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February 27, 2008     Post 4
why go sailing?

A late winter essay

Recently a sailing magazine, a freelance writer in an e mail to me, and a website promoting sailing for women each asked the question 'why go sailing?' Since this is year forty for my addiction, I'll take a whack at trying my own retrospective on the question. With spring just around the corner and another season of boating soon to follow, why have I spent years of my life, way too much money, and untold hours sanding boat bottoms to go sailing?

Reason one for me is the bond that sailing gives me with nature. From my earliest days as a toddler dropping sticks into the lazy current of our farm's little creek to watch them be carried away like little boats, the natural world and its waters have been a source of wonder and delight. Nature's beauty feeds my soul.

I discovered sailing as a teen ager. Mastering the skill at the helm of our family's weary old wooden day sailor provided empowerment, independence, and self esteem. I was hooked for life. I raced and day sailed. Sometimes (though not often) I even beat all the guys to the finish line. I enjoyed the friendship of others who loved the past time of messing with boats. The allure of cruising proved irresistible, and I rambled around the upper Chesapeake with my 19 foot Lightning meeting interesting people and anchoring in beautiful unspoiled creeks and coves and occasionally scaring myself silly.

The freedom of sailing alone drew me to discover new waters. My future husband and I met through sailing. Eventually we married after a three way co-operative boat ownership venture turned into a romance for two.

Many people, after their first time afloat under sail on a gentle day, remark upon how relaxing the past time is. The silent almost magical ghosting over calm waters, the joyous swing and lift of the sailboat as she romps over the waves-the sensations of sailing keep me coming back to the boatyard every spring.

As I write this, I pause to gaze out the window at the trees in the yard, each nicely outlined with a white coating of snow. I dream of the whisper of liquid water alongside the boat. I picture the graceful curve of her white wings overhead against the blue sky, and I imagine again looking forward and seeing her bow before me pointing the way to the channel, the open lake, the horizon beyond. Onward, she seems to say. Let's go out there. Let's see what lies around that next point. We are all on a voyage on life's uncertain seas. My brave little ship gives me courage.

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