BOATHANDLING: Secrets of a Sensuous Sailor

Lifted from WaveTrain, Charles Donne’s very literate sailing/boating blog.

(Photo by Fritz Guerin)

It wasn’t until I first sailed on a boat with an engine that I understood precisely what is most seductive about sailing. Any who have cursed the din of a motor while afloat will know exactly what I mean. We feel it the very instant we switch our engines off, as the awful over-riding sound of internal combustion dies away. I call it the orgasm of silence, that moment in which it seems all of our senses have suddenly been turned on.

Considered purely on an aesthetic basis the sensuality of sailing is hardly unique. Any mode of transportation, particularly when raised to the level of sport, necessarily creates sensory stimuli, and those engaged in it will attune themselves to these. Sailors may argue that stimuli experienced while sailing are inherently more aesthetic–that the caress of the wind and the hiss of a wake must, for example, be more sublime than the roar of an engine and the smell of fuel–but this, I think, is mere prejudice. And, of course, many of the stimuli we enjoy while sailing are also experienced in other modes of boating. A canoeist or kayaker–even that lowest form of mariner, the floating motorist–may share our affinity for wind and wave, and, like us, they are subject to their dictates. But, unlike us, they are not wholly dependent on them. To other boaters wind and wave are most often obstructions; to sailors they are sustenance.

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