Why I Sail

  Why I Sail

December 25, 2007

I am writing this essay because I believe it will help me understand what drives me and other sailors to sail our sailboats while consuming large portions of our vacations and perhaps our budgets in pursuit of what could well be considered another form of work. We are a strange lot who would prefer to endure many hardships in pursuing the challenge of small boat sailing rather than indulging in the hedonistic pleasures of a prepackaged trip, lounging on the beach or at the pool area in some fancy resort or cruise ship. What we do is hard at times, requires planning and effort, and requires us to be exposed to weather both foul and fair. It makes us drive long distances towing troublesome boat trailers rather than hopping on a plane to land a few short hours later in paradise where we can pretend we are much better off financially than we really are, while enjoying the slavish attentions of poorly paid attendants and the fine dining prepared by five star chefs.

Of course you can enjoy some of the above while sailing. But sailing for me is trailer sailing. Taking a shallow draft boat to an interesting cruising area and exploring at my leisure the out of the way places, the shallows where the birds wade, where the fish are visible against the clear bottom and where shore life merges with sea life. I’m talking coastal and beach cruising and waterway cruising.

As a young man I had fantasies of building a world class cruising boat, then sailing away to exotic lands, seeing exotic peoples and generally touring the world by way of its oceans. I would still like to do that, however, my life has lead me to a different place. Nearing retirement, I realize that I will not always be fit enough to roam the oceans and live aboard a sailing vessel. Therefore, I have refocused my interest on cruising the great waters of the Americas especially, our own US waterways and coasts. I want to know the history, geology and ecology of our coastal shores and rivers. After all, it is here that our civilization began. It is here at the waters edge where the roots of our culture were planted. It is also in the littoral zone that the richest ecosystems exists feeding the biodiversity of the shore line. For all of these reasons and the fact that I have a serious problem with seasickness, I have chosen to travel closer to home. Accordingly, I have identified my definition of sailing as cruising, voyaging close to shore, traveling by small sailboat with a purpose, but always learning and fully engaging with my cruising environment. So thus having identified sailing, what does sailing mean to me?

For me, sailing evokes a sense of personal freedom and a chance to develop a strong set of survival skills. It encourages a sense of responsibility, and stimulates personal growth. Its ever changing scenery, challenges and surprises me, and fuels my passion for this unique pastime. As a sailor, I am free to pursue my travels at my own pace seeking the destinations of my choosing. While sailing, I am enjoying the seemingly free power from natures gift of wind and current. With time, I develop skill at harnessing that energy and safely using it to achieve my goals. Each day on the water I learn from my mistakes and develop confidence in my skills as a sailor, navigator and decision maker. My survival often depends on making wise and safe observations and decisions. After years of sailing I am both awed and humbled by nature’s power and thrilled by its gifts. I find that much of this confidence and satisfaction transfers into other areas of my life. Yet, I return again and again to the the water where I find my fulfillment and feed my inner reserves with peace and quiet confidence. I am convinced that I need sailing. So I am a sailor by choice, by training and by continuing need; need for its renewal and need for its challenges.

Perhaps the same is true for other sailors. Perhaps you, the reader will find a similar source of peace and strength while sailing. So this is my challenge to you : why wait for that far off chance of sailing to distant shores. Get yourself a small boat and sail now. Sail close to shore and enjoy natures bounties. They are there for the taking.

By Larry Whited