A word no captain wants to hear is mutiny. I, however, owe my life to my own personal mutiny. More about that later.
There have been many famous mutinies, the most famous being the Bounty. In that one, the sailors had five months ashore with a bunch of half-naked Polynesian women and many had formed sincere relationships. Most of us know the story, but did you know that after Captain Bligh was set adrift alone in the ship’s open launch he was able to sail 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers) to England? It took him one year. Wow!
How about a mutiny over soup? That would be the Russian battleship Potemkin in 1909. A crew member was sent to complain but the Commander apparently wasn’t in the mood to discuss it so he shot the crewman dead. The crew threw the Commander overboard and shot him. The stream of events that followed is very interesting. If you are a cinema fan, you have seen the film (100% on the critic’s rating -Rotten Tomatoes).
Think mutiny was a thing of 100 years or more ago? The biggest wartime mutiny in Britain’s history occurred in 1943 and the last U.S. mutiny was in 1970 on a ship headed to Vietnam.
My personal mutiny would not make much of a movie, but it did create a foundation for my life to form. It did actually happen on our boat.
Our 20 year old Beneteau French sailboat is named Parfait Mer, which is French for “perfect sea”. It’s not just optimism; the sea is always perfect for me. Parfait Mer is getting older but better. Like some men I’m happy to know, she has a different elegance than when she was new and shiny. We’ve been through some rough seas together and how I remember those experiences endears her to me.
I really love sailing. It’s not just about being on the water and having a boat. Fast power boats have provided a lot of temporary fun but contributed little for my life. Sailing gives me a deeper experience and I felt connected to Parfait Mer in a way that’s beyond just owning a boat.
I was trying to explain this connection to a friend but I couldn’t. He wasn’t a sailor and maybe some people who have sails on their boat are not sailors either.
I certainly did not grow up with the sailing club set. On the contrary, the only sailboat I had actually encountered as a youth was an upside-down repair job un-ceremoniously dumped in my dad’s back yard. Sans sails, it came only with my uncle’s empty promise of feeling the wind in my face. It turned out only useful for playing Gilligan’s Island while a water sprinkler spit imaginary sea-spray and disappointment.
Later in my life, a single, glorious day at sea opened the hatch for an inconspicuous love to rush into my being. That day I began learning the names shroud, stay, sheet, boom vang (I was pretty sure Captain Husband had made that up to pull my chain) boom, halyard, and other minutiae that, at the time seemed nonessential to upcoming fun. I was still at the dock wondering why I had to use starboard and port instead of right left when the next instructions, learning how to avoid trouble and how to get out of trouble, blew winds of doubt into my anticipated joy.
Finally, Parfait Mer’s sails were billowing over crystal clear Caribbean water. Captain Husband explained that the boat wasn’t being blown along but being sucked along. A comparison to an airplane wing was of little use and he seemed reluctant to offer additional theory.
Suddenly, I was being placed in position in front of a giant “steering wheel” (whoops, I ‘m supposed to refer to it as the helm). My hands shared the helm with Captain Husband as he condemned my body’s rigidity and told me to dance a bit. What? “How about the hula?” he suggested as he left me alone and seemed to relax on the soft cushion cockpit seats.
I was far from relaxed. I quit my Polynesian gyrations wondering what I should do. “Just keep your hands on the helm and dance with Parfait Mer. Let her have the lead and she will talk to you.”
I still could not tell you how, but I eventually swayed, bopped, and tripped the light fantastic toward sailing a French sailboat into a setting sun and a love I never knew was possible.
Still at sea with sails and anchor dropped, Captain Husband deciphered his code to sailing. “All good sailors are highly instinctive. I obviously know you do much better with your instincts than sets of instructions therefore, you took the helm already a sailor. I merely helped you disconnect from all your reasons why you couldn’t do it and considered how to teach you without teaching.” There will be instructions to come but you have experienced the most important things about sailing: feeling, touching, and, like a good lover, responding to the messages from Parfait Mer. You two will have a great relationship. By the way, I enjoyed the dance!”
It’s said that if you look out at the sea a certain way, you are already a sailor. I understand that statement, but it doesn’t sufficiently nourish my life; I don’t even know if I had ever felt the sea until my first day the helm of Parfait Mer. Maybe I’m trying to put something into words that can’t be said. That’s true of a lot of things that reside in my heart.
I hope I don’t ruin an unexplainable connection, but here’s ten thoughts about sailing through life. Alone with whatever comes into your mind when reading my list, you may make your own connection to living an experience-oriented life.
At the wheel of Parfait Mer, I have no comprehension of sailing techniques and my intellect seems to enjoy giving way to sensing rather than thinking. The autonomous wind delivers subtle messages via the wholeness of the vessel and into my body. Every surge and pull alerts me to receive even more signals. My hands on the wheel connect with legs and the way my waist naturally moves adds to the awareness without knowing. The way she pulls up on the wind, every shudder of her shrouds, and how she feels sliding through the sea is an inaudible language speaking to my hands without a mind.
Living an experience-oriented life is an art well – understood at the helm. Sailors and those with an ever-expanding life know of what I write.
More and more, our lives are corralled into searching and amassing information as the foundation for our lives. However, it is only our own self-delivery which produces the free development of growth and confirmation of our own anonymous spirit. This realization arose with my own personal mutiny at sea.
Sailing unties the knots in my life. Feeling my best on Parfait Mer, I’m not here, I’m not there, I’m sailing.