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  #1  
Old 04-10-2008
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Paying Attention

Sailing is a balancing act of sorts. Many of us want to have a relaxing enjoyable day on the water but at the same time sailing demands we pay attention. Our e-magazine this month featured two articles:

Looking Up

and


Shifting Gears in Light and Variable Wind

Now the second article is about the extra focus required when racing in light wind and the first is about paying attention to our mast when cruising. I'd be interested in your comments and stories about your experiences. There's that balance I guess we all strive for between being crazy compulsive about all that's going on when sailing and being able to enjoy the day. Last year I momentarily strayed right of a relatively unmarked channel where we had plenty of water for our 5' draft boat when my 13 year old navigator son pointed out that those 20,000 volt overhead cables may be a bit close for comfort as they hung down to a lower point out of the channel. See picture below....



At five or six knots, the nice thing is there was time to get back on course, but even the thought of hitting one of those power line was really disconcerting.

So, as the season gets into full swing, I'd invite your comments and thoughts about sailing attitude, paying attention and striking a balance with our overall ability to just enjoy the day.

Thanks!

Rob
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Old 04-10-2008
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Rob...we had a similar discussion last year when a sailboat DID hit some power lines in Norfolk Va. ... here's a link to that story and video. Pretty scary an a good reminder to always know WHERE you are and always look up as well as around!
Sailboat hits power line, catches fire | LOCAL NEWS | WVEC.com | News for Hampton Roads, Virginia
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Old 04-10-2008
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Hi Rob, interesting question. Balance is certainly the key. Having the ability to balance things more toward enjoyment and relaxation as opposed to constant focus and vigilance, IMHO, depends on a person's experience level (I'm talking about this in the context of day sailing or cruising, not racing). Yes, even an experienced person can make mistakes when they "should have been paying attention", but I can easily say singlehanding today is much more relaxing and enjoyable than it was the first few times I did it 10 years ago.

It's like driving a car. Right now we are "teaching" our 17-year old daughter how to drive a stick. She hates it (not being a naturally good driver notwithstanding) because she has to "think all the time about what to do". I keep stressing that it will become easier the more often she drives it, and at some point she will become comfortable driving the car. Same thing when new to sailing. In the beginning I had to, or at least felt I should be, concentrating and focussing on every little thing all the time. Now it's more like driving, where a lot of what goes on while underway has become second nature. At the same time, however, I know I can't become complacent in any situation out on the water, as too many things can go wrong. But I'm very comfortable out on the boat.

So it's a question of balance. In its most basic form, the ratio of worry and concern versus the ability to let the subconscious do what it knows to do, so the conscious mind can relax. With the correct dose of attitude or humility even, knowing that we can make a mistake with potentially dire consequences, we then find ways to still be constantly aware yet actually relax and enjoy the never ending string of moments that occur while on a glorious beam reach for a few wonderful hours...
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Old 04-10-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonfish View Post
It's like driving a car. Right now we are "teaching" our 17-year old daughter how to drive a stick. She hates it (not being a naturally good driver notwithstanding) because she has to "think all the time about what to do".
Yeah, if you're behind the wheel of 3000 lbs of automobile, that's kinda important. A manual tranny can distract a new driver from other issues, but it can also inculcate the essential lesson: You are in command of this vehicle; pay attention!

I now own my first automatic car, but early habits of listening to engine RPMs, monitoring the instruments, relentlessly checking the mirrors, head-checking before lane changes, and anticipating the stupidity of others were driven into me in manual-shift cars using a big hammer. And they stuck. To the detriment of my molars, they stuck: every time I hafta drive in Colorado, my teeth hurt for days after.

I'll never be a relaxed sailor, either. Mebbe cuz I swim badly, and there's all that water right nearby. But mostly because screwups can happen so fast -- if you aren't monitoring all systems at all times, the situation can turn unrecoverable in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

One habit I have cultivated is dividing my attention. It's like having a systems monitor running in a background Window(tm) of your computer. Split off some portion of the brain to keep up with essential systems; the rest is free to watch YouTube videos, or similar. Most of your brain is thinking, "Hey, what a gorgeous day, this is a great song!, I wonder what bird that is?"; 10% of your brain is thinking, "Hmmm, wind is starting to swing around, could be rocks off that point, does that idiot speedboat even see me?"

That habit probably amounts to a brain pathology, but it made me a pretty safe climbing partner and has me still counting decimally in the woodshop.
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Old 04-10-2008
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My wife tells me that when the boat's underway I'm in constant motion -- a real Nervous Nellie. She's probably right. "Balance" comes once the boat is well secured to something hard with more water under her keel than the range of the tide.
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Old 04-10-2008
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One thing to be aware of... in extremely hot weather power lines tend to sag more than normal, and may not have the same clearance as you are normally used to.
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Old 04-11-2008
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For me it's a case of command. When I'm surrounded by smart sailors on a boat (or ship) under the competent command of a master I trust, life is GREAT. I sleep like a baby and can relax beautifully. Recently as I find myself master of a vessel, it's an entirely different ballgame. I can't sleep on the hook near as well, and going to sleep for the first time on my first coastal cruise while an albeit highly trusted crewmember was at the helm was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. For me it's a case of FORCING myself to relax just a little bit, trust others, trust the boat, and trust my own preparation for the cruise.
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Old 04-15-2008
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Alert

Every professional watchstander at some time has been instructed to run over in his mind all of the things that can go wrong, and to think about solutions. Ad Hoc actions are risky. Action should be well thought out.
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