I’ve declared, in the initial posts of this blog, that I’m going to use Sailing as a challenge, as a symbol, as a metaphor for Life.
For this post, though, I’m going to use it as a metaphor for sailing. I mean, let’s be honest, everyone: Sailing is a perfectly good pursuit, in and of and by itself. “Sailing beyond the sunset,” even though I’ve been using that as a metaphor (as did Alfred, Lord Tennyson, when he wrote Ulysses as an exercise in poetic licence), is also a valid and perfectly-proper goal.
It’s not a goal to be taken lightly. It’s serious, and arduous, and yet there are thousands of people who have taken small sailboats around the world – some of them, again and again.
The Joshua Slocum Society is an organization whose purpose is to record, acknowledge, and praise the people who have sailed solo around the world. Alone, all by themselves. It was named after the fellow who was first to achieve this, the first to chronicle his passages in the mainstream media of the day. Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around The World is a classic tale, from a laconic Nova Scotia-born “Yankee” and a seriously-credentialed mariner; I encourage you to read the Project Gutenberg book at the link above.
Sailing, furthermore, is not an exclusively-masculine avocation.
It doesn’t take literal, physical, testicular “balls” to sail beyond the sunset, or to compete as a sailor, or to win the highest accolades as a sailor. Look at Jessica Watson, or Ellen MacArthur, or sailor/author Tania Aebi for proof.
The point of the links in the paragraph above, is that there are women who have achieved success and even fame in their exploits … in an area which excites me and grabs my interest. They, too, are heroes to me. They have accomplished something that I, presently, only aspire to complete. I would value the chance to listen to that teenage girl, Jessica Watson, who took Pink Lady around the world; and I would strive to learn all I could from her, as she has gone where I want to go! (I have learned from Tania Aebi’s Maiden Voyage, the book she wrote after her own circling of the globe.)
It takes a lot of confidence to sail away on your own, to watch the solid safe horizon fade into an insubstantial blur off the stern and finally disappear. It takes more than I’ve demonstrated, yet; I am still a Chesapeake Bay sailor, working up my competence and my confidence until someday I might let the land sink below the horizon and sail on to a destination that lies too far ahead of my bow to be seen. Till I actually “get there,” till I’ve actually done that, I willingly offer my admiration to anyone who has been there, and done that, and earned the salt-stained T-shirt.
The Sea doesn’t care whether you’re male or female, young or old, black or white or Asian or Hispanic or whatever else or whatever mix. The Sea cares only whether you’re prepared or not, whether you’re capable or not, whether you’re able to handle its challenge … or not. You don’t pass the challenge of The Sea by mouthing the appropriate polemic, or by having the Society-approved credentials, or by asserting your qualifications before suitably-approved judges. You won’t be granted a “pass” by ranting at it, or claiming discrimination, or suing it, or holding protest marches through the streets. You can only pass the challenge of the Sea by surmounting the difficulties and hazards of the Sea, and actually succeeding in following and achieving your goals.
The realities of wind, and tide, and storms, and The Sea Itself give not a damn for anything but your competence, your grit, your proper preparations, and your right decisions when the shit hits the fan.
That’s why I will extend my respect and admiration – without reservation – to women who have gone out there and won the contest against the Sea. Women like Tania Aebi, like Jessica Watson, like Dame Ellen MacArthur, DBE, who tied the knot in their wake and sailed home.
I am not fuckin’-well kidding. The game I want to play is not about competition; it’s about accomplishment. Anyone who has achieved the goals to which I aspire, I regard as worthy of my respect! And I admire anyone, man or woman, even a woman who is young enough to be my grand-daughter, who has achieved this brilliant, difficult, exciting and worthy goal toward which I am just starting to reach.
Joshua, Tania, Jessica, I am preparing to follow in your wake.