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Old 10-11-2009, 23:44   #1
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Peak Experiences While Sailing

Futurecruiser's thread on swimming in the ocean -- and Ocean Girl's marvelous response -- got me thinking. What have been some of your "peak experiences" when sailing?

Just so we're on the same track, a Peak Experience is defined as (thank you Wikipedia):

Peak experience is a term used to describe certain transpersonal and ecstatic states, particularly ones tinged with themes of euphoria, harmonization and interconnectedness. Participants characterize these experiences, and the revelations imparted therein, as possessing an ineffably mystical (or overtly religious) quality or essence.

Although I can think of a few, one of them that I've had several times is taking the 4 am to 8 am morning watch. Most of the other folks I've known hate that shift.

I love it.

Pitch black with only the stars out, maybe some biolum in the wakes.

The faint glow of red over the nav table and the little dots of green all in a row, saying that all is right on our little ship.

Everybody else is asleep, even Sam Dog is breathing slowly, easily under my feet.

The wind in the sails; the water sliding down the hulls.

And, then --- the world awakens!

Magic and wonder still live in the world.


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Old 11-11-2009, 02:33   #2
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Dawn on a clear day in the middle of the ocean with no other vessel in sight comes pretty close to perfection.

"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors - and miss."
Robert A Heinlein
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Old 11-11-2009, 03:39   #3
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November 18, 2001, about 400 nm north of the Virgin Islands, sailing south on a close reach in 15-18 knots of wind and smooth swells.

I was alone on watch from 2-4 am, and what was later described as the most intense meteor shower in 35 years was underway. The Leonids were ripping the sky apart. Bright streaks of light every few seconds, some reaching halfway across the sky. Most were golden trails of light, but some left greenish sparklers behind. A few streaked and then exploded in a shower of sparks, as if they were fireworks. They were so bright, I could see them through the sails.

Alone in the cockpit, sailing in the steady, warm Tradewinds, enjoying that incredible spectacle overhead was an experience I'll never forget.
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Old 11-11-2009, 04:19   #4
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Motoring toward the Vietnamese coast after a dismasting in a typhoon.

When the seas calmed, we closed the shore. The first vessel we'd seen in five days was a Vietnamese fishing boat. The skipper stepped out of the pilothouse, smiled and pointed skyward and then yelled something and laughed almost maniacally.

Some happy comraderie passed between us -- we'd both survived the worst that Mother Nature could throw our way.
Voyage of Symbiosis:
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Old 11-11-2009, 05:59   #5
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I have a couple.

1. Sailing on San Francisco Bay alone in cockpit late at night as moon danced on water. I was headed toward Antioch.

2. Coming into Ventura California Harbor at night with motor. As I got closer to shore phosphorescent algea lit up as I stirred up the water. I felt like I was floating on light. Very Cool. I remember looking back seeing two eyes peering at me out of the water. I am sure it was a seal, but spooky.
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Old 11-11-2009, 06:58   #6
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We were anchored in Cane Garden Bay BVI's, sun setting as 6 bareboat charterboats loaded with euphoric MIT students having graduated the week before, raced into the darkening anchorage, some under sail, dropped the hooks, dove the anchors and proceeded to party their brains out for the next 3 days, celebrating their graduation. We're talking diving off the spreaders, inflatable dolls flying from the rigging, pirate flags, the whole deal. We really enjoyed getting to know them and they invited many of the other charterers to join in the fun. I think the best part was how estactic they were about their future after working so hard to graduate. Maybe not the best example of a peak sailing experience, but a great example of how sailing brings young and old together.
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Old 11-11-2009, 07:05   #7
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Great idea for a thread ID.

Alone on the boat watching the sun rise on my way to pick up customers at a distant location.

Screaming along on a beam reach on my Hobie 18 on the SF Bay. Looking back watching the bow spray land 3 boat lengths behind me.

Sailboarding over the crest of a wave and accelerating down the backside on a plane.

Alone at night in fog with traffic..completely reliant on instruments. What fun.

Seeing a big orange, red and purple fireball sunset with the GG Bridge in the foreground.

Seeing a pilot whale inside the Bay for the first time...right next to the boat.

Taking someone out who has never been on a boat before...watching their face.

