Late in 2013, Blue Water Sailing asked their regular contributors to name their favorite cruising destinations. I was stumped. Even though it’s a question I get all the time, I’m always stumped for an answer. It’s a hell of a lot easier to determine my least favorite place: I can tick those off on one hand and give a solid reason for each. I won’t go into that here—I’ll leave that for future readers of my book to discover. So I mentally worked through the many ports of our circumnavigation and even some ports visited since, and I was still left with dozens.
Finally, despite feeling that it might seem clichéd, I picked the stunningly beautiful combination of coral and mountains, forests and beaches, mangoes and mahi-mahi that is French Polynesia’s Society Islands. I thought back to the fast trade wind sailing, the protected lagoon anchorages, the unique culture of the locals, and the many friends we made. Seth and I may be headed to up to explore high northern latitudes this summer, but we still love the beauty and variety of tropical islands. Blue Water Sailing ran the Favorite Cruising Destinations story in December 2013.
The difficulty of deciding on just one, however, is clear from the range of other destination pieces I’ve written recently. In the current February issue of Cruising World, I wrote about the unexpected excitement of transiting New York City’s East River and seeing the barges, bridges, and freighters that make the famous city tick. For next month’s (March) issue of SAIL, the Bahamian island of Great Inagua, harboring pink flamingos, Morton Salt Company, and wooden Haitian trading boats, became my favorite place. And in the upcoming March issue of Blue Water Sailing, the back page “favorite anchorage” section will feature a lovely harbor in British Columbia’s Gulf Islands!
I couldn’t even leave out crime-ridden Colon, Panama: Seth and I had such a good time there meeting all the sailors about to transit the Canal that in my memory its gunfire and burnt-out lots give way to friendly faces. So I wrote a humor piece about losing our dinghy there for the Winter issue of Cruising Outpost. (The picture on the far left of the article isn’t intended to portray Panama, just our dinghy.)
What makes a favorite destination, then? The pristine coral and manta rays of Polynesia? The towering evergreens and challenging tidal rips of BC? The historic landmarks of New York? Or new friends, even in a squalid city? For me it’s all of these, and more. Cape Town may be gritty and much too windy, but that doesn’t matter when the place is a haven after a storm-tossed passage. Maine might be familiar as our home port, but that doesn’t fade the beauty of its lingering sunsets and craggy islands. In some ways each new port is our favorite one, which is part of why we keep on sailing.