Sailing changes your perspective in ways to which other forms of travel can only aspire. This was the thought bobbing in my head as I came up for air while snorkeling off Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands.
Our week of sailing was coming to an end. In fact, we had just one more night on our beautiful Sunsail 454 catamaran. I had been skippering (making all the decisions, hoisting and trimming the sails, directing my first mate/wife, plus manning the helm) and parenting two young, energetic boys for six days. (Not to mention capturing photos and videos to share with you all on these pages!)
I should have been exhausted!
But I wasn’t.
I felt energized.
For one thing, despite the close quarters and constant contact, I somehow loved those two crazy kids and their mom more at that point in the trip than when we started. We all had bonded through swimming, sailing, charting courses, and barbecuing off the back of our boat while the sun lit up the sky before dipping into the sparkling British Virgin Islands waters. It’s amazing how numb you can get to your closest relationships in the grind back home. (I mused that the dream many people have of hitting an all-inclusive somewhere and dumping their kids in the daycare is missing the point of family travel altogether.)
For another thing, I felt like a part of the natural world. I know that might sound a little cheesy. But there in the warm Caribbean water, I was thinking about tides and trade winds; sunrises, sunsets, tropical waves, coral growth rates, fish stocks, and the impact we as humans can have. We’re not perfect. We must have some impact. But how much is too much? And if we can have less impact, why wouldn’t we? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
And lastly, I thought about me. What the hell was I doing still living in New York!? Treading water, I could rattle off a list as long as my left arm for reasons why I should stay and as long as my right for why I should permanently relocate back to our home region. I mean, I was just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the island where I was born!
But getting to an answer on any of these isn’t the point.
The point is that sailing provides these opportunities away from digital distraction to just be. To be in your personal space, in the personal spaces of your boatmates, and be attached to the vast natural world that surrounds you. Whether at the helm with the wind in your face, or laying out on the hammock in the middle of the night staring up at the Milky Way, or just idly snorkeling after a long crossing as I was at the time — these are the moments that sailing offers.