Annoyed and annoying!

What could be more annoying than waking to unforecasted storm clouds scudding low at Pickering Island in Penobscot Bay? Photo by David Buckman

Sailing prose can be maddeningly upbeat. A good deal of it is about rising to challenges, the joy of discovery, life-changing revelations, the beauty of nature and people mending their ways. Well, I’ve been sailing for 79 years, reporting on it for a long time, and haven’t mended my ways one bit. In fact, I find myself in accord with the views of English author Kingsley Amis, who wrote, “If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.”

And what could be more irksome than listening to me grouse about things? Coasting is, in fact, possessed of an abundant number of opportunities to complain, at which I have a natural talent. One summer I kept track of the accuracy of wind speed and direction forecasts and found that they were in error about half the time. How annoying. Nearly as annoying as the old standby I’d sometimes hear from some clever wag when pointing this out – which half?

Inaccurate forecasts can be vexing. As an example, there was the day we were rounding Schoodic Point heading west, when a southwesterly breeze, which had been predicted to gust to 20 knots, issued a ghostly war cry and blew into the 30’s. With no time to struggle into foul weather gear I was soon on deck, holding on for dear life tying in a reef, while things in the cabin rearranged themselves and the Leight ripped along at eight knots. The choices were to 1) retreat to Corea (easy); or 2) beat into a remorseless fang of sea all the way to Northeast Harbor (hard). I chose the latter, which proved annoying on a grand scale. Oh, bother!

Many of the usual annoyances are much less dramatic, if not petty. Having cruised Downeast since the ’70s, we’ve always made it a point to stop at Perry Creek, for it’s a sailing crossroad, a lovely place to pick up a free mooring, unwind and connect with old cruising acquaintances. In the process we came to think of one particular mooring as the Leight’s own. Imagine our vexation when we found another boat on OUR mooring. The nerve!

And what’s more annoying than engine problems? Some people actually take them apart, make repairs and motor off into the sunset all smug and satisfied. Engines and I don’t get along. My repairs often have made matters worse. I get that from my father. He used to say that sailboats were for sailing. He never soiled his craft with an engine, just a paddle . . . and when I’d see it coming my way it was annoyance on steroids.

As a result, I subscribe to the theory that the less we use the engine the better. We sail most everywhere we go, which caused one fellow cruiser to suggest that sailing into an anchorage was a dangerous business, while I growled back that not doing so was even riskier.

Running out of giant-sized Hershey bars with almonds on a Downeast cruise, and not being able to find replacements, was exasperating, though I’ve been greatly encouraged of late to see that the North Haven Grocery and Manaford’s, in Jonesport, are stocking the big boys.

There are few things more vexing than people who anchor too close, call the folks back home, and talk extra loudly about Aunt Edith’s fibromyalgia, because the cell phone signal is poor.

Then there’s the general aversion to rowing dinghies, where cruisers could savor a few moments of precious quiet and get a little exercise, free of smoke, stink and fouled spark plugs.

I could easily be even more annoying, but in spite of all the above there are few endeavors as dramatic, satisfying or filled with as much joy as coasting – and complaining about it.

David Buckman sails Leight, his 26’ Folkboat, out of Round Pond, Maine. Copies of his book, “Bucking the Tide: Making Do and Discovering the Wild New England and Fundy Coast in a $400 Yacht” are available on