This memoir explores how sailing becomes much more than a hobby for one man—it becomes his spiritual awakening and nourishes his soul.
Sailing in Solitude
engine down, checked heading and turned on the autopilot. We were sailing hands free! I could sit back, enjoy a second cup of coffee, tune to a classical music station, and settle down with a good book. The unstable prediction apparently kept other boats in the harbor. I was totally alone.
I selected Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul, A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. It was a good choice for a day of solitude in the everyday life of a sailor. His first chapter got me thinking about sailing as soul nourishing. He said, “One person might care for the soul by buying or renting a good piece of land, another by selecting an appropriate school or program of study, another by painting his house or his bedroom.” I thought, “And I might care for the soul by sailing.”
Earlier in the introduction, Moore proposed “soulfulness” is tied “to life in all its particulars—good food, satisfying conversation, genuine friends, and experiences that stay in the memory and touch the heart.” Wow! Moore was describing what I experienced in sailing. I read on—and sailed on.
On the Hudson River
I struggled with the tiller, holding Cygnet on course, keeping an eye on the compass to keep my heading. The rain was warm but uncomfortable as it trickled down inside my slicker. In the darkness, in the rain, with wind howling, a strange calm came over me. I could see only a few feet around me. It was like a cocoon.
Warm and close and safe. I felt the strength of Cygnet, her seaworthiness, her ability to handle the storm. Sometimes in a situation like this, I felt exhilaration and challenged, sometimes even a little fearful. But this was different. I had passed through the excitement to inner calm, an inner assurance.
Within the violence of the storm, there was this almost peculiar calm. I began to enjoy the heavy rain that beat the waves into submission and calmness. I watched the lighting flash across the sky, lighting the superstructure of the Tappan Zee Bridge for a moment. And then again, lighting our course between the abutments supporting the bridge.
We dropped anchor under the protection of Hook Mountain before midnight, sheltered from the wind that was still howling around and over the mountain.
Wet clothes came off and were tossed into the cockpit. Hot chocolate warmed us. We crawled into sleeping bags and slept deeply, warm and safe and dry.