By Pamela Bitterman
For sailors, embarking upon an ocean crossing represents a literal cutting loose.  Severing lines and ties to the mainland, families, and careers is like cutting a symbolic umbilical cord.  Whereas coastal navigation even for an extended period of time allows a sailor the security of knowing that they can make landfall with relative ease and jump a bus or plane for home. Even the ever-popular cruising grounds off Mexico and in the Caribbean can afford a wary passage-making seafarer this commuter quality. This may be one reason why the overcrowded harbors tracing the North American coastline like hopeful bric-a- brac are overflowing with now stationary boats once readied for distant shores. In every sense of the word, making a crossing is making a commitment to go far away for an extended period of time. The rewards will be abundant. But a unique blue-water sailor’s boot camp will likely have to be endured first. Marinas and boat yards are full of boaters talking about and planning for that someday, extended cruise. Sadly, most never move beyond the talking and planning stage. Somewhere in the readying process the dream becomes a nightmare. Expenses mount. Gear fails. Crews drift off. Reality sets in. Boats are unceremoniously put back on the market. Cruising World magazine is replaced by Better Homes and Gardens. The anxious to be salty vessels are abandoned, left to bob woefully at the dock as a chafing testament to the cruiser wannabe’s failure, when ironically the greatest challenge for a sailor has yet to even have begun. In most instances, trading safe house and solid land for risky boat and rolling ocean is a feat akin to finessing the toothpaste back into the tube. However even that accomplished and finally at sea, inaugural cruisers may discover that they are horribly seasick, claustrophobic, dirty, exhausted, bored, useless, inept, and resigned to their umpteenth bowl of cold dry cereal because it’s all they can face preparing or manage to keep down. They’ll likely find themselves repairing, rebuilding, jerry rigging and ultimately chucking the multitude of time
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and life saving gear on which they’ve overspent to overload their suddenly too tiny, too frail vessel. Finally, they may find themselves cast utterly adrift and unavoidably attached to a mate who might suddenly develop previously unrevealed and seriously disturbing flaws in character. Weather can be lousy, anchorages difficult, customs official’s crooked, fellow cruisers morally questionable. The rules change out there. The entire experience can be so disorienting that it’s often impossibly hard to see beyond those initial waves of fear, despair and loneliness.  But I promise, if you can hang in there, past the freshman weeks and months, even past the one year mark, the payoff will come. Self-confidence will blossom. Contentment will evolve. Confirmation of the rightness of this inimitable, once-in-a-lifetime leap of faith you’ve taken will envelop a sailor like a warm blanket.  So I say, take the leap, and give it time. The three photos for Inspiration for a cruise to distant shores, from top to bottom: *The author gazing out across the Atlantic, on her maiden voyage aboard the Schooner Sofia as she embarks upon her second circumnavigation out of Boston, Mass. in the autumn of 1978. *The Schooner Sofia culminating her 28 day crossing of the largest expanse of uninterrupted ocean in the world - on her approach into Fatu Hiva in the Marquesa Islands in the South Pacific in 1980.
Inspiration for a Cruise to Distant Shores  Challenge yourself
Pamila Bitterman’s book, Sailing to the Far Horizon, details the four years she spent circumnavigating aboard the Schooner Sofia. Starting out as a novice, she worked her way up to ships Boatswain, and was First Mate, second in command, at the time of her final voyage. She holds a Merchant Seaman’s Ticket. Click to find out more about Pamela and read excerpts from her book.
Read Pamila’s biography here
The Schooner Sofia culminating her 28 day crossing of the largest expanse of uninterrupted ocean in the world - on her approach into Fatu Hiva in the Marquesa Islands in the South Pacific in 1980