My sailing trip is now basically over. I said I wanted to test the boat in the harshest conditions both she and I could handle coastal, in winter, to see what we were capable of. I lived on the edges of the sea and my nervous system for seven months exploring from Maine to Maryland. I never had a plan. The boat was completely unfinished and barely hospitable. It was very cold. I was practicing seafaring. She was half seaworthy half dilapidated.
Things were starting to get to me under the current conditions, but it always all seemed to work out in the end. The boat and I came right up on our edge—of heavy weather, and I of my own mind.
Suddenly I more or less now know what my days will look like. I have a plan. My work is steady, the boat patiently waits for her refit which I can now slowly begin. The amenities are plentiful. The people are, fine. And yet I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost something.
For a while everything was really magical. All my dreams were coming true. There were ups and downs but overall, I felt this cosmic thread connecting my every move towards something larger and greater than myself. I was on the right path with my single handing, my career, my personal life and relationships. And everything around me physically reflected that.
This mindset took a long time to achieve and has not been without its regressions. In an attempt to break from self destructive tendencies and crippling self doubt I put notes all over the hull of my new boat with positive affirmations and coping mechanisms, to gain control of my mind and life.
It worked. But did it go too far?
One of the notes read: “Believe in yourself so much they think you are delusional.”
When you continuously have fated, innately romantic and profoundly passionate experiences in regard to every single facet of your life you start to wonder if perhaps the depth of your being and feeling is not magic at all, but a fault in your own wiring that makes you unfit for modern society and relationships.
I’ve often asked the question: do two people fall in love, or does love already exist and two people fall into it? This is a matter of idealism vs. materialism. In philosophy, idealism states that ideas create your material reality. In materialism it’s the material reality that creates ideas.
I am at odds with the material world.
This was apparent when I sailed my unfinished boat and paddled a poorly repaired kayak alone through New York City. Staring at the buildings with a pink sunset and the ocean in front of me it truly baffled me how I was literally the only one out there out of all those millions.
Soul mates. Death pacts. Planets and stars aligned. Astrology. Tarot. Sea witchery. I believed that all my boats had lead me here to this current boat and was symbolic of the spirit of sailing and adventure. That I’d done well in my travels. My dead friends were living on everywhere around me; In my books they gave me, the money they left me, the sea, and through smell. My living friends were serving as inspiration. I felt that despite my mistakes and wrong turns or perceived losses at the times—they all needed to happen so I could be as solid and focused on the dream and goal as I now am. Or, was…
“Do other people just not get to have this?” I asked my old friend Capt. Dan who was the first person to teach me about engineless sailing. “Not only do they not experience it, but they don’t even know it exists.”
I was this close to signing up for a subscription based predictive astrology service. Everything was meant to be and I was moving along with my life’s plans. And then I made a terrible mistake. I started researching. Scientifically, magic doesn’t exist. Only the mind’s ability to believe and perceive it. Science calls this magical thinking vs. the belief in magic. Magical thinking is more of an evolutionary adaptation of the human brain, perhaps in order to survive trying times… Magical thinking is proven to have cognitive and creative benefits. The actual belief in magic, however, has real world implication and historically lead people to cult like and political terrorist behavior, as well as isolation and individualism.
It seems I had fallen into a bit of a rabbit hole.
In one study they used questions such as “to what extent does the ocean have consciousness,” as a quantitative element of how to measure magical belief. It’s no wonder I got swept away living so close to the sea. It’s the only way I know how to survive. If you take away my belief or faith in a person, or a boat, or myself —it stops existing. So who is to say magic doesn’t exist, so much as I’m the one in control of its existence?
I’ve always said that boats are greater than the sum of their parts. How something so simple can be capable of driving something so complex— an adventure through the natural, social, and inner world. Maybe that’s why I do it, because the sea is closest thing to magic I could find.
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Welcome all of us to the new age, new year! Wow, 2022 really has felt like a fucking fully loaded winch handle to the face if you know what I mean! And we’re off!
I’m not kidding. I’ve been crying for literally two weeks straight. I cried so much it felt and looked like I’d been punched in the face. I googled it and sure enough my tears had given me two black eyes.
My grandfather died. I witnessed lifelong bonds fracture. A profound personal and professional connection I’d built over a year with an important figure vanished in one night. All within the last month. Nothing makes sense. I am psychologically changed.
But that’s another story.
Do people still need those? Stories? Now more than ever, perhaps. Two years into a pandemic. I think sailors have always been relatable. The sea has always been compared to difficult times in life. Difficult emotions. The ship a metaphor for getting through them.
But what about getting through difficult times and difficult emotions, at and on the fringes of the sea?
I’ve always had this tendency toward the extreme. My parents kept control of me enough when I was a kid that I never ended up on the streets, only the road. The blue road. Never home-less. But home-free. And, eventually, finding home on the sea. But I didn’t chose sailing. I had an opportunity to be out at sea once and from then on nothing else would suffice.
For years I tried to build a home on the sea aboard a broken boat—and finally learned my lessons. I can’t say the same for love—I still try and build a home in broken hearts.
For many people, not only sailors, the sea is home. The problem is we can’t live there. So we settle for boats. Surfboards. Seaside cities. Summers at the beach.
I’ve been studying single-handers for a while now. The ocean sailing kind. Their boats, books, and films. Somewhere along the way I broke this third wall. My heros became something else entirely. Something real. Something tangible. And it wasn’t always pretty.
Something else happened. I became someone else’s hero. More than once, and, I disappointed them. So what should I have expected from mine?
I need to make sure I’m not trying to go further out to sea for the wrong reasons. I have to make sure that I’m not trying to go further out to sea in order to love myself, but that I love myself enough to go further out to sea. That I love myself to keep going. To not give up. To remember that it’s up to me and my boat. No one is coming. You have to go after your dreams yourself. I don’t know why. It seems against human nature.
The sea is the only place that calls of romance without the need for another person. It is something I have gotten to know intimately. I try to remember, even on anchor, that I sleep with the ancient wisdom of the sea beneath me, and that means I’m never really alone. I can’t forget that.
I’m getting to know the sea better. The wind. Myself. I recently felt my sense of self become somewhat fragmented. My emotional self, and my conscious self, separated. It was the result of what I can only imagine has been the constant, hyper vigilance needed for life on the fringes of and at sea.
It didn’t take long before I was back on land and that changed, as I became entrenched in and witness to relational conflict. I didn’t lose my hyper vigilance, I just lost my sense of peace that came with it.
In many ways I want to be alone at sea. Well, I want to be able to be alone at sea. I have to be. It’s the only way I feel I can be a competent sailor. Because doing it alone is better than not doing it at all.
I chose a life at sea to avoid heartache and attachment someone said to me—but I like to think I choose life at sea in spite of it. Because it seems that boats, and boys, break my heart.
But never the sea.
The sea just tries to stop it.
If you’re new here or checking in wondering where I’ve been. You can catch up here!
Keep an eye out for some of my work forthcoming in Spinsheet Magazine, SAIL magazine, and towndock.net . The story is always free here and on @instagram!
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Standby for the forthcoming LONELY BLUE HIGHWAY : A Docu-SEA-ries, AND MORE!
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