Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in the Ocean Cruising Club’s monthly bulletin (oceancruisingclub.org).
It is not an exaggeration that “going fast” is endowed with admiration worldwide and is universally aspired to in most aspects of life. It is likely one of the first adjectives used when a skipper is asked about his/her boat. But cruisers, especially passage makers, might benefit from considering that going fast, as an aspiration, is over-rated and perhaps dangerous.
Take boat speed: When on passage on Alchemy, our Valiant 42, I try not to exceed 75 to 80% of her speed potential. It is in that top 20% or so where there is little wiggle-room for the unexpected or forgiveness for errors. It is also the area where damage to the boat and injury to the crew is most likely. Similarly, in handling the boat, there is very rarely a call for speed. Working the boat and responding to problems benefit from a slow approach. With any really significant challenge it will likely benefit you to take the time to have a cup of tea before approaching the problem and actually working on it.
On Alchemy, we try to move at 2/3rds speed at all times: there is just no hurry. Moving slowly is a constant reminder of the possible devastating result that might result from a serious injury at sea. Moving fast generates a constant temptation to cut corners: to leave the harness behind, tether unattached etc. Most of us are husband/wife or short-crewed in some way and an injury, even a minor one, can cause a whole cascade of misfortune.
Going slowly may not ensure a no-problem passage, but it certainly makes the completion of the passage in a satisfying way more likely.
Dick Stevenson and his wife Ginger voyage aboard their Valiant 42, Alchemy.