Some people spend their lives dreaming of doing a long sailing passage like crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Others can’t imagine why any sane person would put themselves on a tiny floaty thing and travel in a massive open scary sea. Neither the dreamer nor the dread-er fully appreciates the varied benefits of long passage sailing.
You don’t know what you haven’t experienced until you actually experience it.
If you’re a dreamer, see if my list confirms, and perhaps expands, your expectations. If you’re a dread-er, have a read because I think you might gain a different perspective on things. At the very least you might determine that there’s a valid reason for the dreamer’s dream.
Doing A Long Sailing Passage -13 Benefits
1. Feeling Freedom
This is top of the list for many aspiring sailors. It’s the strong desire to feel free.
Once land is out of sight, and your surroundings are only differentiated by different shades of wide blue expanse, there is a definite sensation of infinite openness. As far as the eye can see there are no obstructions or distractions.
It’s you, the boat, the crew, and a journey propelled and supported by nature. There is no traffic, no news, no job, no controversy – only the soft sea wind on your face, the smell of salty fresh air, slicing sounds of waves lapping against the hull, and a wonderous feeling of infinite expanse.
Going on a long sailing passage doesn’t give you just a glimpse of freedom. It allows you to fully immerse yourself and bask in freedom.
2. Connection to Nature
Both swells and waves are fractal – A fractal is a pattern that the laws of nature repeat at different scales. I became fascinated years ago with fractals when I read an article about the artist, Pollock. His art is abstract, and people couldn’t figure out why it was so admired. Come to find out Pollock somehow tapped into painting fractals. As humans, we love looking at fractals. They make us feel relaxed and soothed!
I feel that being on a boat is being connected to nature in a unique and special way through fractals. I could have read it somewhere or perhaps I’m totally making this up, but not only do you spend time looking out at a fractal pattern for days (waves and swells), but you’re actually riding the fractal patterns! Visually and physically, you’re aligning with nature. How often does anyone do anything like that nowadays? Imagine the benefits of that?
Of course, there are sunsets, sunrises, moonlight, stars, planets, seabirds, dolphins, whales, fish, wind, weather, and sea too!
What will a long sailing passage provide in relation to experience? There are things like learning how to passage plan, understanding weather routing, trimming sails, handling squalls, seeing first-hand what a big open ocean is like, but these are just the small things.
The big experiences that you’ll walk away with include what it’s truly like to be self-sufficient, detached from the modern world, and respectfully vulnerable to Mother Nature. Most sailboat owners buy a boat with the dream of sailing it around the world. Only a very tiny percentage ever take their boat further than 100 miles. They dream of the day when they’ll untie the lines, sail into the sunset, and the day never comes. If they only had more experience perhaps?!
4. A Break from your Reality
Living in a house on land or on a boat in an anchorage, or a marina, or even doing daytime cruising is one reality. Doing a long passage is a very different reality. For seven to 30 days, you become a different person, with altered goals, to achieve the result of getting somewhere. There is no Internet, no TV, no news, no connection with the outside world, no going out, no running to the store, no changing your plans on what you’ll do for the day.
Instead, the long passage reality is one of observation, acceptance, patience, teamwork, nature’s forces and delights, survival, fundamentals of eating, sleeping, washing, and quiet peaceful freedom. There is nowhere to go other than where you’re headed. There is nothing to do other than make sure you’re safe and on course.
The benefits of living another reality are many – when you return to normal life you might find it more accommodating than originally thought. Taking a break from your reality gives you more clarity and perspective. A different reality will expand you and help you grow as a person – you’ll gain confidence, tenacity, patience, resilience, and many more qualities.
The lessons learned and the person you become by doing a long sailing passage are priceless. How do you think you would change? Who would you become? How would your life change from then on?
5. Gaining Wisdom (rather than knowledge)
Watching sailing videos, reading about cruiser adventures, and even this article will only give you knowledge about sailing and the incredible fulfillment it can provide. The impact on you is vicarious – you’re living life through someone else. You’re dreaming about what it might be like but not actually feeling it for yourself.
The benefit of gaining wisdom about sailing long passages is that you no longer will call yourself a dreamer or someone that doesn’t go for it. You’ll be able to call yourself a sailor.