Life begins where land ends.
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Old 11-11-2009, 07:31   #8
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One of them:

Seeing a very large fish (maybe a 4-5' dolphin fish) shoot out of the back of a wave 10' away while on a moon lit night watch. We were in the trough and it was up about half way, thought it was coming after me.
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Old 11-11-2009, 08:33   #9
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What a nice idea for a thread. It has me sitting her at my desk smiling with the memories. For me too, dawn was always a magical time on a passage. The longer the passage the more I enjoy the transition from night to day. Also I agree a meteor shower out at sea where you can see the smoke off the back is unforgettable.

I read a letter recently from someone with a boat like mine who reminded me of a good moment. You have finally left on your big boat trip, the boat's loaded up like a covered wagon heading for Oregon and you get steady swell behind you, and the boat starts to surf and your speed goes from 5 knots to 15 and back to 5 and you realize it's okay and there is just a wonder in feeling the boat surge like that below you for the first time.
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Old 11-11-2009, 09:04   #10
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To be perfectly still while soloing, and hear the water gurgle as it exits the transom. To see an island pass you by for the first time, where new adventures await your every glance. The freshening of the wind as you exit the harbor. I am so grateful for the magic all around me.
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Old 11-11-2009, 09:38   #11
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A cold December ,1993, night rounding Point Conception sailing south. 50+mph wind with 20ft+ seas on the quarter. The sky as black as black can be. The stars shining like the crown jewels. Alone with Frolic, 30ft. Columbia, and Gilligan the auto pilot. Rushing down the face of the waves doing 8 1/2 knots with breakers chasing us. The motor running with the transmission in reverse to slow us down, and a scrap of jib up pulling like a train.........i2f
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Old 11-11-2009, 10:03   #12
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Reaching over the side of a 16ft fiberglass canoe and touching the side of a gray whale. I was on the back side of Mears Island off Vancouver Island across from the mouth of the Bedwell Inlet near Welcome Island in about 1978, back when I was still young and(foolish) scared of nothing............m
I must go down to the sea again.........
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Old 11-11-2009, 10:13   #13
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Becalmed in a fog bank halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey in a Santana 22. Waiting for the wind while drifting through a huge raft of Lion's Mane jellies. Two enormous Leatherback turtles swam right next to the boat, feeding on the jellies, ignoring us entirely. No camera on board, of course. The turtles stayed with us half an hour until a gentle breeze began pushing us toward Monterey.
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Old 11-11-2009, 11:11   #14
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In 2006 I was returning to San Francisco from Hawaii. On our last night at sea I had the midnight watch. The seas and winds were up -- nothing too exciting -- but we were sailing through the "squash zone" with seas perhaps ten feet and wind 25-30 kts. The Perseid meteor shower was in process, and we were sailing through a patch of strong phosphorescence, with the distant whitecaps glowing brilliantly and the foam in our wake almost bright enough to to cast a shadow. I was standing in the cockpit and hanging on to the dodger when a meteor came down, aiming straight for us. It looked like a star going supernova. What a night!

In 2003 I was in about the same spot, also sailing home from Hawaii. It was early AM, and we were flying the asymmetrical spinnaker. I was asleep when the crewmember on watch called down the companionway "Guys, I think we need to get this sail down!". I woke up, and we were heeling pretty far over and definitely under a strain. Another guy and I went topside to drop the spinnaker. I worked my way to the bow and dropped down to the lee side, standing on the rail with green water rushing up well above my ankles.

I had turned on the spreader lights, so the deck and surrounding water was pretty well illuminated. Holding on tight (tethered on, of course), I was feeling quite tense about the whole thing, I mean, we were sailing on our ear in some pretty strong wind. As I was pulling down the spinnaker sock, the crewmember who had gone forward to the mast called out "Look to starboard!" I looked and there was a pod of perhaps a dozen dolphins, leaping and playing in our bow wave. They seemed so alive and in their element. Then I realized: That's how I feel too! My tension drained away, we got the sails in shape, and I couldn't imagine a place I would have rather been at that moment.

It was magical.
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Old 11-11-2009, 11:56   #15
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Standing the 4 - 8 morning watch, making landfall on the west coast of Vancouver Island just after dawn, seeing the entire coast blanketed in thick fog, finding the sea buoy marking the approach to Ucleulet, and navigating the channel by radar and GPS with visibility down to a boat length while hearing the surf crash unseen against the headland to port and the reef to starboard. As we turned the corner into the bay the sun broke through the fog and revealed a glorious morning.

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