Wednesday, September 10, 2014

...in the wake of

San Francisco Bay with Angel Island and Raccoon Straits in the background, 9.5.2014

"The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.
Vladimir Nabokov



We headed toward the slip last Friday with Angel Island in our wake. The wind was steady and strong, the sky blue...a day made for sailing. Bill (with a little help from the crew) tacked and jibed and let the wind carry us home through a clear channel. The wake we left was populated with good memories of friends and food and beautiful surroundings.  

A boat can't sail directly into a headwind. She moves through the water by a series of those tacks and jibes, maneuvers that position the sails, typically with the boat steered at right angles to the wind (a beam reach) or with the wind coming from behind the boat at an angle (a broad reach). As my captain pointed out, this is a paltry "reach" list but you get my drift. (Never could pass up a good pun. Or a bad one.) NOTE: When running before the wind (or downwind), the wind is coming directly from behind. This can be problematic in the event of an accidental jibe. I dislike anything with the adjective "problematic" when I am on a boat. Ergo, I have a "no downwind" clause in my crew contract.

Storms are another matter altogether. Navigating in heavy weather requires special tactics. One of the most effective is heaving-to. The boat is positioned close to the wind and the sail is trimmed to bring the boat almost to a stop.  A breaking wave is less likely to roll her over...or to break on her.

There's much more to moving the sloop through the waves but I've already told you more than I know. From these few methods, however, life parallels can be found. Remaining still in a storm is often the best choice. Running head-on results in no gains. Changing course - wisely - is a winning move. And the wakes we leave are best populated with good will and care.

Much of life is lived in the wake of...after and because of some event.  Unlike last Friday, events can roll over us with the killer tenacity of a tsunami and their leave-taking is long and painful. So have we all lived, first in the wake of 9/11, then in the wake of our responses to that day of horror. Out of the dust and blood, anger and fear rose - from the streets of New York City, from the desert sands of Afghanistan and Iraq - and birthed a monster.

Nabakov is right. 
One event does not explain the whole anymore than a group of extremists defines a culture. 
The stark images of 9/11 haunt us just as war destroys and rips the souls of people worldwide.
As Bill says, this is a time for measured response, not kneejerk reaction,
for thoughtful engagement,
for moving forward. 


We fill our sails with purpose
Find direction in the stars
Pray the dark and deep won't hurt us
And sail with open arms
Part of us would linger by the shore
For ships are safe in harbor
But that's not what ships are for.

From "Ships" by Michael Lille and Tom Kimmel