Vintage Attitude – Right and Wrong?


OverProtectedsmWhen we got the letter everyone in the office had a big laugh. Yeah, right, like there really are people out there who really think like that. People who think you must wear a harness and tether at all times while at sea. People who feel you should always have a life vest on, or always wear spiffy deck shoes, and fear for your life while cruising. We figured this letter must be a put on. All of us have lived aboard and cruised, and it seemed ludicrous that there might be someone out there who actually got upset because someone would sail without a harness or deck shoes.

That night, as I gave it a little more thought, I realized that this dude was serious. He really did think all that, and more. Then I started asking myself why. What could cause a person to think like that? Then I started asking myself what can I do to help show the fallacies in such thinking? I mean, I’ve made a couple dozen major ocean crossings, and I know that I’m not qualified to tell someone else what to do, so what would make this guy think he was? And then it hit me…he knew what was right for everyone because someone told him the right way to do it, and they probably did so in print.

It’s obvious that some folks spend a little too much time reading magazines like Anal Retentive Sailor and books like The Perfect Storm. Not only do they read ‘em, but they actually believe that this is what they will find once they cut the docklines.

Hey, wake up! It’s not like that out there! If it were nobody in their right mind would go. Sure the magazines tell you to wear the latest Sure Stick Green Water Sailing Shoes. Of course they tell you to always wear a tether and life vest. Who do you think paid for all those pretty pages of advertising?

This is not a sport, dude…this is a friggin’ lifestyle! You are meant to enjoy it! It is not an episode of Survivor! The person who wears the most safety gear doesn’t get an extra ration of water or an Oreo cookie! The first person to down a beer doesn’t get sent home. This is real life, and it’s here to be enjoyed.

Go barefoot at sea? You bet. One of the highlights of my life is when I cruised for a full year and never once put on a pair of shoes. Bare feet on wet teak are the original answer to non-skid! Go swimming mid ocean? I can’t think of anything that feels better. I can’t imagine crossing the equator and not jumping in on the imaginary dotted line. It is one of the many joys of cruising.

It is not our job to sit here and tell people what to do, any more than it’s our job to go telling folks to go without safety gear. We aren’t telling people to do anything. We are just telling them what it is really like out there, and it’s written by people who are out there, doing it, not by editors who are in an office telling you what to think and how to act out there so you can be “in.”

Yeah, there are safety issues. So what? We have to assume that every person who goes to sea has the common sense God gave ‘em. On the Lost Soul, we had a rule that no one stands night watch without a harness and tether. That’s our level of comfort. If your level of comfort is to wear an all-weather, man-overboard body suit day and night, kewl…do it. Just don’t preach to me that I’m not doing it right because I have a different comfort level with my safety.

Every skipper sets his own rules when cruising. If you’re a racer, the committee can set the rules. But magazine editors do not set the rules. Nor do people who write books. Every person has to use his or her intellect to glean the facts from what they read, and to find their own safety comfort level.

And what is this fixation with “In your face partying?” Sounds like maybe someone has seen too many baseball ads on TV. To repeat myself, we don’t preach anything to anyone, we simply print stories that are written by active cruisers who are out there. We do not assign stories to editorial staff that sit around an office. We print stories sent in from people who are out there, living the lifestyle. Anyone who has ever cruised knows the joy of meeting with other cruisers in a harbor hangout and sitting for hours talking story. It is part of the joy of cruising.

Our magazine is not here to tell you what to do. We will show people what’s out there. We will show them what safety gear is available, and everyone has the right to do what the hell they want.

I wanna go sailing

Bob’s “Attitude” articles first appeared in Latitude and Attitudes magazine and can also be found in either The Sailing Life or Starboard Attitude books.


  1. Thank you Bob for speaking to this growing desire on the part of the PC people to tell the rest of us what we MUST do in our lives. If you are not qualified then I seriously doubt he is either. And yes, even if he IS in someway qualified, by what right does he become the almighty? If I want to sail with me shoes off that is MY business, is it not? If I don't want to wear a life jacket on a 42ft sailboat in the Chesapeake Bay then that decision should be mine alone. I don't have kids, and don't have any on the boat. As adults, we allow our adult guests to make the decision. Now, if weather comes up, then they lose that choice, and as the skipper, it becomes my decision. But that's only when it's a real safety issue. It seems that more and more, the small handful of know-it-alls are being empowered to decided for everyone and it's really starting to get annoying. Yes, I guess I am a grumpy old sailor but damnit, it's MY BOAT and so long as I'm not sailing her in a way to endanger others, it none of anyone's damn business if I wear shoes, jackets, or even under-pants for that matter. That is all.

  2. I am all for freedom and deciding one's own fate, but I work as a Coast Guard Search and Rescue Planner and we spend countless hours and tax dollars- putting Coastguardsmen and women in harm's way – searching for people who are careless about safety and seamanship – apparently thinking the "lifestyle" is only about partying and freedom from the rules while on the water. So if that is your outlook, then do the Coast Guard a favor and leave a letter with the Coast Guard saying "don't save me" (sort of like a non-resuscitation letter) and make sure no one ashore cares about you so they won't call in an overdue, or call the Coat Guard if they see your boat capsized, on fire or sinking…..that way we won't risk someone else's life for your stupidity.

  3. Bill,
    Would you prefer the Coast Guard spend all those tax dollars sitting on their arses?????

    • Jim, you obviously missed the point and are uninformed. The Coast Guard can easily fill a 168 hr week without searching for fools who do not have or misuse safety equipment……no one said they would sit around.

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