Monday, July 2, 2012

Lessons on the Lake

For the first time in a couple of years, I put my sailboat in the water today.  It was the perfect day:  good wind, lots of sunshine, and no appointments on the calendar. 

It's hard to take a photo of a sailboat while you're on it.
My boat is a 1975 Sunfish, a small boat with a single sail.  It boasts all the glory you would expect from the '70s:  bright yellow and orange stripes for the sail.  It is comfortable for two adults, if both are willing to keep ducking the boom.  I remember sailing it with four teenagers, and it was a snug fit.

The Sunfish is perfect for the solo sailor--easy to rig, not too heavy, and as maneuverable as a bicycle.  All you need is a little breeze to keep you moving.  The silence on the water breathes peace into my soul.  As I harness the wind to take me away, I can listen to God.  And I have to depend on God, too, for my power.

The wind, I have always believed, is best in the big part of the lake.  Far from the shore, the wind blows straight and strong, not blocked or diverted by the trees.  So, when I set sail from the South Cove at Carolina Marina, I make it my goal to get to the big open water, where I can sail freely.

This is typically a feat in itself, getting to the open water.  First I zigzag through the cove, responding to the constantly shifting breeze, and "coming about" just shy of the boat slips lining the shore.  Out of the cove, I have more room to maneuver.  Still I have to tack, even though my heading changes from west to north.  That's just how the wind blows.

Tiller in right hand, camera in left hand, sheet between my toes
To get to that beckoning big water, I have to make nearly a dozen tacks.  With each zig, I try to move up the lake as much as possible.  I set small goals along the way:  I want to get past that peninsula, then beyond that moored ski boat.  Not every goal is met, but piece by piece I get closer to my destination. 

Eventually I arrive.  I can sail as long and far as I like, not having to mark my progress or zig when I'd rather zag.  I have freedom to do as I like with the strong steady wind, feeling the spray in my face, letting the mast lean as far as I dare while beating into the wind.  I imagine sailing across the Atlantic. 

The smaller goals led me to my destination.  But at the destination, I really had no more goals, other than having fun.  That's what sailing, at least for me, is all about. 

So here's the life application:  small goals in life are essential to get us where we want to go.  But when we get where we want to go, we need to know what to do next.  You want to get all your debts paid off.  That's great--but then what?  You want to get that perfect job or that higher education.  Again, that's great, but remember:  when the goal is reached there needs to be a purpose for getting there.

Running before the wind, heading back to South Cove
Before long, I sail back to the South Cove, now mostly running before the wind, no tacking needed.  It's a much shorter voyage, both in time and distance.

I reached my goal and accomplished what I expected.  I had fun and I got to listen to God.