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My Sailing Odyssey
"Selene," Crealock 31

In 1987 I decided to buy a sailboat and learn to sail it. By the spring of 1988 I was ready to sail away from the West Coast and across the ocean. During the next 3 1/2 years, I slowly and deliberately sailed around the world, following the trade winds west, alone. When I started sailing, I was quite afraid of losing sight of land. All the dangerous things I had read about sailing were out in the deep blue water. But, as I sailed around the world, a slow change took place, based completely on my experiences — I came to regard the middle of the oceans, far from land, as the safest place to be. The rocks, big waves, and pirates were all near shore, and the most peaceful sails were far from port.

Sucia Island

I encountered pirates near Indonesia, who decided not to try for my boat after I waved a shotgun at them. Once I nearly fell into the hands of rebel soldiers in the Sudan on the East coast of Africa, but I managed to sail away. And Sri Lanka was a scary place to visit during their civil war. But, notwithstanding these dramatic moments, an average sailing day is the most peaceful experience you can imagine — when far from land. I came to rely on the sea's rhythms and "language." Eventually I could read coming storms just by looking at the water.

I came back from sailing changed in a way I find difficult to express. There are all sorts of experiences that are exaggerated in the retelling, dramatized to the point of having no meaning. So you will understand if I express this with caution and due regard for the risk of choosing the wrong word. I spent so long in the company of the sea, relying on her for news and entertainment, and quite completely dependent on her grace toward me, that I acquired a sense of belonging to nature that I have never had before. Before, I would think of nature as something to observe, from a safe remove. Gradually I came to see myself as embedded in nature, enclosed by the world. I still have a certain kind of objectivity toward certain subjects, but as to my relationship with nature, I've lost all pretense of distance.

Read my Book "Confessions of a Long-Distance Sailor"

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