Callum McCormick

A Philosophy of Adventure

John Marshall's Nordhavn 55 Serendipity - Photo Credit: CJ Walker

John Marshall's Nordhavn 55 Serendipity -- Photo Credit: CJ Walker

The following paragraphs were written by a dedicated cruiser and passagemaker, John Marshall, who is the owner of a particularly beautiful Nordhavn 55 — Serendipity.  John has expressed his view of one of the biggest opportunities for cruisers — the ability to get extremely close to elemental nature, yet be able to retreat to the warmth and comfort of home, courtesy of his luxurious expedition yacht.  I thought John’s writing was particularly eloquent and asked him if we could share it with OceanLines readers.  He agreed and here it is, together with a gorgeous photo of Serendipity at wide-open-throttle, taken by John’s brother-in-law, CJ Walker. By the way, I saw John’s description on the Yahoo Nordhavn Dreamers message board.  It’s a fascinating mix of owners and potential future owners, well-run by chief moderator (Dreamer in Chief) Callum McCormick.

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by John Marshall
Nordhavn 55 Serendipity

 The remarkable thing about cruising on a Nordhavn is that we can go to  truly isolated places and enjoy nature in its rawest, most primal and  most beautiful forms, and still have every comfort of home. Sometimes when I step outside the warm, bright confines of my boat at  night and stand out there just listening to the wild, with the boat  completely silent beneath me, the contrast of inside to outside gives  me goose bumps. Inside is 5-star elegance, warmth and light and every  comfort known to man. Outside is the wild; the cold, primal,  uncompromising wilderness. It’s a very bizarre but wonderful kind of  transition that occurs in seconds when I step out the door, allowing  me to savor as much of either world as suits my mood at the moment. I’ve often turned off the TV after watching a movie with the HD plasma  screen and room-shaking sound system delivering a performance that’s  as good as any theater, and gone out on deck to find myself standing  in that absolutely silent wilderness, without another human being  around for tens of miles, and sometimes no road or settlement within a  hundred miles. An untouched and trackless wilderness of wolves and  bears and uncaring nature barely a hundred yards from where I stand on  deck. A place where often enough, neither my VHF nor my Satcom nor  cellphone or any other communication device can establish contact with  another human being. A place where we are truly and completely on our  own. 

It’s this strange mixture of perceptions and images and sensations,  both modern and ancient and primal, that carry me away every day we’re  out cruising these northern waters. I’ve journeyed many places in the  world, I’ve lived in far-away lands for many years, traveled in RV’s,  backpacked through the Rockies, climbed many peaks in my younger  years, and the closest analogy to this feeling was when I was an avid  backpacker and could carry my “house on my back” — a snug tent and  warm sleeping bag. Inside my tent, reading a book with a flashlight, I  was largely protected from the elements that might be raging outside.  Yet one step outside my tent, and the wilderness I had to walk through  to get back to civilization was uncompromising. There was no 9-11 to  call if I got in trouble. No one to help carry me off the mountain.  Many times, no one who even knew where I was. 

What is common between wilderness cruising in my Nordhavn and those  earlier backpacking days is that despite all the comforts and the  gadgets, you can’t let yourself forget that you are on a little boat  in a big sea and a deep wilderness far from anyone who could help you,  and that piece of chain that leads to the bottom is never completely  secure. 

On a boat, we are always voyaging, even when we’re anchored in a snug  cove. We might turn off the DVD and shut down the cappuccino maker and  go to the comfort of our warm bed, crawling under the down blankets  for a quiet night, but toss in 40 knots of unexpected wind, fog and  driving rain at O-Dark-30, and combine that with a dragging anchor,  and that DVD and the plasma TV and every other gadget suddenly becomes  a completely meaningless toy. 

Now its engines and rudders and windlasses and working on deck in the  violent conditions and you are suddenly a seaman fighting the cruel,  uncaring sea for your very survival, just as sailors have done for a  millennium. 

We have awoken more than once from being cradled in 21st century  luxury to find ourselves in the midst of such an adventure, and only  our skills and courage and those of my mate or crew will take us to  safety. As master of the vessel, there is no one else for me to turn  to, nobody to call, no source of knowledge or experience other than  what I already possess. 

I truly believe that its adventures and unexpected challenges like  these that keep us alive and young at heart.

Which is why I so love the adventurous kind of cruising.

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Posted by Tom in Boats, Destinations, People