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Oct 04 2011

Wherever the Winds Take Us

by Louis Gendreau

Wherever the Winds Take Us

It’s easy to feel unbalanced in a world where “surfing” means navigating data by clicking on links. We now spend much of our lives travelling at the speed of light through a virtual world, an artificial digital universe. But I’d like to tell you about another type of  navigation, one that involves real motion over real water under real wind power. Of course, I’m talking about sailing. To me, sailing is much more meaningful and much
closer to what it really means to be alive. Let’s weigh anchor!

Nathalie and I form a two-person crew. She handles both the mainsail and the jib, and
I’m at the helm. That isn’t standard sailing procedure, but for us it works so well it’s like we’re a single unit at times. From the moment we cast off, the wind brings a feeling of freedom and adventure. I feel like I’m aboard the Duncan in Jules Verne’s In Search
of the Castaways. The wind seems to make anything possible. You can feel anything,
do anything, and go anywhere. Every time I hit the water, I feel like my eyes are being opened. There’s a whole new day to discover, and I’m open to and grateful for whatever
it has in store. I point us into the wind, Nathalie hoists the mainsail, and we set a heading. We may have a specific destination or we may be going wherever the action is. Other times, like today, we might just wander off in search of something new, like that amazing bay everyone on the lake talks about.

I set a close-hauled course for that intriguing little corner of paradise. The boat heels
to port, and we take off eastward toward a new horizon that offers us a new view of the landscape. Being at the helm means reading the wind. It doesn’t take any divine powers
of prediction. You just have to watch the sky, look for nearby ripples on the water, and consider where you are on the lake. It’s fascinating to see how the wind plays over the   surface of the water, indicating the best path to follow, and how the clouds seem to dictate where the wind will blow. For me, sailing is like life: if you want to get anywhere, you have to watch, listen, learn, and think. All too often, we forget to look at what’s really going on, focusing instead on predictions that never come true.

Occasionally, I ask Nathalie to trim the sails. She works the sheets, and the ride
smoothes out. We call it staying in harmony with the wind. It’s smooth sailing until
we hit a spot on the lake the wind seems to have forgotten. Sudden calm. No wind.
No ripples on the lake’s surface aside from the wake of our sailboat. The pennons
on the mainsail hang straight down, barely moving, and the sheets are slack. Silence. Absolute calm. But we stay alert. The wind picks up again, blowing from behind us
on the starboard side. Running downwind, we manage to stay the course toward our destination. We’re really moving fast now, and it’s exhilarating. With the wind almost directly behind us, we barely feel it on our skin. This, too, is like life: you can’t move
fast without missing something.

We agree it’s time for a new tack. We jibe to starboard and take in the mainsail.
The boat heels to port again, and we slow to a nice pace. We’re just a few minutes
away from our destination. We take a moment to breathe in the air, listen to the waves
slapping against the hull, and enjoy the cool, windblown splashes they create. Up ahead
is our destination. From this distance, it’s even more beautiful than we had imagined.
As we enter this fabled bay, we plan out our initial discovery. I tack about to starboard, and Nathalie takes in the jib to slow us down. We want to share this moment and really take in the gorgeous view.

On the far side of the bay, another boat is floating peacefully. The wind pushes us slowly towards it, as if inviting us to stay awhile. We gladly accept, reefing the sails and being pushed along gently until we’re close enough to introduce ourselves to the couple on board. It’s a mar-velous experience. With sailing as a common interest, it’s easy to break the ice. At dusk, the four of us share a meal and take in the surrounding view. Then, Nathalie and I head back aboard our ship, the Solo Sonata. It’s been an incredible day,
and we decide to spend the night here on this magical bay, rocked by the waves and listening to the lullaby of the wind blowing through the trees.

About the author

I love everything life has to offer: people, matter, elements. I spend my life observing, listening, and contemplating. I dream, I create, I design, I live. I am Louis.

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