To really love boating, one of the most important traits to have is flexibility. It’s right up there with a love for the outdoors and the ability to fix things.

Consider what happened on a recent Friday — the day of an offshore race to a point 100 nautical miles to our east, doubling as the start of our annual cruise. Despite the best efforts of the handyman skipper, our new-to-us boat wasn’t ready. Gremlins had disabled the VHF radio. The radio is a must-have, as the handheld lacks the range needed for race communications. Our departure was up in the air.

As it turned out, one hour before the deadline, the clever and handy skipper had the VHF up and running, so the race was on. Thirty-six hours later, we were at our destination. After a good night’s sleep, we’d be ready to set off on our two-week cruise of the Maine coast, and perhaps finally see the places further down east so many others have raved about.

People often ask us about our itinerary. Our answer: We don’t have one — we’ll go wherever the wind and circumstances take us. That’s a good attitude to have with a sailboat, and if you take out the wind, it works for power boaters, too. You never know what kind of challenge — or opportunity– might present itself when you go cruising.

A broad range of circumstances can sideline even the best plans. They include weather, mechanical difficulties, encounters with large flotillas from away, or the discovery of a place that’s so nice you don’t want to leave. We’ve encountered our share over the years.

Engine troubles and mechanical problems mean you might have to forgo your plans for a night of solitude at a secluded anchorage and instead head to a harbor with parts stores and services to get the boat up and running again.

For us one year, it meant spending three nights in Rockland that coincided with the Lobster Festival. We generally shy away from the crowds, but a failed engine on our boat and dirty diesel fuel on our friends’ boat both begged for professional help. So instead of bemoaning the fact that we would be fighting the festival crowds, we turned lemons into lemonade (no offense intended to either festival goers or the fine city of Rockland). We changed gears and assimilated — we became tourists.

We all ordered the twin lobster special, and one or two of us might have even donned the bib. Along with the feeding frenzy, the festival turned into a great people-watching opportunity. It was particularly entertaining to observe the antics of some of the young ladies trying to gain the attention of sailors on shore leave from a U.S. Navy ship anchored in the outer harbor.

This year, an unpleasant encounter with a lobster pot while under sail, followed by a disturbing engine vibration upon firing up the diesel, has us wondering how bad the problem might be. In the worst case, we’ll spend a few extra days in one of Maine’s most beautiful vacation destinations while the prop and/or shaft get replaced. Best case, we take off for other adventures. It’s the coast of Maine, so it’s all good.

Weather has occasionally either kept us in port or — if we learned about heavy weather far enough ahead of time — prompted us to adjust our plans and move to a secure spot to ride it out. In 2009, Tropical Storm Danny had us in Northeast Harbor a little earlier than expected. This year, the forecasters have warned of an active season. So we are keeping an eye on the weather with the understanding it could once again mean a change in plans.

On the opportunity side, chance encounters with old friends or making new ones can change things in a good way. We’ve adjusted our already loose itinerary to hang out an extra day with people we’ve met, and that alone has produced some of our best cruising memories.

So resist the temptation to plan every destination, every activity and every meal. Going with the flow is so much easier, and it usually makes it more fun, too.

Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 30 sloop on Casco Bay. Contact her at:

[email protected]