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Thursday, October 22, 2015

How parents become boring people

I noticed that families would tend to just do the same trips over and over again. For instance, when I spoke to Horizon Yacht Charters, they told me that most of their bookings worked this way: family charters a sailboat, does a perfect week or two in the BVI, get off the boat and then immediately book next year's trip.

Back then, I thought to myself, wow, I could never do that. I always want to see new places, do new things. Why would I do something that I've done over and over again?

Well, it's beginning to dawn on me that parents become boring people for good reason. Take for instance, my BVI trip last year. It was a challenging trip for many reasons: the boat's engines broke multiple times, and I had to dock on one engine multiple times. We got a line in the propeller, and had to deal with it for half a day. But it was never less than fun, and I was never stressed out. Why not? I knew the area. I knew where everything was in the Virgin Islands, and I was always convinced that we were safe, even when it got uncomfortable at times. Thanks to previous experience, I even knew which harbors had doctors, and where I could find that perfect little sandy cay where we could have an entire island all to ourselves for an entire morning.

Compare and contrast it with the Greece trip, or my recent British Columbia sailing trip. In Greece, I had to return the boat in 3-5' waves, in the dark, and with nearly everyone on the boat sea sick. In both cases, the problem was in not knowing the area well: if I'd had access to decent weather forecasts, I wouldn't have headed out to the Cyclades when we did, and if I'd had known what weather was like in the Desolation Sound, I wouldn't have bothered with a sailboat. Both of these places would have been serviceable destinations with prior experience and suitable equipment, but you wouldn't see me rushing to plan another Mediterranean sailing trip or another visit to Desolation Sound. Why? Both places have unpredictable weather. If I lived in Seattle or Vancouver, and I could just grab a boat and go when the weather was nice, I'd do it for Desolation Sound. But of course, during peak summer months, all the charter boats are booked up weeks if not months in advance, and during the rest of the year good luck getting weather clear enough to avoid winter storms.

The problem as well is that neither places feature the fantastic water clarity and amazing sailing facilities (consistent wind, great collection of mooring balls and anchorages, and amazing resorts) that the BVI provide. What about the rest of the Carribean? Having sailed in St. Vincent, St. Lucia and the Grenadines, I'd be enthusiastic for another visit to that area. The deterrents? Getting to those areas are really difficult, requiring a large number of transfers and ridiculously long flights. Until the vapor-ware St. Vincent International Airport opens (it's been delayed all the way from 2012 to 2015, and no one I know has any confidence that it will actually ever open this year or any other year), getting there with two pre-schoolers in tow wouldn't just exhaust bank accounts, it would exhaust the human limits of the parental units. Even after getting there, some of the sailing distances are long enough that you'd need to motor long distances or sail at night.

It's one thing to sign yourself up to a "death march", "death ride", or crazy wind conditions while trying to return a boat in nasty weather. Putting your 4 year old and your wife through those same conditions, however, feels like the next level of insanity, while putting your marriage at risk. You certainly don't want to be one of those people turning their kids (and wife) off away from the outdoor life because you didn't know how to make it comfortable for them. I largely succeeded in getting Bowen to enjoy camping (he cried and asked to go home first thing in the morning during his first camping trip), and I wouldn't want to undo any of that work!

Every time I try a different location for an adventurous vacation and trip, I feel like an idiot: here I am, lugging the entire family up there for the fabled 80F waters of Desolation Sound, only to arrive and discover that the 80F water is maybe an inch thick, and the place has weather inimical to actually sailing. This is not to say that we didn't have fun and it wasn't pretty, just that I felt stupid for trying something new when there are places on the planet that I know are superlative, where I'm so familiar with the area that I can do everything cheaply and cope with any situation with relative ease, and where I don't feel like an idiot.

So that's how parents become boring people. A few more times of getting punished for wanting to try something new, and I bet I'm going to end up like those people who get off the boat in Tortola and immediately book next year's vacation at exactly the same place, with exactly the same charter company, doing the exact same itinerary. It's not the end of the world, and it certainly beats the crap out of jumping to your death trying a new stunt that nobody else has done (at least he left his kids alive). But it does make one feel like a deathly boring person.

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