(Photo above by Larry McCullough)
In our home, which contains three boys younger than 7, movie night is a weekly family event. The house rule is that in order for movie night to happen, the kids must come to a consensus on the choice of movie—partly to teach them the art of compromise, but mostly to avoid two thermonuclear meltdowns when only one kid gets his way.
One movie that all three kids (and two parents) can usually agree on is Moana. The title character is an adventurous Polynesian teenager who, against her father’s wishes, embarks on a daring expedition to save her people. During her journey, she meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, defeating sea monsters under impossible odds, at least by Disney standards. In the end, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.
It may just be the catchy songs and humorous dialogue, but I like to think my kids love that film because they, too, are voyagers at heart. Which got me to thinking: What will the passagemakers of their generation look like?
I believe that future boat design rests squarely on what types of challenges and cruising adventures will appeal to our successors. And while there seems to be a consensus in our boating community that there’s no such thing as the perfect boat, to that I say phooey. There is a perfect boat for each of us; it just depends on how we intend to use it.
Ancient Polynesians voyaged across thousands of miles of open Pacific Ocean. They did it in outrigger canoes with sails for propulsion. The wa‘a kaulua, as it was called, may not have been anything close to what we think of as a passagemaking vessel, but it certainly served its adventurous owners well.
In that same vein, four world debuts from Sabre, Sirena, Riviera and Cutwater caught my eye of late. None of the boats looked anything like a proper trawler, but each one sure had some of the core components I look for in a “perfect” Great Loop boat.
Other people define perfect Great Loop boats differently. Take 60-year-old Virginia-based boater Preston Midgett, who recently fulfilled his longtime dream of completing the waterway adventure. He was on a center console with a single outboard, and the journey took him just six weeks. That’s not my style, nor yours I imagine. I’m not suggesting that we trade in our single-screw battlewagons for surface torpedoes with outboards, but the truth is that when it comes to labeling a boat a passagemaker, there’s really no specific hull mold or engine package required.
A traditional Polynesian vessel recently completed a circumnavigation, marking the first time such an ambitious voyage was undertaken in a wa‘a kaulua. The 61-foot Hōkūle‘a left Hawaii in 2014. Between then and now, she traveled 47,000 nautical miles. It wasn’t always smooth sailing. In 2015, a violent storm off Mozambique drove Hōkūle‘a into her escort boat, leaving a gaping hole in her starboard hull. Fortunately, the crew was able to improvise repairs and complete the journey.
Back to the question: What’s the future of passagemaking? The answer is: whatever we want it to be. In my experience, when it comes to long-range cruising, it’s never about how fast or slow we get there. It’s about the journey itself.
Maybe Moana was onto something.