Surrender to the vagaries of wind and weather, water, weight, gravity, skill, ego and consciousness. In the wind, in a boat, I have to be fully conscious every second and able, ready and willing to change strategies, change tack, change direction, change sails and the amount of sail, at any moment. I might have a plan, but the wind will define what happens. You can be going along all nice and then be hit by a puff of wind and the boat wants to surge directly into it – you have to let go a bit, let it happen, readjust, then come off the wind, or, let the sails out really fast. In either case you have to balance, juggle, move fast, dance, think of and do a lot of things at once to bring the boat and the elements and the people back into balance with one another. Then you’re off, on a new tack, another direction until distance and wind and shore demand another change. It’s not up to you. You must surrender and be conscious every second.
You never know it all
What caused our lapse when we bumped the side of the hill? It doesn’t matter who’s in charge when we are all in the same boat. This is metaphorical. I could have said, Why didn’t you see it? But I didn’t see it either. People may think they know it all, all about sailing. (I actually think my brother does know almost all there is to know.) But we went out with Bob the expert, he races in the harbor and knows the depths of the lake, the Narrows and still he biffs. What happened? We will talk about this for a long time. Was it the winch issue? The sail out too much? The main was reefed but we could have pulled in more of the jib. Certainly we didn’t tack soon enough and there it was, the muddy bank of the hill and I said “We can’t be doing this.” So much for control. It was too late to prevent what was happening. At what point was it already too late? When we were talking about strategy of the cockpit and who would bring in the sheet and how to let it off the other winch? Careening across the Narrows trying to conduct sailing school. The real school was the muddy bank of the hill. And we didn’t know how close it was because we were busy thinking. The Lesson is much closer than you think. And it’s not the one you are talking about, it’s the one right in front of you, coming up before you have a chance to do anything about it. It was a slow scrunch and dead on the bow (am I right that if the Titanic had hit the iceberg straight on it wouldn’t have been so bad?). Why are we humans so schizophrenic? So confused about the thing itself and our words and ideas about the things. We were lucky the lesson wasn’t hard as a rock or – indeed –the rock itself.
You may think it’s about money
Yes, it’s a big piece of equipment that we got for a ridiculously low price, way less than people spend for ATVs and motorcycles. But in the end it’s about balls, about taking a big fat risk and entering the grace of the universe at the vortex of chaos and control. Like when a major league pitcher lets go of the ball. He trusts it will be a strike.
Oh yeah, it’s really fun.
Carol Terry is a sailor and writer living in Taos NM.