Sailing is for Gods

When I was 15, I bought a sailboat. I had saved money all summer from working at a summer camp to be able afford it, and it seemed like the best use of the money.

Now, to clarify, this sailboat looks a lot more like a surfboard with a sail than the image that “sailboat” normally conjures. It’s small, suited for one, maybe two, people, and has clear signs of wear from the previous owner. But it’s mine, and I love it more than this post will do justice.

But alright, a 15-year-old with one summer’s earnings, why a sail boat?

Nothing is more incredible than tapping into natural energies to move. I know this sounds like a latent environmentalist message, but it’s not.

It’s just that when you harness the power of the wind, you totally feel like a Norse god.

When you go out in a kayak or canoe, you have to exert your own energy, when you go out in a motorboat, you have to exert some long-dead and fossilized animal or plant’s energy, but when you go out in a sailboat, you use nothing but the wind.

Sailing is also all about calculation–angles, weight distribution, and rotational velocity for tacks and jibes.

It’s absolutely exhilarating to sail in high winds and have the boat on it’s side, forming a 60 degree angle with the water, and knowing that you leaning all the way off is the only thing keeping you from flipping over.

It’s also a lot of fun to plot out your course from point A to point B if the wind is blowing directly from B towards A. You can’t just sail directly up wind, so (via tacking) you figure out the most efficient way to zigzag over.

One aspect of sailing I didn’t observe until I was becalmed for several hours is that you don’t have control over everything. Part of what makes it beautiful is that for your voyage, you submit to the natural tendencies to the world. If it’s windy, you go fast, if it’s not, you don’t.

I also totally resonate with the idea that people have been sailing for ages. Leif Erikson, too, was in a sailboat 1000 years ago. And he sailed across the entire Atlantic Ocean.

I’d understand if all the talk about calculation didn’t make sailing seem alluring. But if feeling like Leif Erikson doesn’t get you excited, I’m not sure what will.