Experience and Choices

I had the great privilege last week of attending a lecture by Jimmy Cornell at the Cruising Association in downtown London. In the world of sailboat cruising, his books about world cruising routes (trade winds, weather patterns) are pretty much standard reference guides for small craft ocean crossings, especially sailboats. During the lecture, he spent about two hours talking about his three circumnavigations and route choices, using over 200 slides from his voyages.

A Passion for the SeaI also bought a copy of his new book, A Passion for the Sea, which is more of a narrative and interpretive book about his 200,000 miles of sailing, compared to his factual World Cruising Routes and similar books. I’ve only had time to read the opening chapters, but he starts with the first half of his life which involved a lot of harsh times in Romania, both for himself and his parents and extended family. We’re talking extreme violence during WWII, political imprisonment, failed attempts to escape the country, and more.

He didn’t see the ocean until he was nine, and it was later in life when he did his first “cruise” on the Danube to the Black sea, in an inflatable kayak that was left to him by a departing German. After that, cruising became a focus of his life, although he didn’t do much more until he got a fresh start in London and built up a 36 footer from a bare hull in 1973-75, the first “Adventura” of three.

(Footnote: his first sailing was in dinghies on the Thames, and then on a 40 footer owned by his employer, the BBC. The brief story of his first sail on the Solent in the 40 footer with colleagues is extremely funny. At the end of the day sail, an ambulance was waiting at the dock to take two of the crew to hospital.)

In addition to his sailing, he’s worked with around 15,000 sailors during his time organizing the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and the round-the-world rallies. Based on those experiences, he uses his journalistic-trained mind to distill decisions and recommendations about both sailing routes and technology choices.

And that creates an important connection for me– at any given time, it may seem like the choices and issues involving technology seem infinite, but in reality there’s only a few logical courses to choose from in terms of setting and achieving a given end. In terms of academic technology (instead of the ocean-crossing kind), we can learn a lot from each other by talking and sharing information about how different choices actually play out. In the end, we share more common ground than differences, and we may discover that the path forward is more clear than first thoughts suggest.

Anyway, congratulations to Jimmy Cornell for his accomplishments and new book. I’m looking forward to finishing it, even if it makes me want to sail an aluminum boat to Antarctica with my family…

P.S. This is now our second night of almost constant firework flashes and bangs, from about six p.m. to ten p.m. in London. I wonder if there’s something I could do to be remembered like that Guy Fawkes guy. :)

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