide the scroll inside an empty bottle of rum. I lay my rum bottle in the curve of a wavelet, and watch the current take it out to sea. Now, I must wait.