Everything in nature is constantly in motion. Nature stops for no one, and nowhere is that more evident than on a sailboat. During our sailing trip, I learned many things that set me off balance from the illusion of our perfectly balanced world. From the rocking of a ship on the ocean swells, to the sporadic and playful movements of our native dolphins, I was able to see the world in a way I hadn’t previously been able to.
David Gessner says that “The world is on the move and so we build things with straight lines.” I understood more clearly what he meant while standing on the rocking deck of our sailboat, Boogans, as I repeatedly tripped over a cleat or step whenever the boat dipped into the wave troughs. I spent as much of the trip as I could sitting, and left with many bruises on my ankles and shins, but I was also able to better appreciate the constant movement that keeps our planet going.
I sat with our captain, Garrett on the starboard side of our boat, discussing different aspects of sailing. I hadn’t really gone sailing before, though it was something I had always wanted to try. He was explaining the method of turning into the wind in order to change the sails, since otherwise the sails are so taut that it’s impossible to do anything with them. I came to understand in this moment just how much we were at the mercy of the wind and waves, only able to make a movement as long as they allowed us to. Moving in a straight line is nearly impossible on a sailboat, as you are forced to turn in whichever direction the wind is going, unless you want to putt along with the engine at a snail’s pace. I glanced in some wonder at the sails above us, appreciating more their impact on our sail and the speed at which we were able to move. Though sails themselves comprise straight lines, the best way to sail is when they are curved out and filled with the Gulf sea breeze that kept us moving at a brisk pace. At the same time that I was admiring the neatness of the sailing craft, Garrett was explaining the impact that the ocean really has on a sailboat.
Boogans had just left dry-dock recently before our trip after having her keel and some other small things repaired. Garrett was explaining just how detrimental salt water is to anything humans try to place in it. “You want to rot wood? Salt water. You want to break concrete? Put it in salt water. Salt water destroys everything.” He said, smiling ruefully as he gazed ahead to gauge the direction of our companion boat, Wanderer. When he said this I was able to understand what Gessner was saying about the groins and sea walls that are placed to stop the movement of the shoreline, and the minimal effect that they have in preventing it. In fact, these manmade inventions usually just cause more problems in the long run. The humongous expense to maintain them, on top of the long term damage to our shoreline, creates compounding problems that we eventually won’t be able to fix.
Overall, though I was booted quite far out of my comfort zone, I couldn’t help enjoying the lack of organization present on the waves. The leaning heel of a sailboat, the constant change of direction in order to keep at an angle to the wind, all of these things left me mesmerized. Even though I left with wicked sunburn and quite a few bruises, it gave me a new perspective on nature’s impact and just how little we humans truly understand her.