I’m not too good with riding in cars – bumps, vibration, noise – and I quit driving over 10 years ago because of changes in my reflexes related to health issues. You know you shouldn’t be driving when, just like the low-tech test for elderly folks’ driving, you start hearing more and more horns honking whenever you happen to be the one behind the wheel. There’s a lot of speed in cars, and very small movements of the steering wheel or the accelerator have very large, and very quick, effects. You want both muscle control and eye/hand coordination that’s up to the task, and if you don’t have that, it’s really better not to drive.
The nice thing about boats, at least the slow-moving kind (flatwater kayaks, canoes, single hull displacement sailboats, among others), is that the issues that can make car-driving such a hazard pretty much go away when you bring the speed down to an average of 3 knots. And even better, in an ordinary (non-racing) sailing situation everybody is keeping a respectful distance! At four boat lengths, a variation of a foot or two will matter not at all. Never mind that sailing on almost any available water is so much more fun than being out somewhere on a highway.
Beyond the driving issues, sailboats, for me, get around the problems of riding in cars. Almost always sailboat motion is “more rounded.” The bumps land with a certain amount of give, and there is more variation in the strain that one’s body is asked to accommodate. If one has the good sense to stay in port during terrible weather, a lot of bashing around can be avoided. Vibration and noise arrive with the motor – and with some patience and willingness to refine sailing skills, the motor can be avoided too.
Last year I was at a dock for a couple of days that was mainly inhabited by relatively large cruising motorboats, probably averaging about 40 feet and more. It was nice July weather, and I ended up overhearing quite a few conversations. One young man was visiting his (motorboat) friends, explaining that his sailboat was for sale. With the kind of preparation that let’s you know that somebody is about to say something that they think is really funny, he said, “sailboats are good for fun, but motorboats are transportation.” This was in Onset, by the west entrance to the Cape Cod Canal, and I had gotten there from the Connecticut River… sailing. They were three boats away, and I didn’t say anything. But he did me a favor, bringing up that word. It really clarified for me exactly what I’ve been doing in this boat, and in each of the previous others, since cars and driving became such a problem. Each of these boats has been, in fact, accessible transportation!
It’s a pleasure to cover so much ground by water. It’s even more of a pleasure to cover any ground at all. And it’s an outright miracle that the two things go together. I couldn’t be more pleased.