Sailing chats from the legendary Bob Bitchin, publisher of the best-selling sailing magazine Latitudes and Attitudes. Bob’s sailing storytelling is just like Bob himself — highly colorful, larger than life, and truly educational in sailing and the adventure of life.
#89 Security is a kind of death
By Bob Bitchin
Did you ever notice the first thing a non-sailor will ask an experienced sailor is, “Have you ever been in a bad storm?”
I would have to guess that is probably the most asked question I get when I meet people who don’t sail, and they find out I’ve sailed across a few oceans.
What this points out to me is, there is an intrinsic fear that people have about going to sea. Thinking back, I can remember thinking I was about to die the first time I ever sat in the cockpit of a small boat when a gust hit the sails, and we heeled over to where the water came up over the deck. I think most people feel something similar.
That may actually have led me to the sea as a way of life. It’s probably just something inside me, but I have always felt that a life lived in fear is just half a life. You know those silly bumper stickers that say “No Fear”… Well, I actually put faith in that saying.
Why? Simple. My father told me when I was a teenager that the only things he regretted in his lifetime were the things he didn’t do. Things that, for one reason or another, he had a fear of doing.
He never sailed.
I think that a person experiences life through what he carries in his heart. Actually, I had an experience many years ago that proved it.
It was on our 1993 South Pacific voyage. Jody and I had been in French Polynesia for about two months. We’d worked our way through the Marquesas and were anchored in a beautiful lagoon in Rangiroa, in the Tuamotus.
One night we decided to go ashore to the hotel on the beach to have a “native experience” and attend the luau. It was Jody, our friends who’d sailed across the equator with us, Andy and John, and me. We had a good time munching a lot of local foods, and after the luau we mixed with some of the hotel guests and a couple other cruisers. It was a quiet evening and we enjoyed ourselves.
Six months later a friend of ours back home sent us an article that appeared in Condé Naste magazine. It was about this scary crew of tattooed itinerant sailors who worked their way around the oceans of the world aboard a run down derelict called the Lost Soul.
It seems that the author, who was at the luau the same night we were, was scared to death by the “tattooed vagabond sailors and their sleazy (?) girlfriend, who sat nearly topless at the bar.”
It seems this poor woman was scared to death, and I can recall as if it were yesterday, how quiet a night that was. And Jody being “nearly topless” was almost comical. She is one of the most modest people I know. Sure, I have some tattoos, but Andy and John didn’t. It was like she came from another world.
And she did. She came from a world of fear, and that fear surrounded her and kept her from enjoying her life.
Years later I was thinking about how it must have seemed to her, being thousands of miles from home, alone on an island, with that fear.
I thought about the first time I really learned about how silly fear can make people. It was the first time I sailed into Cabo San Lucas almost 30 years ago.
I was crewing on the tall ship Stone Witch. We’d sailed non-stop from Redondo Beach, and the captain rowed the dinghy ashore to clear in. The rest of the crew waited anxiously for our first shore leave in two weeks.
As I stood at the rail I saw three young boys start to pull the dinghy into the water. All of a sudden I feared the worst. They were stealing our dinghy! I ran below and grabbed the first mate.
“Hey, their stealing our dinghy. Grab the gun!” I shouted. The first mate looked at me like I was crazy. Then he walked up on deck. Once there, he started laughing.
“Dude,” he said (well, it was the seventies!), “they aren’t stealing the dinghy. They’re playing with it. When they are through, they’ll put it back.”
After he walked back down the stairs I watched them. Sure enough, after a couple minutes, they drug it back to where it had been, washed the sand out of it, and walked on down the beach.
When we venture out into the unknown, it is natural to have curiosity about what you will find, and for some, there is fear. For many, they trade the security of staying at home for the adventure of venturing out and finding new worlds.
I think Tennessee Williams said it best in an interview in 1971:
“Security is a kind of death.”
About Bob Bitchin
Creator and Large Editor of Latitudes & Attitudes
Bob Bitchin is the Creator of Latitudes & Attitudes Magazine (Formerly Cruising Outpost Magazine). He divides his time between Publishing, writing, world cruising, doing seminars on sailing, riding his Harley and writing books. He has written nine books. Biker to Sailor, Letters From The Lost Soul, The Sailing Life, Brotherhood of Outlaws, BIKER, Emerald Bay, King Harbor, Starboard Attitude and DORF (his newest).
Bob taught himself to sail on a Cal 28 sloop and found the sailing lifestyle fit him to a “T”. He met Alan Olson, Captain of Stone Witch, which was a 74′ square rigged topsail schooner that sailed out of San Francisco. He signed on for a 3 month sail to Guatemala to see if the sailing life was for him. Stone Witch was the flag-ship for Greenpeace, and had no engine, ran kerosene running lights, and had four 21′ oars for propulsion. His life was changed forever, and soon, while riding all over the world on Harley’s, he lived aboard various sailboats that he would buy, fix up, and sell. For over thirty five years he lived aboard sailboats and cruised most of the Pacific and Central America.
For many years he sailed the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Central America on his Formosa 51, the first Lost Soul, and then on another 51′ ketch, named Predator, with numerous trips to the Hawaiian Islands and back. Then, in 1990 After fixing and selling seven boats he bought the 68′ staysail ketch Lost Soul and this would be his home for the next 17 years.
He kidnapped Jody, the bartender at the Portofino Marina Yacht Club, and they took off to explore the South Pacific. As it turns out, they cruised all over the South Pacific, and then sailed through the Panama Canal to the Atlantic, sailed the Med, the Caribbean and everywhere they ever dreamed of going. They were married on board Lost Soul at the Portofino Marina on their return from their world voyage.
In 1996 he created the magazine Latitudes & Attitudes. In the 15 years L&A was published it became one of the largest and most authoritative publications on sailing and world cruising. Bob & Jody currently publish Latitudes & Attitudes magazine and are also very active on the https://latsatts.com website.
Bob has two children, six grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren and still rides and sails all over the world whenever he gets the chance. He and his wife Jody live in the Sierra Nevada mountains, between the middle and north forks of the Feather River, overlooking Lake Oroville, in Berry Creek, California.