Lessons from Sailing

Lessons from Sailing

Today was an ideal summer day on the water. Early morning means we have the river to ourselves – except for a few paddle boarders, kayaks and fishing boats.  The sun was burning off the early fog, the wind was picking up and we eagerly got her ready for a sail. When we got back to the dock, AND for several hours later, I was still basking in the glow of the morning and started reflecting on the many lessons from sailing that parallel our health journey.  Here’s what surfaced:

It’s not always perfect

Right off the bat, we had to correct a few things. In our haste to get sailing, we don’t always set up everything perfectly – something we can control. OR the wind will wrap one of our lines so we can’t raise the main – something we can’t control. We don’t stop the adventure and go back to the dock, we simply fix it and move on. Our health is the same way. Perhaps you want to start cooking more so you make a splendid plan for the week. In the haste to start something new, you forget to really look if the schedule can accommodate cooking every single day – something we can control. OR The planned avocado dip can’t happen because the avocado isn’t quite ripe enough yet – something we can’t really control. Know it won’t always go as planned, fix it and simply keep going.  

Every day on the water is a day of thanks

Every time I get off the boat I feel happy. The wind might be too strong one day and we are dripping wet when we dock OR the opposite happens, the wind dies and we take a looooong time to get back to the dock. It’s our attitude that makes it enjoyable. We can’t control the wind so we simply enjoy the water, the connection, the experience. No matter what, every time I step off the boat, I am in deep appreciation. We could be more like that with our health journey – knowing we go fast sometimes and slow others. Simply keep showing up to practice and enjoy the process. Tap into an upgraded attitude about your health and it will make your experience that much sweeter.   

Do the prep work

In the cool months of late winter and early spring, we are all itching to get outside with the wind in our hair but we can’t do it if we don’t get her ready: scraping, sanding, painting, staining and fixing. All that labor makes the sailing, well, better. Think about your movement for a minute. Are you doing the prep work to perform your best? The next time you resist putting in an effort, remember that when the time comes for you to race, hike, visit the doctor, chase the kids/grandkids, take care of the garden, fight infection, or bounce back from an injury, all the work you’ve done to stay well and fit will have been worth it. We can control the prep work. Do it. 

Life will throw us hurricanes

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy upended countless lives with homes swept away, businesses shut down for years, lights were out for weeks. A lot changed. The rebuilding has taken years. It has also created jobs and reframed our appreciation for where we live and a deep respect for the power of Mother Nature. We cannot control her. We can only control our response. Accidents happen. Our boat got roughed up with a crooked nose, several new surface cracks, some teak-work missing and other parts that will never look the same. I remember walking down to the boatyard – it looked like adult pick-up-sticks. It was eerie and unforgettable. I’m sure everyone who experienced a storm in life has a story. With time, we patched up our boat and got back to sailing. We survived. She survived. You can weather the storm. Get back on the boat. Get back to life and start again.

Know what you need to practice

It was about 22 years ago. I was new to sailing and thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. If it weren’t for the helpful young man who popped out of his boat and threw me a line, our boat could have splintered as we did a header into the dock.  It was frightening, embarrassing and eye-opening. I learned not to take short cuts, to respect the wind AND the current (things we can’t control) and that I needed help and direction. All these years later, my dad is still the one to land us. Hmmm…I still need to practice. 

Lose lines cause damage

The last thing we do before we leave the dock is check the lines to be sure they are all secure.  Sometimes we don’t get it right. The result is that we have to do damage repair. It can be costly When life rocks the boat, you want to be sure your connections are secure first. Secure the lines of communication. Your connections matter. 

We are always making course corrections

Our outings are short and sweet. We have a little boat (a 16’ Bullseye. 1950s Herreshoff design for those who are boat enthusiasts).  She is a beautiful, unique design with only a handful in the area. She doesn’t go fast and because we don’t have a toilet, we can’t stay out long.  We also don’t have a motor so we can’t go far. That’s fine for us. Sometimes we just bore holes in the river and are content with that. Sometimes, we have a destination –a certain point of sail. But the wind and the current is always shifting, so we have to make adjustments all the time. We can rarely ever get to a certain spot without a tack, a jibe or a sail adjustment. Every 1% adjustment matters for how fast we get to our destination.  And sometimes we have to shift the destination. It’s that way with our health too. It’s ALL the little things we do consistently, day in and day out, that get us to our destination – and then we reach it and pick a new one. 

Sometimes we measure our speed

Because we don’t race, we don’t often measure how fast we are going or compare ourselves to other boat speeds. Because we have been sailing for years, we can all feel it when we are flying strong across the water. We now can use that feeling to automatically make adjustments to our sail.  Same with using the telltales; there are many measurements we can use. Every now and then, we still get out the app and check our speed as a curiosity. If we spent all our time looking at the phone, we wouldn’t be able to experience and feel the speed at all.  The experience would all be tied to the numbers with no connection to Mother Nature – or each other.  It’s kind of like that with our health. Take measuring our weight as an example. When we first started sailing, we wanted to know all the time what our speed was. You might want that too when you are targeting a specific goal. After a while, though, we don’t need the scale to tell us how we are doing.  We can begin to feel the progress instead.  That’s about tapping into our intuition.

Back on the boat, we will continue to be deeply thankful for the Lessons from Sailing and our adventures: including all the prep work, 1% adjustments, repairs, presence and practice.  And most of all, simply for the wonderful experience of it all.

Thanks Mom and Dad! 

by Wendy Bright-Fallon

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