The View From Ashore
by Random Keystone

You may well have seen me or perhaps someone like me on your travels upon the lakes, rivers and seas of wherever it is that we are. In Michigan? Maybe.

I or any of my forlorn counterparts will be seen standing on some pier, shore or beach, a wistful expression upon our faces. We are standing there, sometimes akimbo, trying to hide the source of our sorrow. Yet no proud stance can cure our blues or hide our dismay.

The brisk summer wind blows through our hair and the warm sun plays upon our skin as they dry away the traces of moisture left behind by the last dip into the cool water of somewhere. Even these wonders of the warm seasons offer no true solace for our kind.

Yes, I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now. I’m one of those poor unfortunates who, “ain’t got no boat, no boat at all.”

We’re not blaming anyone mind you, just crying out for the life-ring as we sink into the sea of wishful thinking. As for myself, I dream of a sailboat. Not too big, not too small. In fact, I have a long and tiresome list of boats I’d love to own. Ask anyone who knows me, I could go on and on and on and..., well, you get the idea.

I have had this dream since I was a very young man. Now I am middle aged. Actually, it’s only in the last few years that I have made any real effort to realize this dream. have I waited too long?

The stories I read of those who are born to the sea fill my heart with longing and sometimes the seeds of resentment threaten to take root and spoil my good nature.

When I take sailing, boating or navigation lessons the inevitable question always arises;

“Oh, and what kind of boat do you won?”

“Well actually...,” I begin unsteadily, searching for a new twist on an old lie. Then I blurt out the mean and awful truth;

“I don’t own a boat. Not yet that is.”

An eerie silence then fills the air as the initiated all around me perk up their ears in utter disbelief. What can it mean?

Any chance that my feelings could have been spared is now flying out the window on a due course for Rigel as my would-be contemporaries try to recover gracefully;

“Well, I’m sure you’ll own a nice boat some day now won’t you.”

Suddenly, I’m seven years old again. To tell the truth, I didn’t care a whole lot for seven the first time around. You know, very little independence.

Believe it or not, there’s more. Some of those like myself even purchase lower grade sextants, compasses, charting instruments and GPS units. In our “lockers,” you’ll find life jackets, foul weather gear, fire extinguishers, camping equipment and just about anything even remotely “nautical,” you can imagine. Hey, you never know.
However, the larger problem looms: What about that boat?

My only defense lies in the fact that in the end, I have strived to be much more prepared for a future aboard that boat of my dreams when that dream comes true. There, I feel better now.
Actually, the boating related future I seek revolves around making a “pocket cruiser,” sized sailboat a semi-permanent home.
I have no grand illusions in regard to this venture. This is because I have researched the subject thoroughly and I am beginning to understand the ramifications involved. I must be patient. I must take the time to learn all that I can about boating before I jump in with “both feet.”

If this seems somewhat backwards, bear in mind that I quite likely will never purchase a yacht not truly suited to my needs since I did not purchase one prior to determining what those requirements are. Pretty smart huh? No, not really. I just can’t afford the boat I’d like to have.

All that philosophy aside, one tremendous difficulty still remains for those like myself. Obtaining the most crucial requirement of all; sailing practice.

Yes, we need practice, practice, practice. How do you get any without having your own boat?

In this modern world no-one could be blamed for exercising a very prudent level of caution when it comes to strangers. However, if those lucky captains out there can think of someone who would greatly benefit from time on the lines and the helm then please don’t forget to let them “tag along,” whenever possible.

We do want to be as prepared as we can be when the “big day,” finally arrives so help us to put our best foot forward when you can.

Actually, you’ll be in very good company. This last summer I was made aware of a group of individuals who were sharing the joys of sailing with some inner city youths. Some of us standing there on the shore have grown up in very poor neighborhoods. You may not be able to recognize this at first glance. A kid from the city is a very lucky kid when they get the opportunity to sail. Very lucky.

I clearly remember how one of the youths refused to come in until the very last moment as he had finally gotten his chance to sail alone in the dinghy. The setting sun was sure to dash his hopes of getting that precious practice. He was doing pretty well, main-sheet in one hand and tiller in the other. I heard him call out to the others that he felt there was still so much left to master. He seemed to want to sail forever. I know exactly how he feels. Exactly.
We do all we can, we boat-less ones. Dreaming and studying. Studying and dreaming. Taking perhaps a painful cut in pay to work where our boating skills can be improved and sailing practice obtained. It is a difficult thing to start from bare scratch. I have read that “patience is merely desperation disguised as a virtue.” If that is true, those like myself are in real trouble because patience is about the closest thing to a yacht we have.

And so, we plan and dream and wait. We without water-craft. We who are left ashore looking at the view from ashore. We see many breathtakingly beautiful vistas of sailboats on the horizon and fantasies of being the captains of these fine vessels fill our minds. Perhaps it has always been this way. Some sailing. Some dreaming. What can it mean?

In closing, I’d just like to thank all the captains who have been generous enough to pretend to be able to get some use out of the nearly clueless hordes who scheme to get aboard their boats. As it is, most of us know just enough to be dangerous and badly need the experience.

Until then, we’ll be biding our time ashore. You know, the right time, the right place, the right boat and captain. And then we’ll hear the long awaited;

“Hi there. Would you like to come aboard?”