Hypnotic Helming

Sailing the Fastnet (Source: "My Life on the Ocean Wave", The New York Times)
Sailing the Fastnet (Source: “My Life on the Ocean Wave”, The New York Times)

Hat tip to my father for sending me a link to “Fastnet sailing adventure“, Michael Hutchinson’s delightfully recounted Fastnet sailing adventure.

I found that I could stand behind the wheel carving a fast passage through the rolling sea for hours on end, barely having to think. It was hypnotic. (Source: The New York Times)

I totally understand what Hutchinson is referring to, and I’ve never blue water sailed. Not yet. (But I will!)

There is something hypnotic—even when sailing within sight (or almost within sight) of land—about slicing through the sea at the helm of a solid sailboat. I find this to be especially true when I’m shorthanded. So totally, 100% in the zone. So alive. And yet so removed from everything else, all distractions and deadlines and fuzzy thinking.

Hutchinson writes well, and he communicates the subtlety of sailing well, but there’s something even more tantalizing in this piece. Perhaps it’s how familiar his thoughts felt. This, too, hit home for me:

It was cartoonishly metaphorical, the eight of us surfing toward the finish line surrounded by jumping dolphins. Ten year old me… would have ignored them, the better to evaluate the effects of Coriolis force on the sail trim. Happily, it turned out that I’d got a lot younger in the intervening years. (Source: The New York Times)

I think I was an old man when I was a child, far more eager (and anxious) than my peers. I did my best to camouflage both afflictions, but they were there, roiling within. And I’m certain that I’ve un-aged as I grown older. I’m still eager, but I’m less anxious. I’m more present and appreciative and joyful and—not always, but often—I’m more tranquil. Sailing is for me one of those transcendent places where I can be young again. Joyfully young without the ache of worry.

I close with a hat-tip to my father (who sent me this article, and who taught me to sail a long time ago) and to Michael Hutchinson for chronicling and sharing his adventure. Thanks!

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