Monday, May 15, 2006

Memories of a Moment

Wednesday was another perfect evening for Sunfish racing. I was waiting for the tailenders to finish the third race, thinking about my performance in the race, wondering what starting tactics to employ in the next race, when I woke up to my surroundings...

It's hard to believe that this lake is in the middle of the most densely populated state in America; I can hardly see any sign of human habitation or activity (apart from fellow boaters). Over there, behind some distant trees, I can just see the spire of some building, perhaps a church. On that hill there is a water tower. And over there is an old stone house with a view of the water. That's it. The rest of the view, for 360 degrees around the lake, is of rounded hills in every shade of green rolling away serenely to the horizon. The hills are worn down, old curving mounds, and the landscape has a calming, relaxing effect

In the west the sun is slowly sinking to what will be a spectacular sunset. The sun paints a long streak of gold and yellow and orange splashes on the ripples of the lake. There is something hypnotic about the way the light reflects off the constantly moving water, the way the tiny wavelets form and move and interact and fade away, the incessantly changing pattern of glossy shadows and brilliant highlights, never still.

Looking the other way I see the sun is illuminating every individual leaf of the trees on the south-eastern shore. They are a mile away but the effect is so eerie that I feel that I could reach out and pluck one of those leaves shivering in the breeze, shimmering in the light of the setting sun.

That's when it struck me. I don't play this sailboat racing game just for the competition. I don't do it purely for the physical excitement of speed; surely not as this is one of the slowest of all racing sports. Certainly not for the technical challenge of tweaking the last fraction of a knot of speed out of a boat.

The most profound rewards of sailing are moments like this, being able to appreciate the natural world in all its variety, the combination and interaction of light and sky and wind and water and land that are never the same on two days, not even the same for two minutes, the elements always changing and moving and making new patterns. The opportunity to escape from a world of machines - cars, phones, TV, computers, yes even blogs - and to open all six senses to the spine-tingling spectacular beauty of the planet.


Fuff said...

I couldn't have put it better myself! Beautifully written.

bonnie said...

Hear hear.

the skip said...

Nicely said. Recently in Arizona...on the race track (cars that is) I took a look around me, inhaled the nozious fumes of the racetrack rubber and exhausts, and occasionally took out the ear plugs that were wedged very tigthtly in my ear. That's when it hit me and I wished I was on the lake with the quiet of the wind and the water.

Speed is one thing but nothing beats sailing! Can always count on you Tillerman to put things in the proper perspective.

Carol Anne said...

Now, here's a challenge to all of us who sail anywhere: It's not just about the sailing, but about the beauty of the places where whe sail.

Paint a picture in words about wherever it is that you sail. Tell not just what you see, but also what you hear, feel, smell, and taste. Share what's special about sailing where you sail -- imagine you want one of us to come out and visit.

Paint your picture here, or paint it on your own blog and give us the link here.

EdShift said...

I completely agree. It's great to go fast and great competing but other times it's great just looking a great violet sunset or a passing seal.

I've returned to dinghy sailing after a 10 year gap.

Since I was gone a school (pod???)of dolphins have moved into the Tay Estuary(Dundee Scotland) where I sail. It's been a really amazing season liberally sprinkled with some fairly close sightings of the dolphins.
One summers day while on holiday from work (and therefore on the water...) we were so close to a number of them chasing fish that my crew decided it would be prudent to come in off the wire for fear of getting knocked off by them jumping up right under him.

They seemed to be using our boat as part of their team to herd a shoal of fish. At one point we saw one jump out of the water no more than 10 metres away and knock a fish clean out of the water and up in the air with its snout.

I even saw what I assume was a baby dolphin doing a fairly ameteurish (for a dolphin...) leap out of the water.

Still in training I guess.

No more than about 4' long and a really tubby wee fellow with a midnight blue back but still white underbelly.

It looked like something out a cartoon. As if someone had taken a dolphin and made it even cuter.

Sorry. Your blog. Great.
I was just going off on one there...

Thanks and keep sharing your experiences. I'm as interested in the "Wow isn't it all really magical???" type posts as as I am in the practical racing tips.


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