Sailing without Smoke

Updated: Jan 6

This was a piece I wrote a while ago while sailing Black Wind in the Sea of Cortez, but as we still go to sea and sail, it still applies. And as a coach I like to find anecdotes that relate to life, and this one exemplifies slowing the pace of everything down, and simplifying it at the same time...

Black Wind under sail
Black Wind under sail

Everything we do has risks, and anybody who ventures out to sea in a small sailing boat takes a risk simply by going. Getting closer to nature I try and avoid using engines as much as possible and prefer to use sail, even though by taking away the option of using a motor we reduce our allowable margin of error even further. ​I also tend not to fill our craft with gadgets such as air conditioning, televisions, satellite, freezers, and the other components that use vast amounts of power, are very susceptible to break down, cost a lot of money, and are largely unnecessary.

When we go to sea with sail alone we feel close to nature and alive; when we use only the wind and our own resources, we feel a true sense of working in perfect harmony with what is natural. The sense of achievement is heightened, the skills sharpen exponentially, our train of thought is allowed to deepen, and we leave no footprint of our existence whatsoever. In short, we live that much closer to ourselves. Our understanding of life is enhanced by living closer to ourselves. Very little comes near to providing the solitude and the peace, the rawness of nature and the understanding we seek, than being on or near the ocean.

Sailing Sea of Cortez
Sunset in La Paz, Cortez

But this sailing without smoke and novelties is not for everybody. Overnight passages can easily take over a week if the wind is not in our favour, routes are normally well offshore to avoid the dangers of lee shores, mooring is rarely in marinas and is a tough job that needs excellent planning and commitment, and sailing can often involve sleeping at interesting angles just to finish the day off. It really is the ultimate in sail training. But for those that come to handle a boat under sail and sail alone, a level of competence and understanding with the sea is reached that will seldom be touched upon otherwise. Combine this principle with everything that we do and we realise that we only really need what is already within us; no more gadgets and toys, and no need to relentlessly keep taking.

"The person who says they are not afraid in a storm is either a liar or inhuman. I know my own boat very well... But you must never underestimate the power of Mother Nature – she will always throw up one last trick if you don’t have the most respect for her. You can never conquer her, but you can endure her." Sir Robin Knox Johnston

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