Thursday, May 4, 2017

Qatar: Sailing, Sailing Away....

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.                                                               --Louisa May Alcott

Elias, being my shipmate. We make a good team!
In the hilarious comedy What about Bob? Bill Murray is tied to a mast as his sailboat glides across Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, USA. He elatedly screams out for all those on shore to hear, "I'm sailing. I'm sailing. Look at me, I'm a sailor." Last week we took a spring sailing camp here in Qatar from Regatta Academy. This is my third year in Qatar, and my third spring break being a "sailor." You can start as young as six years old at the academy. My 15 year old son with autism can steer a dingy around the harbor. So no excuses for me when I thought I might get blown around or tangled in rope. On the last day you get to sail to an island off the coast of Doha. Feeling the wind of the sails above you, pulling you to your Ithaca, with the salty sea spraying in your face is exhilarating. I promise. It's addicting.

Graduating from our sailing course

Whenever I get out on the water in a sailboat, I begin to notice the direction and strength of the wind or zephyr. On land, the breeze or the lack thereof, is never much on my mind. But out on the smooth or tempest water, I am constantly looking at the flag, telling me which way the wind is gusting by.  Our instructor said to face where you think the wind is blowing, and if both ears feel the gust, you know where she blows. One needs to be wind-aware--always alert to the direction and strength of the wind. It's your invisible fuel to move in the direction you desire--your passage.

As Mark Twain said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Sailing takes teamwork; it is not just a solo journey. Some of the kids bringing up the boats from the shore.

                                                     Lessons of a Sailing Week

There is a "no go zone" that is 45 degrees wherever the wind is blowing--meaning you cannot force yourself forward into the wind. You have to zigzag to your destination. Trying to push yourself directly into the wind will flap the sail. You will stop, and even go backwards. This is where the old sailing term, "in irons" comes from. You are stuck, almost like in chains. Just as in life, you have to be alert to the various angles and options available to avert the "irons." Understand where the "no go zone" is located, and steer yourself away. Know your wind, and eventually it will become more instinctive. You can maneuver your way around the "no go zone" to your Promised Land.

Know your winds

Know the points of sail that can bring you to your goal or destination. The point of sail lets the boat travel diagonally to the wind direction. You must turn into the wind, in a "close haul" or "beam reach," and then gain a lift as the sails are brought in tight. On a sailing journey, there is no way that you are going to go from Point A to Point B in one straight line course. The boat will have to follow the direction of the wind, and that means zigzaging. Just as in life, we need to be constantly vigilant of the motions surrounding us. Wind can pull us off course or be our surging power to reach our destination. It's your decision where the wind will take you. Keep your hands on the rudder, looking forward. But be aware: the wind is changing all the time.

Karin holding onto the tiller the whole time
Sometimes there is no wind in the sail. You just sit and drift for awhile--patiently waiting for a gust to push you along. Other times the waves are rocking, swaying the boat with water splashing in. Being in the small boat with my son, sometimes I had  to remember to stay calm. He was looking to my response if the rope got tangled or the mast suddenly blew across. I knew his reactions to the journey would mirror mine. Every day is a new journey--sometimes gliding swiftly along with no storms. And the next hour a wave can capsize you. But as long as your hand is steering the course and you are looking around for the wind to give you the direction, you will reach your Ithaca--the place you are looking for in the wide, expansive sea. The secret is to relish every moment of the journey.

Finding company along the journey....

Again, enjoying the moment of the journey. 


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