Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Keeping Fit (4) - Sailing

Heading up to the Bay of Islands last Christmas - This story has been posted somewhere on this Blog last year, but as this story sums up how I feel about sailing it bears repeating.

Sailing is at the heart of what I love to do. It's not just the sailing itself which as an activity and sensation is to me poetry in motion, it is the associated peripheral things, which when gathered together make for a pleasing and enchanting whole.

To steer her up the coast hard on the wind, at the tiller hour after hour thinking only of the relationship of the angle of the genoa jib to the eye of the wind and to exult in the way the boat cleaves herself through the waves; or to run downwind like smoke feeling her make use of each wave, is to be immersed in and aware of every interaction of the boat with its environment.

To do this is to enter into a meditation of sorts, it is a way for me to be entirely in the present moment and I rejoice in that.

For me, experiencing the many moods of the sea is a blessing. Each time it is as if I am experiencing it for the very first time. The wind, the waves, the sky all have an elemental cadence to them.Watching a mirror like calm change to the spindrift blown spray of forty knots or more of wind and wave, and to sail through all this after reefing her well down and watching the destination grow slowly larger on a bright or hazy horizon, for me is being immersed in contentment itself. Then the safe harbour, the snug anchorage, rowing ashore, pulling the trusty dinghy up on the beach. The walks along the beach and climbing a hill to look down at the boat now a toy anchored contentedly in the bay below.

At night the meal shared, to lights reflected in varnished mahongony and the warm glow of conversation and camaraderie - and the stars. Not just any old stars - sailing stars, high, high, high stars clear and bright, bright, bright, away from the pollution of the city. The whole sweep of the milky way and the cosmos - and as the chill of the night comes, seeking the cosy haven below in a little cabin made for reflection, reading, meditation and contentment.

But you must remember this, the nuances of sailing are a lifes work, it is always a work in progress and it doesn't suit a plastic caravan mentality, for you see wooden yachts are living things and if you are very quiet and listen carefully they will reveal to you their secrets.

7 comments:

Dan Gurney said...

Gadzooks! This is intoxicating prose. Stop! Stop! Stop! I'm succumbing to sailing fever.

I TOTALLY agree with the sense and sensibility of what you've so eloquently expressed here. Only those who've gone sailing can really know in the marrow of their bones what you're saying here.

Janice said...

Sailing in the wind
Swimming in a clear blue sea
What a lucky man!

Alden Smith said...

Don't fight the fever Dan, embrace it, its a kind of meditation which I know you understand. :-)

Alden Smith said...

Janice writes so well
Incisiveness of a quick mind
Feelings like a warm wind

Janice said...

Gallant to a fault
and devilishly handsome,
the bold sailor man

Delwyn said...

Hi Alden

swimming, sailing , kayaking, biking...you really are taking this retirement a bit too seriously...

I bet you are feeling better for it, once the body recovers that is...

I am slowly becoming more mobile...and can walk with a slight limp for an hour or so...

I have just spent a few cold days in CHCH ...BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRr

Happy days

Alden Smith said...

Delwyn, you are right,I most certainly do feel better for it, much better - the benefits of keeping active are huge and most sensible retirees are doing just that.

I am glad to hear you are getting back on your feet again - just remember to take it all slowly - postpone that North face of the Eiger winter ascent till next year maybe.

Christchurch is a place I love, but it IS very cold and miserable in the wintertime and despite the fact that I don't really mind wet stormy weather, it is the relentless overcast wet and cold in winter that would maybe make me think twice about living there again.

So we can look forward to some Christchurch photos on your blog??