Journeys And Destinations

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Photo of Mary South - Editor in Cheif - Soundings Magazine

Mary South

We’ve heard it a million times: It’s not about the destination, but the journey. It goes without saying that mariners, as a group, must believe this more than most. Everything about a love of boats, whether sailing or motoring, is focused on the here and now, the journey itself.

What’s better than the journey’s beginning? A walk down the dew-covered dock, early morning sea smoke hanging above still water as a rising sun warms the sky to apricot. Stowing a few provisions, powering up the chart plotter and opening the paper chart, doing an engine check, a radio check, a last weather check … then you’re off. There is nothing that has ever made me happier than an offshore run on a fine day, when the sunlight hits the water like a flint, the gulls’ hectoring cries and the thrum of the engine mixing a song of freedom in the background. Ahead of you is endless ocean, the occasional dolphin pod or passing boat, and hours of pure contentment.

“They change their sky but not their soul who run away across the sea.” — Horace 

And yet, if we’re honest, there have been such days that turned, with a sudden shift in the weather, into endurance challenges. The sky has dropped a leaden lid on the world, the waves in the sound are 6 to 8 feet with short periods, and the autopilot is out. A quick jaunt turns into a heroic spell at the helm that seems never-ending. When you’ve picked up the mooring and cut the engine, you’re exhausted and grateful it’s over. Forget going ashore for dinner and a look at the local wind-whipped, water-lashed scenery. The destination is safety and, for this night, the very boat on which you left the dock this morning.

Much more often than not, though, the weather holds, and after a glorious day, you find a still anchorage, full of charm and natural beauty, empty of other boats. The anchor has grabbed; you’ve set the alarm and killed the engine. Now you take a seat on deck with a humble plate of Triscuits and cheddar and a glass of something cold and watch the miracle changing of the guard: the sun’s molten dip below the horizon, the deepening velvet and diamond arrival of night.

The journey, whatever its challenges, is a meaningful part of our arrival at a destination. It colors our perceptions. We may see it through a lens of accomplishment, relief, exhilaration or a mix of all of these and more. But no matter how bumpy getting somewhere new on your own bottom may be, it’s a hell of a lot more rewarding than an aisle seat.

I like to think of “Unforgettable Anchorages” (Page 36) as a virtual plate of Triscuits and cheddar once the anchor has dropped. Some of our saltiest contributors have shared their favorite arrivals, and though we don’t have the experience of the journeys that delivered them, we have a pretty great view — and now perhaps a yearning to get there on our own boat (see Page 32) sometime — because we mariners can’t really see the destination without imagining the journey, anyway.

On the subject of journeys, and the greatest one of all, our colleague Kathy Moisa, who was with Soundings for 31 years, has left us after a short illness. We’re shocked and saddened. As I departed last night for her wake, I saw that my office windows were wide open, and it was like getting a little message from the beyond. One of Kathy’s pet peeves was a window carelessly left open, and she had an unnerving way of spotting them and an eagle eye, in general. As the office manager, she ran a tight ship with a good heart. We’ll miss her at 10 Bokum Road, and we hope she’s enjoying an anchorage beyond our wildest dreams.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue.