Being on the water is special. Particularly in a sailing boat, kayak or canoe, you can glide along (almost) effortlessly and silently. It gives you time to enjoy the babble of the water, the song of birds, maybe dolphins playing in your bow wave or fish just visible in the deep.

I’ve sailed and paddled coastal waters, lakes and rivers in the UK, in the Baltic and in the Ionian Sea and around Victoria, Australia. It’s just magical. To be able to move across this beautiful, alien, sometimes terrifying element through your own skill, but always by the grace of a primal power which can put you, an insignificant human, in your place – there’s nothing better.

blue water from deck of a yacht

Then there’s the excitement of arriving in a new place by sea, having used your navigational and boat handling skills to get there. I still remember vividly how I felt the first time I sailed into Fowey or Dartmouth, Poole or Oban, the thrill of ‘discovery’ and the camaraderie I felt with the people I was sailing with.

You don’t need to own a boat to experience any of the above: you can hire one for the day, the week or the fortnight.

But it will never be your boat. You get to know the motion of your own vessel intimately, how it responds to wind and waves, its sounds and smells, the set-up of your rig, where everything is stowed, how to move around it swiftly, efficiently and safely. You’ll inevitably find yourself making modifications, to improve performance, comfort or stowage, and will be absurdly proud of the tiny gains thus achieved.

Any time goals you set will be determined by your navigational objectives, not by the need to hand back the boat by a deadline. That sort of deadline leads people to take risks and make mistakes. At best, deadlines spoil your pleasure; at worst, they put you and your loved ones in harm’s way.

Once I’m sitting in my own boat, I’ve arrived. Anywhere I get to from there is a bonus.

Steve on board his yacht

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