You can take the girl out of the boat, but . . .

September 2022

By Ali Wisch Fabre

Packing for a trip can be tough. Packing to move across an ocean – tougher. Putting my entire life into packing cubes has proven to be an eye-opening experience. Believe it or not, I’ve actually surprised myself by some of the things I’ve become what some may call overly attached to. Call me crazy (you probably will), but I came up with a list of non-negotiables. Basically, these were things that I knew were ridiculous to move to France, but I didn’t want to waste time arguing with my husband about. The list included: My stand-up paddle board (relax – it’s inflatable); the compass and one of the hatch boards from my last boat; a giant fish pillow; a physical copy of every magazine I’ve ever written in or edited. Before you ask: Yes, I’ve saved all of them. Yes, I know I could go digital. Yes, they are heavy and take up a lot of space. However, I like to keep it old school like the rest of you. What kind of magazine editor would I be if I didn’t fight for the physical copies of my magazines? Moving on – my dead cat Henry’s ashes; my favorite screwdrivers; a box of boat hardware and my Swiss Army Knife. I’m going to stop here so as to still retain a semblance of self-respect. But, like, you get it… right?

Speaking of my Swiss Army Knife, it goes without saying in the sailing community that you should always carry a knife. They come in handy more often than one may think. Chris Birch proves this point in his column on page 42.

However, I will tell you one time that you do not want to have your knife on you, and that would be when going through airport security. As some may be familiar, you get asked numerous times, from when you check in your bags to when you take a seat at your gate, whether you have anything dangerous, hazardous, explosive, sharp, etc… in one of your bags or on your person. You answer with an earnest “no,” of course (I hope), and continue on your way.

Only if you’re me, you forgot that you did have something dangerous and sharp on you (your favorite knife) and because you’ve lived on a boat for ten years, it’s not only in your purse, it’s actually in your wallet, in your purse, and because you were in a rush to get to the airport, you also forgot about the selection of razor blades right there along with it. As an aside: I never took myself for a terrorist, but this doesn’t look like, good. It did not look good at all. In my defense, credit card holders could have easily been made for holding razor blades, and I have used them on the daily ever since I began doing woodwork. I’m much less likely to slice open one of my fingers when I keep them there and not floating around in my toolbox. One can only lose the ability to access their phone by finger so many times.

Ahhh, the airport. My time is coming soon. Misplaced knives and razor blades are only one reason why sailors and airports go together more like oil and water than rum and ginger. If you’ve ever flown somewhere, mainly out of the country, to deliver a boat, it probably didn’t take you long to learn that a one-way ticket doubles as a private invitation into what is usually a tiny, windowless, and too hot or too cold room where you are asked to sit and wait forever.

PRO-TIP: If you’re traveling out of your home country by plane, going to another country (or, literally, any island), and then getting on a boat and bringing it somewhere else – you’re considered sketchy. So do us all a favor and follow the rules (like I forgot to do four or five times – it won’t happen again, I swear) and get a signed letter from the captain and/or owner of said boat explaining what you’re doing. For all customs/security know, you’re the next protagonist in a remake of “Catch me if you can.”

To be fair to the person or people who escorted you to said room, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that some people may wonder who in their right mind would take a short flight to Bermuda, only to tether themselves to the equivalent of a wine cork at the bottom of a waterfall for two weeks, to get back to where they came from. Great question. Remind me to ask myself that again when I do it for the umpteenth time. (Capt. Mike Martel answers it wisely in “Rhumb line Downeast” on page 32.)

And, as if a one-way ticket and a wallet full of razor blades isn’t reason enough, throw in a PLB, EPIRB, inflatable life vest, flare gun and emergency blanket – or just walk into the airport and scream “BOMB!” I believe either way is equally effective to summon your escort.

SO, as I pack for my maiden/final voyage (it’s both and neither), I have my Swiss Army Knife as securely compartmentalized in my checked bags as my feelings. I’m not bringing any razor blades; they can examine my PLB all they want. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that you can take the girl out of the boat, but you can’t take the boat out of the girl. I know it’s unorthodox, and a lot of the stuff is unnecessary (hello – that’s what a non-negotiable list is for – pick your battles, people), and it works for me. Now, let’s just hope it works for airport security too.

This is Ali on a boat, signing off.