Eric refects upon his first experience hehind the wheel of SeaSea. By the end of the week he was a competent helmsman . BT
Sailing (The Spot Between Two Points)
If it is not already obvious, a 42 foot Fountaine Pajot does not handle like a car. It takes far less from the wheel to respond to course direction, and the speed isn’t controlled by a pedal but by two levers or the wind in your sails. Where a slight right in a car may take about a quarter-turn of a car’s wheel, that same sort of adjustment might take a little less than an inch on the SeaSea. I think of it as steering with the tips of your fingers instead of the full grip of your hand. At first, it’s all daunting given what you have grown to know over years of operating any other kind of vehicle. All of your habits seem to nag at you subconsciously, and you’ll make a few common mistakes as you go because of that. Imagine doing something like feeling for a pedal that isn’t even there. It makes you feel about as green as anyone could be at something. Then you’ll graduate to genuine sailing mistakes like having your sails flog.
The trick is not to unlearn what you have learned (sorry, Yoda) but to just slightly adjust. That is all it takes. Slight adjustments. No overcompensations or hard turns. That is how you can make mistakes. Of course, easier said than done, but what exactly is? Actual sailing is a challenge with catching and keeping the wind with the sails, watching your telltales, keeping in the right direction, and adhering to the rules of boat traffic. It is crucial to have more than one set of eyes scanning the boat and the water when first learning. Not only does it keep you from having any major accidents with the boat or sails, but it also gives you the chance to have a less stressed experience. Thus, allowing for a better initial embrace of the fundamental pleasures of sailing and the enjoyment of being an explorer.
The best trick I learned was picking a spot between two points. The concept is this: To keep yourself sailing in a straight line, pick a reference point on your boat and center it between two things you see in the distance toward the direction you are going. Keep that point steady between the places. Then, if you find yourself drifting away from that point, slightly adjust until you are back and steady in that sweet spot again. As you begin to close in, keep picking points as many times as you need to. Just keep slightly adjusting.
The sweet irony is that the spot between two points is, fundamentally, what sailing is. It is what any journey is. It is everything that happens between two points and, more so, the most pivotal part of getting from one place to another. All the while, you are making slight adjustments on your way there. It’s an odd place where your mind can both drift and focus at once. Where you can simultaneously think about where you’ve been and where you’re going, reflect on what you have done and what you will do, remember the people who were with you along the way and those you will come to know, maybe. You breathe it all in and out in influx the rushing wind throughout the subtle passing of time.
The lulls in life are the same as they are when sailing the sea. They are not without focus. Instead they act to help us realize where we are at in that point between two places and afford us the opportunities to make those slight adjustments so we can be sure we get to where we want to be. That is what makes us all explorers.