Wholed It Together – W.I.T
Blog entry 10 of many
Entry: Sailing

This weekend I had my very first experience sailing. There were 8 of us, including the skipper who was a gregarious and knowledgeable guy. The 7-person crew was filled with complete neophytes, myself included. We jumped on board a J-105 racing sailboat with a colorful jib and boom that had a mainsheet long enough to tie us all up 3 times over.

Two days ago, I’d have read that paragraph and immediately tuned out. ‘Well, obviously, they are not talking to me. What the heck is a jib or a boom anyway!’ I’d have thought to myself. But fortunately, I had the experience to learn that a jib is a triangular sail used to help tack (recourse) a boat. A boom is a pole at the bottom edge of a sail that helps control the angle of the sail in the wind. 

 Now that we’re speaking the same language we can begin to sail together. And, wow, sailing is fun! Out on the San Francisco Bay on a warm Saturday with low winds and calm waters; couldn’t ask for better conditions. It was a great experience – both educational and relaxing.

 What I came to think about was how sailing was like using this body of ours. How we have various levers and mechanisms that have a function. A winch on the boat had a rusted part, and the rope wasn’t able to stay in place, which caused me to have to manually hold onto it until the skipper came over and pulled the rope across the boat to a different winch that held it in place. Now we had a crisscrossing of rope all along the deck to keep the sail open. This felt a lot like compensation in the body. For example, the ankles lock up to prevent full hip extension, if the glutes are inhibited, to create hip stability and prevent injury. There is a crisscrossing of muscular reactions aimed at protecting the body and allowing motion.

Our bodies are meant to move and just as the sails in the boat luff (or flutter) when they are not in line with the wind, so too our bodies have hiccups when we are maligned. We are meant to move in a state of ease with the wind at our backs. Anything outside of that is tantamount to a rusty winch. 

It’s so important to speak the language of the body so that we can use the vessel the way it is supposed to be used. Sailing requires a language, skill, and curiosity; so, does the body. The main difference is we don’t have to sail, but we do have to inhabit this body. For this reason, I’ve found it so important to learn the language of the body, practice the skills required to crew it, and maintain the curiosity necessary to take on the inevitable rough waters.

Our bodies are the greatest tools we’ve got and they require a lot of maintenance. Sailing reminded me that there is often a lot of preparation and work involved in getting us to a point of cruising on the waves. Using our bodies in the form of exercise and stretching helps to prep us for high winds. Resting, hydrating, and proper nutrition helps keep our machinery in full function. Bodywork helps to restore us systemically. 

I loved being out on the water and meeting all those super cool people. There’s nothing quite like floating in an open bay on a gorgeous boat. I’ll never forget this experience and remember what it requires for smooth sailing.