I have always told my boys, all four of them – and myself, too – that it’s not about the gear. And what I mean is, that conviction, determination, preparation and sacrifice often decide the outcome of our pursuits more than the bike we are riding, the shoes we are wearing, the ball we are throwing or the boat we are sailing. From a pure character point of view, I would still like to believe this is true, or at least an important intellectual pillar that should be a base of our ethic.
But I know I am wrong, too. Because I have had the opportunity to use some first class gear yesterday that I believe will greatly increase my ability to endure over a three-day haul (looks like we might catch the weather break we need either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week). Specifically, I put on some clothes developed by Gill tailored for long hours of sailing and it was a night and day difference from the hodge podge motley uniform my friends have grown accustomed to see me in (or at least accepted it enough not to disavow me in public.) It was a lesson, too, in the difference between adaption and innovation. For years I have been adapting layers to provide warmth, dryness and comfort for long journeys in a dinghy. But these clothes were real innovations.
I tested them out on a 5-hour sail into the lower Chesapeake Bay last night, leaving about 5 in the afternoon and returning home about 10, just ahead of the thunderstorms and cold front that I was monitoring on the VHF.
Gone were my double-knit wool socks, base layers and old fashioned foulies. Gone too were my canvas shoes and lucky hat and holey gloves. Also gone, the gifted hikers from David Tunnecliffe that I have used for the past two years. (I still appreciate them, though, David)
Instead, I put on real dinghy boots, a pair of super thin, super warm Hot Socks, a base layer of Carbon activated bottom and top, a Gill Hiking System pair of shorts with adjustable pads, and an offshore jacket for after nightfall. The cool adjustable Gill floppy hat replaced my trademark blue headgear until night, too, when it was traded in for a red or white headlamp.
In the first test, I was grateful for how cool the base layers kept me when the sun was out (temperatures hit about 97 degrees and felt hotter. Winds were out of the southwest at about 10 knots, with a few light patches, gusts of about 13 and a stretch of stronger pressure at about 15 for as the storm clouds moved closer and started pushing air ahead of the front.) The hikers made sitting out of the boat very comfortable for long stretches, and the socks were just a joy to wear. The base layers were also very warm once the sun went down and felt dry despite a fairly regular dousing of spray over the bow.
I know I will still tell my boys it’s about the heart, not the gear. Because I want them to grow up to believe they can achieve whatever they dream. But I think I may add a caveat, that the right gear will help them achieve their full potential.
Thank you to my sponsors for the Beaufort to Annapolis distance adventure: Gill, who provided the clothing that will keep me safe during the journey. Shoreline Sailboats of Avon, N.Y., who provided the boat that will get me there. McMurdo who provided the safety and emergency alert gear. And Magellan, who provided the GPS navigation system.