Joshua Slocum said, "You must know the sea, and know that you know it, and
know that it was meant to be sailed upon." What Joshua was describing
was a real mariner.
True mariners are in short supply. There have never been so many boats
parked in marinas, and so few mariners to take them out of the slip.
The ocean is a mariner factory. When you successfully weather a storm
at sea, you're one storm closer to becoming a true mariner. Surviving a single storm at sea
may not make you into a mariner, but it's a step in the right direction.
Becoming a mariner takes time, because it requires years to get to know the
sea in all of its moods. You can't get to know it from books.
You can read about it all you want, but until you experience it first hand,
you won't understand the wiles of the sea. You need to put thousands
of miles in your wake before you know the sea and know that you know it.
I've been to seminars designed to prepare sailors for offshore sailing.
Seminars are good at teaching people what to do in an emergency, but
there's no seminar that can make you into a mariner. Only the sea can
Becoming a mariner is a catch-22 situation. You shouldn't go to sea
unless you are a mariner, and you can't become a mariner unless you go to
The wannabe mariner's dilemma isn't as bad as it first might seem.
Becoming a mariner is an incremental task, and most of all, you need time at
sea. There's no other way to become a mariner except by slipping your
dock lines and getting out on the high seas. The trick is to not
bite off more than you can chew early on in the process.
When I first set sail on my circumnavigation, I had never sailed offshore at
night. I was comfortable with the idea of sailing during daylight
hours, but night sailing was an entirely different matter. I felt as
if I was sailing blind and it made me uneasy. I had to start thinking
like a mariner about night sailing. I quickly discovered that if I
reduced sail and slowed the boat down at night, my distaste for night
sailing went away. Slowing down at night was one of the first
mariner-like lessons I learned on my trip around the world.
The sea has many lessons to teach, and if we pay attention, it won't be
long before we start behaving like mariners. Our sea legs will come,
and eventually we will learn to swashbuckle with confidence as we sail the
Knowing the sea, and knowing that you know it, isn't impossible, it just takes
time. If you are patient and put in the time, your confidence will
increase, and you will know that the sea was meant to sailed upon. You
will become a true mariner.