People often ask, “Why is sailing so special?” Unlike any other sport, sailing lends itself to inspiration, as these three illustrations show. No other mode of transportation is so inspiring, except maybe trains (“City of New Orleans”), or the bus ride with Kathy in Simon and Garfunkel’s “America.” Sailing memories are a pleasant reminder of good times–except for the accidents and squalls.
The wisdom breaks down generally into inspiration, motivation or advice. Innumerable quotations use circular yet clever reasoning that dissolves into a cliché. “We sail not to escape life, but so life won’t escape us.”
In 1962 President John F. Kennedy famously connected us to the sea in remarks he gave at a dinner for the America’s Cup crew:
“I don’t know why all of us have committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears.”
Kennedy sailed numerous boats as a child and as an adult. A shipyard in nearby Deltaville spent many years repairing one of his wooden boats. JFK speech writer Ted Sorensen probably found the quote, or perhaps presidential adviser Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
Arthur used the same ocean water description in his eulogy of his younger brother Thomas when he died while working for Colonial Williamsburg. Jack Kennedy’s younger brother Ted was an avid sailor who skippered his yacht one last time the day before he died.
Here is a quote from wiseoldsayings.com by actor Morgan Freeman, and you can practically hear him intoning. “If you live a life of make-believe, your life isn’t worth anything until you do something that does challenge your reality. And to me, sailing the open ocean is a real challenge, because it’s life or death.”
That’s one reason why Let’s Go Sail sticks to a sheltered and safe inland river.
Here is the essence of my view of sailing, by one George Matthew Adams. “Sailing a boat calls for quick action, a blending of feeling with the wind and water as well as with the very heart and soul of the boat itself. Sailing teaches alertness and courage, and gives in return a joyousness and peace that but few sports afford.”
Or this, which summarizes nicely the complexity of sailing. “Sailing requires the management of all the systems on the boat, plus all the controls on the boat, while assessing the weather and navigation. It’s planning everything to a fine level of detail and making the required adjustments at the same time things are changing.” —Anonymous (Sailing Wisdom, Life’s Metaphors)
Then there are the bromides that use metaphors to explain life through sailing. “Sailing a boat calls for quick action, a blending of feeling with the wind and water as well as with the very heart and soul of the boat itself. Sailing teaches alertness and courage, and gives in return a joyousness and peace that but few sports afford.” —George Matthew Adams
Sailors are conceited enough to offer sage wisdom on how to live:“Tis the set of the sail that decides the goal, and not the storm of life.” –Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Other advice conveys the sheer folly of it all. “Sailing is the fine art of slowly going nowhere at great expense while being cold, wet and miserable.” —Irv Heller (Sailing Widsom, Life’s Metaphors)
The weather lends itself to vivid sailing images.“It’s scary to have a 30 foot wave chasing you. If you are steering, you don’t look back. The crew looks back for you, and you watch their faces. When they look straight up, then get ready!” —Magnus Olsson
Here’s a favorite among environmentalists and tree-huggers. “For the most part, a sailboat navigates through its world of wind and water not leaving a single trace of its passage. Nothing is consumed. Nothing is altered. The winds and the water are left in exactly the same condition for the next user. Sailing is forever.” —Michael B. McPhee
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Sailing Wisdom, Life's Metaphors
Unlike any other sport, sailing lends itself to inspiration, as these three illustrations show. No other mode of transportation is so inspiring.
Capt. Bill O'Donovan
Williamsburg Charter Sails
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