(The following words of wisdom come from the pen of Josef Schable)
How I finally allowed someone else to sail with me!
Dear brothers and sisters in sailing,
On the spur of a moment, I had the urge to share with you how sailing mainly on my own produces thoughts and experiences.
Some of my older friends would agree with me, when I say how I over the years have changed. I am not going in to too much detail and blaming health issues and the aging process. I am quite happy in general with the evolution that brings new interests and challenges into the equation of my life. I also realize what impact modern technology and communications has on almost everything, as it brings along a multitude of fascinating new gadgets and ideas on how to spend our money and the little time we have left for our social and recreational activities.
The sad thing I experience with all the new invention’s is that we are made to believe that if we don’t follow the trend we will be left behind, miss the bus, and life will pass us by. How much is that trend not evidenced in our beloved sport the sailing and for that matter in all other sporting disciplines as well?
I am not against professionalism and the stacks of money involved that drives it. What I have a problem with, is, that it has brought an attitude of winning at all cost and to such an extent that cheating in all sorts of ways has even become a fashion and the norm nowadays. May it be as it is, sad to see that to some extent I notice that the trend of ‘winner takes it all, first is first and second is shit’, is sticking its head out even of our own home waters lately? I surmise that because of that there is very little comradery and interaction left among our sailors, and that is very much in contradiction to the legacy that the great sailing legend Paul Elvstrom left us with.
I agree with our SA Sailing Editor’s comment about that legend who passed away last December. The sailing world became a poorer place with the passing of Paul Elvstrom, the undisputed greatest sailor of the era. No one challenges that claim – it is not one he made, but one universally approved – which fitted him like a glove.
His determination to win was universally accepted by his fellow competitors, who, almost to a man, regarded him as a friend. This was reflected in his declared attitude: “You haven’t won a race, if in winning you have lost the respect of your competitors”
I also like to share with you my experience I have had over the last few month, when I went against my selfishness and allowed an enthusiastic newcomer to come along on one of my chasing the sun over the horizon evening sails.
“How can I go about in learning how to sail and eventually get my skippers ticket,” was his question, I heard there are sailing schools in Durban and Cape Town? Why do you want to go to that extent and expense I replied. I told him about my own making, maybe that was perhaps not the best way, and that is maybe the reason why I am not quite where I should be after all those years, of trail and errors – I know of some that agree with me on that one. Anyway I gave him a couple beginner books and a few simple hints, like steal like a rat, but only with your eyes and ears, but also close them at times and listen, use the quiet moments to get in tune, chase me away every so often so that you can experience on your own the motion of the ship and the ocean and use and apply common sense and logic which I saw he has in abundance.
That middle aged enthusiastic man I can call now my regular crew, after throwing him in head first in the deep end – done in my own mad way – has just amazed me in how much he has learned in just a dozen outings.
Realizing that he is a fellow that is desperately eager and serious to learn so that he eventually will get to what is needed to also follow his dreams one day and seek adventures only one can get once you venture out over the horizons I found myself smiling in my heart and in my soul as there are, after all, still real dream chasers around like myself.
I am not bragging now, but listen to the crazy story that got him to where he is today.
I mean it when I say that I threw him in the deep end of things. “Go and pick me up, it is me,” I said to him after I have thrown a fender overboard the other day on one of our outings. “Come on hurry up before you lose sight of me,” I said. I must admit the look on his face told me clearly; “You can’t be serious?” I didn’t give him a chance to tell me so, as I shouted to him again to hurry up. “Ok, ok,” I said and let him off the hook. “Shoo,” he said, “I really thought you were serious.” “Oh yes I am,” I replied, and took the helm, “Just steal what you can while I pick you up!”
It was now no more time to be wasted as the sun had by then already gone over the horizon, we were just about to lose that man overboard out of sight and a crash jibe was done under those light conditions as we returned to pick him up. “So my friend and now it is your turn, all yours go for it,” I said as I left the helm too him. Under full canvas he set off, maybe with the sail sheeted in a touch to hard as he picked up speed in those light conditions. My instructions to him were; “I do the look out, you just apply what you observed and use your common sense.”
And his man overboard retrieval was picture book perfect, my bird – some of you know what I mean – was sitting down right next to me. Leave me here I quite enjoy myself, get away and fetch me on your next attempt, off he went again and again for at least another half a dozen times and not once did he mess up.
It took some time before I realized what that man just has done and proved to me. “What can I say” I thought, “there is now a sailor in the making!”
I also came to realize, give a man a chance when you see a talent, don’t waste him on the weather rail and bore him to death. A go-getter will last there not for too long and before you look you will have lost a crew member and for him perhaps the one and only opportunity to find out that he has what it takes to one day fulfil his dream.
After we tidied up and put the bird to sleep, we had a meal and he a beer to calm his nerves at the club. I let him know that he is a natural born sailor, and of those there are not too many. Don’t waste your talent my friend. What more can I do but to encourage him that he must not leave it at that.
As I was putting my head on my pillow that night, a fulfilling sense of proudness saw me off to a peaceful sleep.
A lesson for me is that you cannot always achieve Happiness on your own!
Greetings from a happy Sailor