Later Magazine: Amateurs at Sea

Our first sailing related article, "Amateurs at Sea" has been published in Later Mag's most recent issue.

Later is a surf and travel magazine that tops our list of favourites to read cover to cover, so we were excited to be able to contribute to this issue with a story about buying our first boat in Florida and sailing to Mexico.

Later Mag is free and available at a list of locations you can find here within Canada, the States and internationally.

Thanks to our friend Eric Greene over at Later for this one! Go ahead, scroll on down and take a through the article below...

Amateurs at Sea

As featured in Later Mag V3.2

We’re at some biker bar in Fort Pierce, Florida, and we have no idea what we’re doing. It’s karaoke night, there’s no hard liquor to be found, and management informs us, “Whiskey and guns got a man killed in the parking lot, and we don’t need that happening again. What’ll it be?”

Despite the lack of any hard stuff, he later offers a connection to pick up some of the ever elusive, “Square Grouper” from one of his biker pals. I note to myself, cocaine at biker bar, OK. Whiskey at biker bar, not OK. We thank him and politely decline. The karaoke plays on as I go back to the draught in my hand. It looks like cloudy, yellow water and smells strongly of mould. I drink up and order another. At least the bacteria in the draught lines will give me that extra kick needed to stomach Beth the meth addict and her rendition of some Lynyrd Skynyrd favourite.

Fort Pierce is a strange and wonderful place and it is only the beginning of our tour. Within our first twelve hours in Florida we overheard three conversations about either assassinating Obama or not believing that “a black” won the election. Twice!

Whenever we tell people we live in the Yucatan Peninsula area of Mexico, the first topic of conversation is always the same. The people of Fort Pierce batted a thousand at asking us if we knew any inside information about all them border jumpers, and if there was anything we could do about it when we go back. My reaction is a desire to explain the geography of where we live in Mexico, but when you look into those eager, pleading Floridian eyes, like a father who doesn’t have the heart to tell his son that mama ain’t comin’ home, you nod and say, “Sure, we’ll see what we can do.”

It’s a tough crowd in Heaven’s Waiting Room, and all you want to do is down another mouldy pint until things finally get numb. This whole affair, this stop over in the beer-only-biker-bar, is just one night along an adventure much bigger than karaoke and cocaine. We came to Florida to buy our first sailboat. Once the boat, some boat, any boat, or the perfect boat was in our possession, we would set those sails and point down the coast into the Keys, across the Gulf Stream along the coast of Cuba, through the Yucatan Channel, and pull into Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

How much sailing experience do we have? Hard to say. When we rent the little Hobie Cats from all-inclusive resorts near our house, we pay cash under the table and tell them we’ve been sailing for years. They’re just tiny catamarans, so who cares if we have no idea what we’re doing. 

What kind of experience do we have sailing larger boats like the one we’ve come to purchase, maintain and live aboard? Give or take a week. Everything else is banking on a dozen technical textbooks and throwing caution where it belongs. Besides, no proper adult figure advised otherwise. “Is no one actually telling us we are fools? That this is a terrible idea? We’ll be fine. We’ll be fine? We’ll be fine!”

After almost two months in Florida, 11 hotels, thousands of miles, and many boats inspected, we bought the one we fell in love with. A Morgan 321 in great condition, which we named Edward Blair, after my father who passed away to cancer years back.

On top of the boat cost itself, we dropped a hurtful sum outfitting it with safety gear, fishing equipment, engine tune ups, fabricating new parts from old parts, and a bunch of other expensive details you shouldn’t be bothered with here. What you need to know is that owning a boat isn’t a good idea if you’re looking for a casual hobby. It’s a full-time job that wants your savings for breakfast.

Once you’re out there, sailing, you forget about the missing funds. You sail through seas of thousands of jellyfish. Schools of dolphins race with the boat, jumping out of the water and showing off, because that’s what dolphins do. Then you fish. You sail and wonder how you even wound up here. You receive no texts, emails, or mobile updates of any kind. All of the racist biker bars, expensive maintenance jobs, and thousands of Floridian miles can’t touch you out there. You are at sea, one of the last remaining untouched pieces of history in the world. It was here before civilization and it will be here well after we’re all gone.

They say that to sail is to be one with the ocean. There are no sounds but the sea against the hull and the wind through the sails. At night you are alone on a long passage with land nowhere in sight. Man and nature! It would almost sound believable if it weren’t complete horseshit. The ocean’s only job is to destroy you.

True, the sea sometimes puts on the appearance of tranquility. The sounds of wind and water passing along the boat is part of the whole reason why you’re in the middle of nowhere. But nothing is, has been, or ever will be one with the ocean but the ocean. It’s survival out there, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Before you know it, survival is a little more real. It is leaning off the back of your boat in the middle of the night to cut the line of a lobster trap that’s wrapped so tight around your propeller that it has ground the engine to a halt. Fuck. Don’t fall off. It’s dark out there and the ocean wants you tonight. 

Survival can be holding course at just the right angle to stay on track after your autopilot breaks during a squall that has tipped your boat completely sideways, sending everything from one side of the boat to the other. Ease those sheets way out! Then the storm is gone and everything is smooth again. Put the pieces back together down below and stay on course. Something will always be trying to remove you from this Earth. Your job is to figure out how to stay here, one reckless decision at a time.

If being one with the ocean wasn’t so life threatening, it might just be a nice pastime to enjoy. But, to be one with the ocean, you would be agreeing to float endlessly with the sea's desires, never beating against it to get where and what you want. Let’s leave that thought for those who enjoy the sound of it, and understand that you and the wind are just strangers passing in the night through one of the roughest neighbourhoods in the world.

The best course of action in sailing, as in life, is to take advantage of every opportunity you have to the best of your abilities. You may not be able to change the momentum of the world around you, just as you cannot change the wind and the waves, but you can take note of what is happening and strike when the time is right.

Mikee HK

Introductory bio from Later Mag

"This man has a better laugh than you.  It's heartier and scarier, and when it gains momentum it nearly causes him to choke to death.  Beyond this stage (stage 5, some say), bolts of lasers shoot out from his eyeballs.  A true Citizen of the World, he can do almost anything just by believing so.  But can't we all do that?  No.  Despite our repeat viewings of Hook, we cannot.  We cannot “bang-a-rang” like Mikee.  He is a self-taught scholar, a businessman and an adventurer, but more than these things, he is a lover.  Of what?  Of the sea, I think.  But also of finer things:  cigars, important literature, Dance-Dance Revolution.  Like other sea people, he's convinced of an impending robot take-over.  One day, should he ever die, whether by sentient machines or in a laughing contest, he will most certainly regret nothing." — Robjn Taylor