Deep down, I don’t really believe in the possibility of change. This can get you into trouble, given the everyday evidence by which we are all surrounded, that change is the one aspect of life that one can really count on. Regardless, knowing that does not come naturally to me.
Sailing is fantastic, because it’s all about change, and adapting, and changing again. For someone who doesn’t believe in change – whose mind simply does not wrap around the concept – sailing is a marvelous, ultimately neutral affirmation of the possibility of change, moment to moment, week to week, and endlessly on, if one so chooses.
Some explanation is in order: how does one become a person who simply does not “get” change?
It takes big stuff. Or Stuff – the same sort of thing that would inspire going off in a small boat on a big ocean. And the Stuff is indeed big. I am a survivor, of severe childhood trauma/abuse. There are those who would say that this did not happen, and I am not here to argue the point, one way or the other. We all remember, and don’t remember, and survive, in the best way that we can come up with at the time. Regardless of who says what, this experience informs my entire being, from day-to-day life, to the long cycles of decades. It has become a teacher, though it’s a rough road.
My friend Dave, of triloboats.com, wrote a great article about some sailing that he and Anke and I did together (“The Able Bodied Sea-Person — Expanding the Notion” in the magazine Messing about in Boats, January 2013). While we were talking about this article, before he wrote it, he said something that stayed with me. I was saying that I don’t think that physical abilities, or limitations thereof, should be central to the story of me going sailing. To which he gently replied “that is the story.” This in the context that we are both pretty bored by “sailing travelogues.” (If you’re in this blog for sailing travelogues, it would be best to go back to the smugmug photos linked in the entry “previous trips”…)
Anyway, that was last October, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I don’t think that the physical limitations are the story, and what I do think actually is the story. Which is this: I go sailing because I am a survivor of horrific abuse, and sailing makes sense to me. The challenges, the difficulties, the moments of joy, the meeting one’s physical limits, and sitting in that place of strain, by choice. The power of the sea (this has been said so many times that it’s utterly trite – but it’s still true) – the way that the tides and the currents come and go, predictably, and the wind comes and goes, much more on its own personal schedule, with the waves following. Ease, and difficulty, and risk, the need for constant vigilance, the blessed solitude. The loneliness. The fear. It’s all there, and it is my privilege to have the opportunity to spend time with it. This is why I go sailing. I sit with my fear, in the presence of a force that is vastly, overwhelmingly greater than myself, and completely, utterly not malevolent. Whoever said “the cruel sea” didn’t know cruelty – one can come to terrible grief on the sea, but it won’t be because anybody was mean. That’s the point.
I’m likely to come back to the various connections – I like sailing, and boat building, and boat tinkering, enormously because they so appeal to my techie, engineering nature. But that deep draw, that keeps me coming back over and over through fairly substantial obstacles, is bigger than the techie fun, and bigger than the lovely sparkle on the water. I keep coming back because it’s real, and because it sustains me, and because it provides a container, and a structure, for the biggest of big questions.
Beautiful piece Shemaya. Thank you.
HI Shamaya, I arrived here through Penelope’s ebook.
Well expressed about the sea and cruel people.
I can’t recall whether it was Joshua Slocum or Tristan Jones who wrote about there being more sharks ashore than at sea. I never feel as relaxed ( safer?) than when I am on my Folkboat, alone, the further offshore the better. Your friend was right, this is the real story of sailing, peace, freedom, sanctuary. Thanks Terry
Hooray for the ocean. Where do you sail your Folkboat? So glad that you also find that kind of peace out there.
And fun that you found your way here via Bill Cheney’s book!
Thanks so much for writing,
Thanks. Yay for the ocean, I am really thinking it’s one of the last places Average Jo and Joanne can get away from if all. In many ways it’s not that different from in Slocum’s time, bar the traffic and pollution.
Anyway, I am on the east coast of Australia, latitude 33south, so pretty mild temperature wise. I have mooring on Port Stephens, a large coastal port (100 miles north of Sydney). It still has some excellent and quiet anchorages.
I have only had my Folkboat for six months. It was run down, (read cheap) so lots of work needed.So far I’ve had her out on the Pacific for a four day engineless sail from Sydney, slow in calm conditions but the forced slowness was quite therapeutic. Enough to fully convert me to engineless sailing forever
I am loving your blog, still working my way forward through 2013 and 2014. Your style of sailing, life experiences and ability as a writer have hooked me. I have a Half-finished Paradox under the house and the images of Auxlet (not dishonest in design?) with sprouts by the Windows What a hoot!
Anyway thanks again. Wishing you good health and fair sailing.
Terry and bohemian :))
Apologies, “not dishonest in design” should read “not dissimilar in design”.
Wonderful, that sailing minus the engine is looking good to you too! It’s a fascinating thing, to move at that pace.
And you have a Paradox! How much built is it? The Folkboat must feel so spacious, compared :-)
I’ve never been to your part of the world, though there are quite a few members of the Junk Rig Association over that way, so e-mails have been flying. It sounds wonderful for sailing, and what a treat that it’s become so easy to be in touch across these distances.
Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it, and finding bits that resonate.
HI again Shemaya,
On Paradox, unfortunately still at frame stage. I got antsy doing too much work and not enough sailing. They are two very different boats, Paradox for enclosed waters mostly, a fantastic boat for camping, shallow water exploration, some coastal sailing. I still want to complete her build. The Folkboat is my choice for (hopefully) Bluewater sailing.getting out wide and may be some of those Pacific Islands many of us dream about.
Sailing here is good in so far as once you hit the ocean, there’s nothing to run into apart from shipping.Downside for engineless sailing is that many ports have bars that get dangerous, and few deepwater, all weather ports. But a weather eye and common sense, yes it’s pretty good. Up north, coral reef, hundreds of islands, mmm.
Nice talking, best Terry.
Projects are good! And how wonderful that you also have a boat for going farther out. Your coast sounds a bit like the West Coast of the US – it’s one thing I appreciate about sailing in the Northeast, having so many more accessible harbors, only some of them with those kind of problematic bars. Is this where you did your sailing years ago, also, where you are now? Hooray for getting back to it! I meant to say this in response to your other comment where you mentioned about coming back to sailing after many years away.
I hope you keep in touch – I’d love to hear how it all develops!