Live Slow and Sail Fast (Cast Off the Shackles)

14/07/2016 10:52

Many of us live vicariously through soap operas, fantasy games and in the not too distant future through a VR headset. Our essential being is being lost in the multi-layered levels of conformity we either choose or are forced to live by. Subsumed by our version of existing. A life lived in a fast lane where you are constantly overtaken, cut up or missing your preferred exit. Ever feel you need to junk your junk? Pull over to the hard shoulder for a moment and take stock.

Contemplate this, you are now at a place and a pace where 12mph is fast, maybe a bit too fast, where 10mph is a safer bet. There is no traffic to speak of, no delays, no snarl ups, no diversions. Where there is no internet or cell phone coverage. Horror. Imagine that. There are no near neighbours, no bills to pay and you have abundant food, water and a place to lay your head. Your body is attuned to Nature. You are in touch with the elements of sea, stars, sun, moon, the wind and the rain. The rhythm of the day is languid but you are alert and vigilant. Conversation flows, ideas form, relationships are forged, humour is rife and your mind is cleared of clutter. Brain alive, spring cleaned, body tanned and fit. Eyes sparkle, you are fully alive in the moment. I repeat, no neighbours, no internet and no bullshit, you are on a boat. On the open sea.

Is it any wonder we have an affinity with water. After all we evolved from the sea all those many moons ago when we waddled onto land taking our first tenuous gulps of air. Also, we spend our first nine months of life cocooned in our private waterbath and our whole being is 70% water so we are affected by tidal influence. We love water, playing with water, being in the water and "we do love to be beside the seaside" so hopping onto a boat should be a natural aspiration. Not so. I'm urging you to try it for stress relief, for fun, for the hell of it. After all, no-one ever says "I went out on a pedalo and hated it"

I recently helped deliver a yacht from Miami, via Bermuda, Azores to Majorca and it took 27 days. Wind, squalls, rain, sun, full moon, stars. Heaven. Well, bully for you, I hear you say, why not make it bully for you though, I say back? Any boat on any water will give you a little slice of freedom if only for a while, crocodile. Are you frazzled, not dazzled by everyday modern life, which is rubbish, as Blur so aptly put it? Do you live in a screen fixated society, your focus pixellated, where your popularity can be measured in tweets, pokes, likes, shares and suchlike? Of course you do. Begin the abatement. But how do you escape its addictive grip, how can you begin the cold turkey? Jump in a boat and cast off would be my answer. From a dinghy on a placid lake to a sea- going yacht on a grumpy sea, being off the dock is an effective cure-all, be it an afternoon of fun or a prolonged ocean passage. Sailing takes you out and away from yourself, or lets say your land-based self. Picture yourself on a yacht in the midst of the ocean, your head list-free, body attuned to the swell, the rock and roll of the waves, the motion of the ocean. Look up, see stars, the moon winking in a black velvet night. In your element in the elements. Appreciate the World as you, a dot in the cosmos, bobbing on a small boat in the vastness of wetness take in the serenity of each moment. Breathe and relax....and breathe and relax. Your goals are simple, to use wind and sea and sail to point you in your favoured direction, but being adaptable to changing weather, adverse conditions, storms ahead or favourable winds. And thats life in a nutshell, isn't it? Your world at sea is the length of your boat, the crew members your immediate family.

Life is a list of lists never ending, things to do, to buy, to horde, to consume, to renew. People to see, obligations to fulfill, bills to pay, kids to be fed and clothed. When you set sail on an ocean crossing lists end. It is what it is. If you've forgotten anything deal with its absence. Was it essential? You have what you have, you have what you need, you will survive. Food, water, fuel. Food water, fuel. Eat, sleep, steer and repeat. A simple formula for pleasure. We're talking about an escape from routine that could have bogged you down with all it's inherent responsibilities. Well, you don't escape routine on a boat as being at sea is a 24 hour job, but it's a routine with benefits. If part of the new role enables you to helm a boat with a like-minded watch partner in all weathers, appreciating your environment, breathing in clean but slightly salty air, feeling alive and working within those parameters, then I would say it's a good job swap.

Everything on a boat, whatever its size, has an essential function. Every space is crucial, there is no wasted area. You can appreciate how much in real world terms we consume maybe too much space, horde unneccessarily and have forgotten the joy of simplicity. Boats are designed to maximise comfort in confined spaces and ease of access and performance are also critical. Each guage and meter is vital and has a purpose and is highly visible. Within a relaxed environment you have to be vigilant, to be safe, to trust the boat and your judgement. All senses alert. This is what makes this sailing lark a Life enhancing experience for many. I, for one, come away re-energised, re-vitalised, fit, well fed ( I am the chef, so no excuses). As a Well-Being exercise (emotionally and mentally) it ticks all the boxes.

When you cast-off those docklines you're also casting off the shackles of modern life. Leave all those facts and figures on your Excel spreadsheet. The facts and figures you need now are wind strength, wind direction, compass heading, weather patterns, depths of water and so on. Whether you are out for a few hours in a dinghy or traversing a great ocean the only moment that counts is now. The sirens of the rat race may still call you from afar. Turn a deaf ear. Listen out instead for the enviable peace, the soothing slap of wave against bow, the rustle of sails unfurling. Even an angry sea can and will engage you in a battle of wills utilising your creative energy and strength. You are fully engaged, alive and vital, in your element. Time to test your mettle. What is your true nature when your back is against the wall? Will you fight or fall? How will you react in a perilous situation as the adrenalin kicks in, excite or fright? You won't know till you have been there and exposed the human condition as Joseph Conrad explored in his novel Lord Jim. You might find out more about youself at sea than any land based experience. I once did a Fastnet yacht race with crew and 6 immaculately turned out Italian high flyers who after 3 days were reduced to the stature of mere mortals, and quivering ones at that, after a particular rough passage had exposed their inner fraility. At sea if you prepare for the worst, the worst won't happen but if you don't prepare be sure your heading isn't towards Dire Straits.

In this turbo-charged, frenetic Brave New World we now live or exist in, the will to step off the hamster wheel, if only for a while, should be stronger than ever. It's the not knowing how to quieten the mind and click back the gears that can be frustrating. The easy option could be to lie back and fumble for the remote control, but that's it in a nutshell, the irony, a life led on remote control. Take back the initiative. Head for the dock. Cast off.