“Knowledge, you may get from books but wisdom is trapped within you, release it.” Ismat Ahmed Shaikh
6. Awe at the Night Sky
The first time you look up during a clear night sail, especially if the moon is absent, you’ll feel an immense rush of wonderment and awe. Some people report feeling small and insignificant but a part of something big. Others say they feel deep respect, humility, and a never-felt-before connection with all that is. Witnessing the night sky from the middle of an ocean is breathtaking, heart-expanding, and one of the many magical miracles sailors get to experience. No movie, planetarium, virtual reality headset, or land-based sky-gazing can compare to the open ocean panorama of the night sky.
How often do you get together with a group of people and spend most of your waking hours with them sharing, supporting, and getting to know them better? When on a long sailing passage your crew members become your family – oftentimes, it’s the family you wished you always had.
“The joy is in the getting there. The beginning years of starting your business, the camaraderie when you’re in the pit together, are the best years of your life. So rather than being so focused on when you get big and powerful, if you can just get the juice out of that…don’t miss it.” Barbara Corcoran.
Sailing a long passage is juicy. It’s going back to not being an expert, not knowing it all, and having to rely on yourself and your crew members to get something done.
At times, long passage sailing is uncomfortable, exhausting, boring, and unpredictable. In modern life we can escape these feelings but what happens when we can’t escape them? What happens when we must endure and even examine them? After a long passage sailors gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be resilient. Interestingly, we don’t want to willingly invite uncomfortable circumstances but when they’re a part of the journey we can embrace them and grow from them.
9. Enjoying Small Pleasures
Distractions are vastly diminished when sailing in the open ocean. And although the voyage ends up becoming routinely filled with various tasks, it’s difficult to find a level of stimulation we’re accustomed to. That’s, of course, if the weather is good and everything is going fine.
The benefit of the early boredom experienced during the first part of the passage, however, is that things we take for granted become more visible. The best Snickers bar I ever had was when I snuck into our cabin halfway across the Atlantic Ocean and savored every bite. Every meal we had for dinner was exquisite. Having a conversation with a crew member about nothing was blissful. Seeing a swallow land on our boat for a rest was captivating. Identifying planets was unrushed and savored. The things we normally don’t really pay much attention to become center stage and a level of appreciation grows inside for the smaller pleasures. Ironically, the boredom that leads to appreciating smaller things goes on to stay with you after the passage. It expands your general gratitude for life and I feel it makes you a happier person 😉
10. You get Somewhere Far Away
What about the more practical side of things? Completing a long sailing passage will enable you to break the 100-mile norm and actually go somewhere foreign – perhaps a new country or even a new continent. What comes with this exploration further afield? Oh-my-gosh, you’ll find new cultures, foods, history, people, sights, and experiences. Traveling to other lands is such a rewarding way to enjoy the world and everything she has to offer.
After sailing day after day in one of the world’s most hostile environments, your confidence in knowing how to sail will increase dramatically. More importantly, your ability to feel comfortable with yourself on a passage will provide you with an inner glow. Once you have a long passage under your belt the sky, or shall I say ‘sea’, is your limit. And when I write ‘sea’ I mean all of them!
Completing a long sailing passage takes quite a bit of preparation and the efforts of many people. The crew must prepare by making the boat safe and ready, provision, make meals, discuss passage plan options, report weather forecasts, communicate roles and tasks, determine watch schedules, work together to change sails, have ‘all hands-on deck,’ for squalls or potential issues, cook, clean, share conversation and support each other. The sense of teamwork you gain from a long passage is special – there’s no need for competition and no one can do something better or worse than another. It’s an equal playing field where everyone works together to keep each other safe, healthy, and in good spirits.
Becoming a sailor causes one to be humble. You learn how little control you have over anything yet at the same time are confounded at the way the Universe, sailing community, and your own resources enable you to adapt. Sailors go with the flow because they are humble. They accept the situation, work with it, and carry on. A long sailing passage expedites the lessons on humility. Once out in the open ocean, you realize how small you are and how big the ocean is – and you realize just how fortunate you are to be there.
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