ONCE IN A WHILE someone asks me if sailing at sea is boring. That’s a reasonable question because it might seem to the uninitiated that the ocean beyond the horizon is dull and featureless, not to mention very, very same-ish. But to tell the truth I have never found it so.
Like many amateur sailors (who, in the true sense of the word, go sailing for the love of it) I used to become totally absorbed and fascinated by the business of guiding a small ship across an ever-changing ocean.
There was never a time, when I was lying in my bunk below or propped up in a corner of the cockpit, when I couldn’t feel the hull surging and slipping through the water. I knew instinctively how she would react to a strong puff of wind. I could sense when a sail was not pulling properly and needed to be trimmed. I didn’t need to look at a wind gauge to know when to reef.
Anyone who has been sailing at sea for a while will feel this oneness with the boat, particularly if she is a reasonably small boat — say 40 feet or less in length. It’s like riding a bicycle. After a while, you don’t have to think about what you need to do, your muscles just do it automatically.
It’s a wonderful feeling, and highly addictive. When your little ship is heeled over, and rising and falling among the breaking crests and rolling swells of the open sea, your mind experiences nothing but deep pleasure. Many sailors succumb so entirely to the lure of blue water that having to close with the land and enter port becomes an irritating interruption to the real business of sailing. That is what happened, very famously, to Bernard Moitessier.
Beware. It could happen to you, too.
Description is always a bore, both to the describer and the describee.
— Benjamin Disraeli, Home Letters
“Blanche, were you faithful to me while I was away in Iraq?”
“Of course, Bert — lots of times.”
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