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  • Thrive Detroit

Life Sailing

About six years ago, I learned to sail, and it’s become one of the most important parts of my life. The story about how I came to sailing is much less interesting than what I’ve learned because of it.

Sailing can be many things. It can be an expensive hobby for rich men to show off shiny toys. And it can be a labor of love for a wood crafts-person. For some it’s a competitive sport and for others it’s mediation, a chance to be outdoors. For me it’s an opportunity to interact directly with our planet, the wind and water, the weather. And it’s provided some exceptionally valuable lessons.

Acceptance and Adaptability

No matter who or what you call God, you can’t change the weather. Winds shift, storms flare up, or, equally as frustrating, waters can go calm with little warning. Likewise, equipment fails, all the time! Lines get tangled, important equipment falls overboard, shackles break. There’s not much to be done about any of this beyond accepting the circumstances. The quicker you adapt to the new condition, the less frustration you’ll feel and the more time you’ll have to come up with a new plan. Your choice at this point is to flounder out at sea or figure out how to get home. Getting angry just gets in the way, which is true in all of life.

Patience and Preparation

Fixing up your boat, or helping a friend with theirs, can be a maddening process, especially if you have to fix things under sail, away from the dock. Maybe you don’t have the right parts, or it’s windy and hard to keep your balance, or you have to crawl into a space that was designed for someone two times smaller than you. The instinct is to just get it done, and quickly. But as soon as you have that thought, stop yourself and remember: it’s always better to take time to do things the right way. Slow down. Find your old friend patience and complete the task calmly, with intention. It will be better for your boat and your sanity. The flip side of this is doing your best to be prepared, to avoid bad situations with good knowledge and good tools. While we can’t change the weather, we can look at the forecast before we go out. And while we can’t guarantee our equipment won’t break at sea, we can spend a few hours a month on general maintenance on the boat and gear while she’s safe at the dock. The same is true for doing a good job at work and maintaining healthy relationships.

Don’t Panic and Have Faith

Sometimes the charts (maps that show water depth and hazards) are wrong or difficult to read and you are unsure if you might hit something. Sometimes another boat looks like it might be aimed directly for you. Collision! Sometimes you don’t know how long you have until those dark scary clouds in the distance are rumbling and flashing directly overhead. These are indeed dangerous situations, but freaking out is not going to help you or anyone you are responsible for. You have to do what you can to remain calm. Your energy reverberates through everyone you are with (on a boat or anywhere in the world) and your calmness will help those around you be better helpers.  Armed with Acceptance, Adaptability, Patience, and some healthy Preparations, the odds are really good that you will be just fine. Trust yourself to make smart decisions and trust the generous nature of the gods. The fear of something is almost always worse than the actual outcome.

If you are interested in Sailing in the Detroit metro area, check out this website with links to many clubs and programs in the region:

Photo Credit: The Square Rigger “Pathfinder” from Toronto sailing into Lake St Clair on July 21st, 2012. (Shel Kimen)

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