Slacks and I got the boat bailed out well enough, and waited for the worst of the squall to abate. Curiously enough, the house upon who’s beach we’d struck was hosting a wake (of all things), and they invited us inside for a bite of cake, or cup of coffee. It seem’d to portenteous an omen, and we politely declined.
After a time, we relaunched into a stiff (but not so variable) nor’westly and struck out into the waves. We were a half hour or more making the half-mile or so back up the narrow north-south lake, with port tacks long and fast, reaching nor’east, and starboard tacks short and bucking to the west. Idling alongside, the baker clocked us at 8 knots (with the accurate log of his competition skiboat) as we planed off on our second port tack. That tack, and the few more that followed, were some of the best sailing i’ve yet had.
Out on the rail, toes firm under the strap that runs along the trunk, a sheet in each hand, sitting up and laying back with every gust and fill, balancing all the forces of nature, wind, water, and weight… there’s nothing like it. You are both in control and out of it.
A week or so later, Slacks was telling this story to some other friends of ours. Actually, he was using it to illustrate a point. “More people should live life just like they’re sailing!…” He had had an epiphany that day:
At that second knock-down, he felt that we were sure to be soon swimming, but in seeing me jump to weather and have the boat right herself, he realized that in sailing, there’s really no giving up. Too often, in our lives, we are all tempted to cut our losses, to abandon difficult paths, and veer off into lives that seem, well… easier.
On the water, there’s seldom a second chance. You make up your mind to sail forth having prepared your boat and crew as best you can, and armed with all the knowledge you can gather. You muster your courage (only a fool is fearless at sea; tis fear that keeps you humble), slip the lines, and head out. There is no time, no matter how fair or foul th’weather, when you can just say, “Oh, I quit.” or, “I think I’d rather go do something else.”. In that moment, yer sailing. In that moment, whether th’moment be short as a jaunt across the lake or as long as a passage ’round the globe, you are sailing and there is nothing else.
There is no quitting, no going home, and no failing. Here on the lake, that might just mean a swim in warm water, but out on the sea, it might mean yer death. It demands of you that you be perfect the first time, every time, for there’s seldom a chance to learn from yer mistakes. Slacks has taken this to heart, and has told the tale more now than i.
For me, i’ve always said: Sailing is hard. The harder it is, the more i persevere. The more i persevere, the better a person i become.