Posted by: Alan Richards | April 28, 2009

Day 10 – 28 April 2009 – Thinking About Sailing

When you go out in a ship on the foreign and dangerous medium of the sea, your boat is a self-contained vessel that needs to carry everything you need to sustain you and get you out of trouble. It was my “Old Man”, my father, who introduced me to sailing. He owned a small dinghy when he was young and had done some dangerous sailing in the Firth of Forth, near Edinburgh, Scotland. The biggest danger when sailing small dinghies is that, sooner or later, you are going to fall into the water. The mean temperature of seawater on the east coast of Scotland is 6 degrees C (about 40 degrees F). At this temperature you only have 15 – 30 minutes in the water before you become unconscious. It is essential to wear a wetsuit. You are responsible for yourself and for the people sailing with you. When you are out in the middle of the sea and the wind gets up, you can’t count on someone coming to rescue you. You can’t give up; you can’t say, “I want to go home now”.
Another thing that sailing teaches you is patience. In a sailboat you are not in control of when you will arrive. You cannot turn up the throttle; if there is no wind you are not going to move. You have to take it as it comes. Conversely, being propelled by the unlimited power of the wind gives a great feeling of freedom. You can go as far and wherever you want and are not tied to schedules.
There are the intense sensory pleasures of being totally immersed in Nature. The sounds, sights and smells are very enjoyable. You can feel strength of the wind pulling on your arm as you hold the sheet in your hand. The natural environment at sea is very beautiful. It is pleasant and relaxing do something that at times demands your full attention but which you can respond to instinctively without having to think too much.
There is a romantic notion that a sailor’s life represents freedom, but of course the reality is that there is always also drudgery and danger.


  1. This is a great post…. everything you mentioned is very true.

  2. What a great project Alan. I’m sure it will give you many hours of enjoyment in your garage and years of enjoyment on the water. We can’t wait to see how you get on!

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