Catharsis

I don’t know another word that sums up this experience. Being on the water alone and sailing for hours infuses me with a sense of . . .  words fail me. What is it? There is something so honest and transparent that happens to me on the water. My mind drifts through all sorts of things – dissatisfactions, perceptions of/memories of failures, successes, long years of hard, fulfilling work, life phases, future possibilities and liklihoods, realities of the present, assumptions of the future, certainties and uncertainties, looking late-life years in the face, aspirations and prospects of acquiring skills and how to use them, why to use them, memories of ambitions fulfilled (an amazing number of these), and yet to be fulfilled.

Sweet Cape Dory 28.  I've met this owner.  His boat is impeccably maintained.

Sweet Cape Dory 28. I’ve met this owner. His boat is impeccably maintained.

One photo is not enough of a set of lines like this.

One photo is not enough of a set of lines like this.

Sailing is luxury. Let’s not kid ourselves – no one needs a sailboat. But. . . time on the water – for me, anyway – allows me to access something inside that’s harder to reach at other times. If for nothing else, I would value sailing for this. But of course, it’s much more than that. It’s time with my wife on trips and overnighters, daysails, adventures, and evening dinner cruises. It’s time with friends talking about everything in the world. It’s time with family, and it’s the prospect of future adventures with my adult children. It’s possibilities, adventure, projects, sailing-culture immersion, uncomfortable days in bad weather, exhilarating days in great weather, lazy days in gentle winds, dozing in the cockpit at anchor, swimming and jumping into the water, swinging from a halyard and dropping off. It’s heaving too on the hottest days and swimming beside the drifting boat, or lighting the lantern at anchor on a chilly autumn evening.

This looks like a DownEaster . . . 36, maybe?  Nice lines.

This looks like a DownEaster . . . 36, maybe? Nice lines.

Or like today, it’s three long hours and 13 miles by myself, handling sails, tacking, negotiating traffic, speculating on other sailboats’ designers/manufacturers, listening to my iPod, remembering, wondering with amazement at how my life turned out, loving the memory of my family, wondering about friends, sorting out puzzling events, weighing, speculating, judging, resolving, being cautious.

It's a race!  It's always a race.

It’s a race! It’s always a race.

I’m satisfied today. Settled – for the moment, anyway. I grabbed the tiller, and a handful of hours, and soaked up this late October breeze and sunshine, mused a rambling free association of thoughts – all those things that work on me – and sailed, worked the boat, enjoyed the chill.

Classic style in a modern boat.  Beautiful.  He got by me so fast, I barely had time to snap a few frames.

Classic style in a modern boat. Beautiful. He got by me so fast, I barely had time to snap a few frames.

And he's gone.

And he’s gone.

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6 comments
  1. Wow Rick – you nailed it. That is exactly the feeling, or rather experience, that I get. And obviously it lasted long enough for you to get home and record it…

    (and yeah, that’s a DE38)

    bob

    • Thanks Bob. Didn’t know if this was a common experience, or unique to me. Just started writing, and that’s what came out. With edits, of course.

  2. NO wait! I’m wrong. It is a DE32, not a 38… not enough ports.

    • I wondered if it was a 32. I could have looked it up, but counted on you knowing for sure. Lazy of me!

  3. James Eaton said:

    Thanks for this. I sail an Alberg 35 out of Anchorage Marina, Baltimore, sometimes singlehanded, and it perfectly describes what I feel. In our family, we call it, “the sailing feeling” and it leaves me always with a sense of being centered, calm, at peace. What’s interesting is that even if things didn’t go right—I blew the docking, I messed up a tack, whatever—afterward, I have “the sailing feeling.” Love your blog, hope to see you on the water one day.

    • Thanks James, and nice to hear from you. “The sailing feeling. . .”. I like that. I didn’t realize it was an effect that worked on other people too.

      I do hope we meet on the water. Ruth and I will do a Baltimore Harbor cruise someday, and perhaps we can connect then. Otherwise let me know if you ever sail south of Annapolis.

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