No Adventure Too Small

by · April 27, 2015


by Joshua Colvin

The concept isn’t particularly new—especially not to Small Craft Advisor readers—but the more general outdoors crowd is beginning to figure out you don’t need to trek to the Himalayas or row across the Atlantic to have a satisfying, challenging experience in nature. More would-be adventurers, it seems, are recognizing that with the demands of work, family and other responsibilities, they may never find the time and money to schedule that grand expedition. Magazines and blogs are buzzing about so-called “micro adventures,” short, thrilling trips that fit in around work and family commitments.

Author and adventurer, Alastair Humphreys, is the most prominent voice of the microadventure movement. On his blog he offers five bullet-pointed reasons to live more adventurously:

• To experience the wild and escape from the rushed, mundane real world.
• To do something new, fun and different.
• To spend memorable time with your friends, family or by yourself.
• To challenge yourself, surprise yourself, and achieve something to be proud of.

The fifth is, of course, to put into practice the fun suggestions you’ve seen in his best-selling microadventures book.

Some of Humphreys’ microadventure suggestions include:

• Sleep in your garden.
• Swim wild—in a river, lake or sea
• Sleep under a full moon
• Forage for your food, or at least pick some blackberries
• Learn to identify a new bird or new tree each month

The list of possible microadventures is limited only by your imagination, but it occurred to me that our small boats are like microadventure magic carpets—perfectly facilitating our desires to be out in nature exploring, escaping, or challenging ourselves. How quickly we could make our own list:

• Sleep aboard your boat
• Sleep in your cockpit under a full moon—heck, even in your driveway!
• Row or sail to that shore or island and forage for food or pick berries
• Beach your boat in that tidal creek down the road and stay overnight
• Carry that dinghy, inflatable, or kayak to a nearby mountain lake or pond and be maybe be the first to explore it by boat

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about using our small boats to their best advantage. In fact I write about the topic and a recent shallow-water cruise in the coming issue (#94). I think we small-boat sailors sometimes have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees, or the estuaries for the bays, if you will. I remember when I sailed California’s Morro Bay being determined to push myself and my small boats by venturing out of the harbor mouth and into the open Pacific. I’d sometimes sail out and away from shore and then realize there wasn’t much to see or do. Now what?

Meanwhile the scenic, protected back bay—a tortuous maze of shallow channels and tidal currents—was teeming with marine life and just begging to be explored by a shallow draft boat. Today I regret I didn’t spend more of my sailing time back there solving my own little Riddle of the Sands and beach-camping the dunes.

Here in Port Townsend it’s a similar story, as nearby islands, bays and creeks offer endless opportunities for micro-adventuring, yet so many sailors race off under outboard power toward the San Juan Islands for a rushed, sometimes stressful few days of cruising. It’s good to stretch sometimes, but we shouldn’t forget that with a small enough boat, we don’t need a lot of time, money, or energy to have remarkable experiences.

What kinds of small-boat microadventure possibilities do you have near you? Leave a comment and let us know—maybe we’ll see you out there.

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Discussion7 Comments

  1. Harry James says:

    When I was young I was riveted by the Arthur Ransome “Swallows and Amazon” series. It is all about adventures in your backyard in small boats. The series had a major impact on my development as a person and a sailor. Adventure awaits very close it mostly depends on where your head is not where your body is.

  2. Tiernan Roe says:

    Funny to see this today. My son and I are going on an adventure in our 8′ punt from the pier to the head of the creek near our home. It’s not more than 100yds across the water but it was the best adventure he’s had on a boat. We have a bigger boat and traveled further but nothing beats this trip.

  3. Dave Scobie says:

    YES! go out and sail your local area. use the time you have. last year my best two days on the water happened when i could take two days off work and ‘cruise’ from Port Townsend to Port Ludlow. the joy of this trip, besides just being on Puget Sound, was not having a long distance to travel so i actually SAILED even with there was just a ghosting breeze.

  4. Dale Clark says:

    Two years ago my wife and I circumnavigated Washington Island in Northern Wisconsin in our 1973 O’Day Daysailer. Small trip but a big voyage for us! Finished up with a pint in a great restaurant – lots of fun to be had in small boats in local waters.

  5. Thomas Buzzi says:

    Right out of school, I “Got my feet wet” in a homebuilt kayak on the pond created by the “Brassmill Dam” in my home town. Using plans from “Mechanics Illustrated”,I constructed a flat bottom, vertical sided hull. A resin soaked single layer of fiber glass cloth draped over the deck beams kept the spray out. Ten feet of two inch aluminum pole became a mast that spread a sail of denim cloth. A door hinge became my gudgeon and pintle for the rudder. During my shakedown cruise I was running down the pond surrounded by beautiful, old growth pines and wondering if indians had ever stalked deer amongst them when a storm overtook me. As the clouds turned from slate gray to black, I came about into the wind onto a starboard tack. With leeboards straining, the boat spun around in her own length, shouldered the waves aside and took off back to the launch area. By the time the bow ground to a stop, lightning bolts had started marching down the valley. Quickly I hopped out and dropped my aluminum “lightning rod”. Grinning from ear to ear, I stood there as the cooling shower washed away the summer heat. My big adventure in a small New England milltown really hooked me into a great sport.

  6. John Merrell says:

    Like many I have had the passion for sailing for many years. And like many of us, time and money often get in the way of pursuing our passion. With that said, it’s possible to have a small sailboat just big enough to sleep aboard under a boom tent, with or without a small outboard motor, and explore local and/or distant waters since trailering, rigging, launching and retrieving are relatively easy tasks. I’m talking about boats in the 12 to 16 foot size, or even smaller. There are many production boats which fit this category, are readily available and affordable. When we were younger we had larger sailboats such as the ComPac 19 and Montgomery 17. Then we down sized to a Montgomery 15 and a SeaPearl 21. The obvious idea was to have a cabin or suitable canopy large enough for two to camp cruise. As we grew older we down sized to smaller open boats primarily for day sailing which we towed and car camped at various locations suitable for sailing. With boats like the Crawford Melonseed and even a Grumman 17 canoe I outfitted for sailing worked well. We recently purchased a used Bauer 12 with a Honda 2hp. After researching various small production sailboats this boat seems ideal for our age and physical abilities, yet provide us with a safe, stable and sea worthy craft we can easily manage on and off the water. We live in Navarre in the northwest panhandle of Florida near the ICW, several large bays, bayous and rivers which afford hours of exploring and camp/cruising for very little money. When you’re sailing in a small boat in ideal conditions it doesn’t matter what the destination is, it’s the sailing that matters. It really doesn’t matter how much distance you sail in terms of making long passages, sailing is sailing. Having the time to launch and sail an area whether familiar or not, being able to anchor up in a quiet cove, close enough to stretch your legs with a walk along the shore, setup a simple boom tent, prepare a simple meal, brew a pot of coffee and simply enjoy the sunset or sun rise is wonderful. Being able to do this without being on a schedule and sincerely experience the beauty and wonder of nature God created is priceless. Fortunately there are times and places we can explore in relative quiet, yet not be too far from home, and if needed, we can summon help in an emergency. We can also plan a longer trip with the availability of places to re-supply and/or wait out a storm in reasonable safety. These little “adventures” are just as exciting and rewarding as making an Atlantic crossing. With age comes the ability to appreciate the simple things in life which are just as rewarding as those often more challenging events of our youth. So I applaud Joshua’s perspective and inspiring article; well done! Fair Winds and God’s Speed All….

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