Sailing Towards Sanity

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “…The wonder is always new that any sane man can be a sailor…”

Call me insane. I can’t imagine not being a sailor. Maybe it’s a genetic thing. My Grandfather joined the Merchant Marine prior to WWII.  He survived the torpedoing of two oil tankers.  My Father went to sea  when a young man but was lured away from it by my Mother.  He was okay with that.  To each his own.

Although my life has been suffused with water it is not the sea alone which calls to me.  Above all the siren’s call has been borne mainly on the wind. It is like a beautiful, mercurial, woman.  She has no more flattering raiment than the flowing curve of a crisp white sail.  To be deprived of the wind’s embrace is the best way I know to lose one’s mind.

A day of sailing in a steady breeze with all canvas pulling like a freight train is the ideal situation.  Ideals are elusive.  Often the wind is absent and can’t be had for any amount of trying.  Sometimes it leaps off the scale and overwhelms all vessels within reach.  It pays to develop a good sense of local conditions.  There is a time to reef and a time to go back to the marina or launch ramp.  Of the two extremes I have always found a bit too much wind to be more satisfying than no wind at all.  Maybe that’s because I have not come close enough to drowning.  I have come through some storms that tested my mettle.  Surviving is a sort of reward all on it’s own.

Nobody ever brags about coming through a horrendous calm.  The only terror in being becalmed is the danger to your finances as blocks and sheets flog about in the rolling induced by leftover swells wearing out expensive gear.  When you reach the point of slatting sails and jerking sheets making you crazy there is no point in going on.  Start the engine or break out some oars.  Go home and put the day out of it’s misery.  The sea is just as cruel a mistress when she deprives you as when she is overly generous and ill-mannered.

The mind is at it’s best in it’s best loved environment.  I am least sane when tied firmly to the land.  There is anger in the very soil and the immovable rocks are unnerving in their stubborn solidity.  The press of so-called civilization bears the contaminant of confusion.  When I consider the corrosive nature of  politics and the subtle seduction of the money lenders  I wonder how any sane man can remain on the shore.  Take me down to the water to cleanse my weary soul.  Bear me up on  angels wings, trimmed to run before the wind.

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