Spirits of the Sea.

Updated: Apr 24

Ole [ Oh-ley ] (used as a shout of approval, triumph, or encouragement).

Ole - 1969 Pearson Coaster

There comes a time when a person becomes so quite and peaceful that deeper things arise and occupy one's mind. Folklore speak about sirens, mermaids and spirits that have entertained sailors over the millennia as they venture into the ocean. This especially true of the solo sailor whose only companion is himself and the vast sea. Over the years I have met a fellow sailors who have shared with me their personal experiences where they have spent days alone and who have been kept company by such spirits. I too have had that pleasure. Now, for this visitation to occur, I believe that a few conditions needs to occur. First and foremost; solitude and a reflective disposition. Now when I say solitude, I think I mean to say a that focused centeredness that one experiences when one spends time with mother ocean; you and she. A let's just say; an intense being in the moment... fully.... and embracing the profound spiritualness that is the ocean. A sort of standing before the "What Is" and a listening to what It has to share. I believe that this experience can take place in the presence of others but the ability of the person to maintenance their awareness is important. And if you are lucky.....She may just have something to say.


The conditions for sailing that day was perfect, My friend and I had left the mainland and were heading to the channel islands on our two boats; separately, and have been traveling for a few hours. Ole was a thirty- foot full keeled sloop built by Pearson Yatchs in 1969. Traditional lines meant that moved through the water gracefully but required more attention to sail area when dancing in the heavier winds. I had bought her second hand and she was given that name by her original owner. In the beginning I had some reservations as to the name but after speaking with the local "sailing elders", I was advised that renaming an adopted child was a highly inappropriate act; and so Ole it was. The wind was coming out of the west at close to twenty- five knots and seas were rolling at about six to eight feet; ripe conditions for adventurous sailing. Mainsail reefed with a smaller jib hanked onto the fore-stay. After a few hours my boat and I had reached that sweet spot. The sailor's state of Nirvana. The perfect balance between ; sailor, ship and the sea. A place where boat, sea and the crew are not in resistance with one another but a dance where each flows with one another in harmony. No strain, no control or over-power, just simply balance. Sublime sailing -the sacred trinity. A dance that can be only achieved by a state of consciousness that requires the traveler to be very present in the moment and move and adjust with the craft; and himself, so that the equilibrium between the wind and the sails reach a complimentary relationship. One knows when you have reached this state when your vessel feels effortless in what would normally be a chaotic environment. Sublime peacefulness among the chaos. If you will, the Zen of sailing. Ole, the exspansive Pacific and I had entered that dance.


As we approached the island, the ocean bottom rose to meet the surface. With our new guest, a additional condition arose. The large open ocean swells took on a different shape, steeper and more vertical with a new life. Ole's previous effortlessness had transitioned in the direction of conflict. She was now catapulting off of the tops of the waves and was landing with an uncomfortable thud. A new awareness, communication and compensation; we had to reply to our new visitor. Further shortening of the sail....a minor trim to the main sheet and Ole resumed her harmonic dance once again. The three of us were again gracefully responding to one another. A returning to the sublime. In that moment, a grand wave rose before us and we gracefully leaped over it with an unusually exhilarating feel........Ole!. As we re-entered the water, my; friend who had been following behind me on his vessle, gave out a loud shout of encouragement. A wordless shout that communicated a strong spirit of "well done". I was lifted even higher.


As you often do at the end of an ocean passage, there includes a sheltered harbor and an evening swinging around a secure anchor. These moments often include a good drink, wonderful food and story telling; and I too took a moment to experience these things with my good friends. For me, the residue of the encounter with Ole and the ocean's personalities were still with me. It was with that remaining feeling that I relived the excitement of that unusually large wave and the wonderful shout of encouragement I received from my friends. In that moment, my friends looked at me and said ...... " we did not shout anything to you ........ we heard it but thought you were shouting at us"......... As I relive this story today, I think to myself, the appropriateness of the my boat's name and my previous reluctance to keep it. I think about how that unusual wave had become the crescendo to our passage and how it had been accented by the "shout of encouragement" from the ocean's apparitions.


Throughout history, the relationship between sailor and sea has been recounted over and over. Some of those chronicles have taken on a firsthand nature. Sirens, sea nymphs ... folklore, mythology or maybe even a strong imagination; who is to validate their accuracy? The spirit of that day lives with me even now. Approval, triumph, a shout of encouragement..... Ole, I have been transformed by my time spent in the ocean and I am humbled and grateful for our time spent together. Apparently solitude doesn't have to mean alone.


Gasho - thank you.



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