Captain Jesse Osborn on Alaska Sailing and Life. Part 1.
Following a lengthy discussion with my son recently, regarding the ever-increasing world of a teenage young man, he asked me this question.
“Why do you love sailing so much Dad?”
The following series is an expansion upon the answer I gave him that day.
Sailing the ocean is a direct representation of life. Nearly every struggle a person can encounter in life, is mirrored among the wind and waves. The sea is a training ground if you will, where the stakes are high, the arena limitless. Yet in all that surging power, the only enemy to be found is within yourself.
The power of a raging storm is humbling. But not as humbling as the beauty of green foaming bioluminescence in your wake, on a calm pitch black night… The mystery of it all…. The why. The wow. The wonderful.
It’s a wonder to me looking back, how I survived learning how to sail at all. Fighting the ocean, the boat, the rigging…. The truth is I wanted the fight. The foul weather and remote locations. I needed a place away from the world I knew. A place to chase the demons I had allowed into my life. Fear, hate and rage. I had allowed myself to become a victim. A victim of politics, money and power. A victim of the fears of others and agendas of cowards. Yes… I began sailing during a storm that raged in my personal world. My heart. My family. My career. And in finding this great arena of sailing, I found an outlet. A firing range if you will. Upon which, I could unleash my confusion, hurt and tears…. The cold water, bighting howling wind and exhausting emotions extracted my everything. I could not wake early enough, sail hard enough, late enough or well enough, to even make a mark upon it. I could scream at it, cry in it, sing to it, yet it happened along….. As if I did not exist at all…. I wanted satisfaction for my efforts of misguided rage. But the sea would not be dented, torn or broken. My presence was seamlessly forgotten, as my wake disappeared in tiny subsiding ripples behind me.
Beyond all this I’ve mentioned and my attempts to effect such an environment in any way, the sea answered back. My call had been answered and my role defined.
I asked the sea to soak up my pain. The sea asked me, for everything…. My best. My best in every area. I was sparring with the heavyweight champ, like a knobby-kneed kid in his boxer shorts who didn’t even understand the rules. In other words, I had met my match…. From tides and currents, weather, mechanics, knots, systems, navigation, my brain was over processing. From pulling and banging and cranking and cold and wet and weary, my body was overheating.
And round after bloody round I tossed myself into the fray, in a masochistic expedition of ignorance, self-discovery and the thing that made it all worthwhile… Freedom. Freedom to push as hard as I needed, just to feel again. Freedom to laugh like an idiot. At a weird bird, a joke I remembered and mostly at myself. Freedom to remember and allow childish joy over forgotten pleasures. Goofy songs rolled off the tongue. Warm cider in a storm was sweeter than slippery foot pajamas on Christmas morning. The little things were the big things again! No distractions. Just you, the pulse in the helm and the magic of a 35000 lb. boat sailing up wind, burning no fuel but your labor and mind.
In the midst of seemingly dangerous surroundings I found the safest place I could be. Free….
At the helm of my little ship I had many choices to make and many hats to wear. Any one of which could absorb the full energy of at least one man. Yet they all must be done to accomplish the voyage safely. Steering the helm. Setting and trimming the sails. Repairing damage. Cooking and sleeping? Navigation. Weather interpretation. Communications etc. etc. etc.. All of these, all the time, without fail, must be accounted for.
I was task loaded and weary. To tired to hate. To tired to cry. Here is where the gifts of sailing began to emerge in my life and my heart.
Rule number 1. “First you fix what will kill you”.
“ Then you fix what will hurt you.”
“ Then you fix what makes you uncomfortable.”
Life, Injury, Comfort. In that order.
For instance. If you choose to lay in your bunk while you feel the boat dragging anchor, telling yourself “It will stop dragging before I run aground” “I’m tired and its cold out there” You will eventually experience a grounding. Maybe not that night, but this pattern of behavior will literally sink you.
Life is the same way. We ignore “tell tale signs” and warnings in exchange for temporary bliss. And in doing so we gamble not only with our lives, but with the comforts we hold so dearly.
I needed more understanding for my anchor to hold. I needed to study, upgrade my ground tackle, Install chafe gear against the gnawing, rubbing and scraping of the tension on my lines. I needed to practice setting and testing the purchase, and most of all, I needed to learn how to choose the proper place to do so.
The sea was teaching me what was important in life, while simultaneously showing me How to be vigilant. How to prepare and why…
The earmarks of a good anchorage can be summarized as follows;
· Good depth
· Good holding
· Protection during stormy weather
· Room to swing without striking land or another vessel
In an anchorage like this, you can ride out a storm, rest and actually enjoy yourself in the midst of utter chaos.
Note. Good beachcombing is not one of the earmarks of a safe port. If you catch my drift…..
And so anchoring has taught me this. So far that is;
· Rest before you are weary, so that you may choose your place to settle down with clarity.
· Don’t settle for what appears to be acceptable, out of convenience or pleasure.
· Do your homework and choose the best of your available options.
· If your place in life is sketchy. That is, if a gust of wind can send you dragging anchor, sleep with your boots on.
· Cherish your rest and use a calm place in your life to prepare for the next leg of your voyage.
I have learned in my life that, try as you may, the only thing you have any chance of controlling, is your own energy. The rest is up for grabs. For instance at any given time we may choose to laugh, cry, be at peace or run in fear. Not because we can simply choose to be happy. No. Emotions are to powerful to be commanded so simply.
Yet if we focus our gaze on the light, we will eventually meander in a bright direction. Toilsome as all paths can be, the steepest ones lead to the most beautiful vistas. Imagine the beauty in your mind before you get there and you have literally arrived early.
People say to me about sailing…. “I would like sailing if it did not take so long to get where I want to go.”
My reply is simple and true for most people who have discovered what I have. “When I am sailing, I am already there.”
“Life is a gift. Unwrap it.” Captain Jesse Osborn 09/15/2012