What Does It Take?June 19, 2003
A rainy day is a good time to plan your future fame
What does it take to get my name
Some folks sail for peace of mind
(E. Quinn, What Does It Take?)
We've been back in the boatyard for a week now. It's rained every day. The ground surrounding "Little Gidding" is taking on a distinct swamp-like appearance. Yesterday Eileen was waxing the hull and David was fixing a broken brace on our wind generator mount when the skies opened up yet again. We ducked inside the boat and began half-heartedly going through the backlog of old mail that we had brought back from our recent visit home. Eileen thumbed through some stale sailing publications lying on the top of the pile. She began muttering to herself. After a few minutes, she dropped the magazine she was holding and asked, "What do you think it takes to get your name in one of these magazines?" David didn't answer; he figured she was about to tell him.
"It's all about pushing the limits," she continued. "All these stories are about people who are immune to pain and discomfort and lack a basic sense of self-preservation. It's crazy!"
David admitted she had a point. He recalled our encounter with David Clark a year and a half ago in Trinidad (see our November 1, 2001 entry). At the time, 77-year old Clark was on the last leg of a solo circumnavigation that would land him in the record books as the oldest singlehander to circle the globe. It took him nine years and he lost two boats and his pet West Highland terrier in the process, but he got a lot of press out of the adventure. At the opposite end of the age scale, a fourteen year old Japanese boy became the youngest person to cross the Pacific Ocean. He arrived in California in a boat that looked as orderly as, well, a fourteen year old's bedroom. He'd been out of radio contact for most of the trip because an engine malfunction prevented him from charging his batteries; the engine manual was written in English, which he couldn't read. It's pretty hard to miss a landfall as large as North America, however, and he got a lot of attention when he eventually showed up.
"I don't think we're in the running for being either the oldest or the youngest cruisers," David concluded. "And I doubt we'll ever be the fastest. There are all sorts of people killing themselves to set new speed records, but that takes a lot of money as well as a predilection for self-destruction." He picked up the magazine Eileen had discarded. "We might have a shot at being the slowest, however. Here's a blurb about the first known crossing of the North Pacific by raft. One hundred and thirty-one days from California to Guam; with all the extra weight we have onboard 'Little Gidding' we should be able to go slower than that!"
"Forget it," Eileen said. "Wrong location; these days the destinations of choice are at the poles. You have to bury your boat in Arctic ice or spend a winter or two cavorting with penguins to catch the attention of the sailing press. Haven't you noticed how popular Ernest Shackleton is lately? Everyone wants to follow in his footsteps; it's a competition to see who can be the coldest."
David moved the pile of magazines and papers away from the puddle that was forming under the dripping salon hatch. "Yeah, but Shackleton froze his butt by accident, not by design. We'll pass on that idea. If we had wanted to get colder, we wouldn't have left Canada." He thought for a minute. "How about getting some publicity by going the minimalist route? Look at all the magazine stories by sailors who make a big deal about forgoing auxiliary power, electronics, and modern plumbing."
"On our boat, most of those things are broken half the time anyway," Eileen said pointedly. "That's why we're in this boatyard. But I draw the line on the plumbing. No amount of fame is worth installing a wooden bucket in the head."
David sighed. "Well, I guess we aren't going to get written up in any magazines. We're not the oldest, youngest, fastest, slowest, coldest or simplest." He stuck his head out of the companionway. It was still raining. "Do you think there might be a story in being the wettest?"