New beginnings

Ali, working in the lazarette of her Catalina 30 that she lives aboard in Boston Harbor. Photo courtesy Ali Wisch

July 2021

By Ali Wisch

A few years ago, my friends’ boat sank. It was New England, in the middle of winter, and late at night – of course- (in my experience, not all, but most, boating catastrophes happen sometime after dark).

Not only did my friends lose everything except the clothes on their backs, one of them was seven months pregnant. We spent a lot of time going over what happened, and while I found myself holding my breath as I imagined their belongings disintegrating at the bottom of Boston Harbor, it is not surprising how quickly the significance of a laptop or some memorabilia diminishes when it comes to life or death. We also reflected on all of the work that had been done to get the boat in perfect liveaboard shape, only to watch it slip beneath the surface. I think anyone who has worked on a boat project or two can relate to the utter sense of defeat they must have felt. Just the idea of having to shrinkwrap my boat twice made me cringe. The thought of watching my boat sink was too much to comprehend.

However, in the boating community, if someone is in trouble, people will do whatever they can to help. I consider it a call of duty that comes with the privilege of being on the water. If a “Mayday” comes over the radio, it’s not a matter of whether or not you will go to assist, it is how quickly you can get there. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a marina or in the middle of a race around the world, you are always on standby. In the 2020 Vendée Globe when Escoffier’s boat broke in half, and Jean Le Cam made numerous attempts to rescue him, it wasn’t just he who re-directed course (although Le Cam did ultimately pluck him out of the ocean), but three other boats diverted to assist as well. Of course, the time was made up for the duration of the search and rescue, however, it’s the fact that people are putting years of effort and a life-long dream on the back-burner because a fellow boater’s life is in danger. I can’t think of a better example of altruism during a time when I think we all needed some extra faith in humanity.

And when it came to my friends, that same beneficence showed through. A GoFundMe page received donations non-stop. The generosity reached a point where they had to politely ask people to stop. By the end of all the commotion, they were able to get a “new to them” boat, ironically named New Beginning by the previous owner, and I came to the realization that, when it comes to being on the water, in the middle of the Southern Ocean or at a dock in New England, there is a type of comradery that I’ve only ever experienced at sea.

On a less dramatic note, it’s also the small gestures from a fellow boater that make me love this community as much as I love the ocean.

Speaking of new beginnings and communities, I’m as excited to be joining Points East, as I’m sure many of you are sad to see Bob leave. He has left some big shoes to fill, as did those who came before him. I’m grateful for the opportunity to assume this new role, and I hope you like what you read.

Also, if we ever cross paths, you can be sure that I’ll be there to catch your lines, lend you a drill and have something refreshing for you in my cooler. Here is to a smooth summer on the water and a toast to Bob, you, our readers, and everyone else who’s helped us get to where we are. Thank you for having me, let’s have some fun.