Monday, December 08, 2008

What Sinatra Didn't Think About

So there I was on a chilly, breezy, sunny winter's day, all bundled up in my drysuit and my oversized boots over the drysuit latex boots, and my 3mm neoprene gloves, and my thermal hat pulled down over my ears, launching my Laser into Bristol Harbor and heading out for my 91st Laser sail of the year.

Man, I felt clumsy in all that gear.

And for a while I wasn't all that warm either. My fingers went through the same progression as they had on other recent sails, from OK to cold to painful... and then after about 20 minutes to tolerable. I think I had some feeling in three fingers and a thumb on each hand, but the middle finger on each hand seemed to be totally numb. Is this normal? Is this healthy? Will bits drop off?

It took longer than 20 minutes for the clumsiness to go away. My winter boots are one size larger and of a different design than the ones I wear in the summer and I seemed to be tripping over my feet in every tack, getting my feet tangled in the hiking strap. In my thick gloves it was hard to pick up the thin control lines. How did I ever sail a Laser in all this gear?

Then about 30-40 minutes into the sail something clicked. There was no longer any pain in my fingers. I wasn't clumsy any more. Everything felt just right. Even my little torquing movements on each wave seemed to be in synch with the waves in a way that hadn't felt so right before. The sailing became easy, effortless, as if this was my natural element. I'm sure friend Zen would have a word for it.

I had time to look around and enjoy the experience of being in the moment. The sun was shining on a perfect December afternoon. I was the only boat out in one of America's most historic harbors. Only a couple of boats left on moorings out of the hundreds that were here in the summer. This was a thriving port back in the era of the slave trade. Over there Captain Nat designed and built all those America's Cup defenders. And this day it was mine all mine.

I turned downwind and stayed in the zenness, or whatever it's called. Now using the energy of the waves to carry me faster than the wind could drive me. Now using the wind to power me faster than the waves. Not thinking about how to do it. Just doing it.

A couple of days later I was reading a book about memory, of all things, and why it's totally natural for us older folk to lose it in a minor way as we age...

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, unconscious sailing. Zenness.

The book talked about something called "procedural memory", describing it as what Sinatra didn't think about when he sang, what Tiger Woods doesn't think about when he drives a golf ball. That's what I was using last Wednesday, once I had worked through the pain stage and the clumsiness stage. Sailing without thinking about sailing.

I think too much, I think.


Mal Kiely [Lancelots Pram] said...

It's a similar thing when I'm playing in a band these days... cause I've been doing it for so many years, you actually don't 'think' about what you're doing, you just do it! Gives me much more times to actually relax and ENJOY it all.

I think ur a nutter for sailing in those kinda temps - but each to his own! lol

Mal :)

O Docker said...

Hmm. Unconscious sailing, sailing without thinking, numb fingers.

I'm sure Zen has a word for it, but so does the Merck Manual:


...Intense shivering occurs initially, but it ceases below about 31° C ... people do not sense the cold. Lethargy and clumsiness are followed by confusion... sometimes hallucinations, and eventually coma..."

I'm wondering if we concerned readers shouldn't be considering some kind of intervention here. Geesh, we've got to keep you alive at least until the Tilleys.

Anonymous said...

Lethargy and clumsiness followed by confusion? That's pretty much the story of my life. Is that not normal?

Anonymous said...

take the car, tow the boat few hundred miles down the coast and sail the rest 9 days in a single push in warmer conditions.

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