Existential

BY DAN ROGERS - DIAMOND LAKE, WASHINGTON - USA

It’s like, existential, like.

For those of us who chewed our way through one or more of those undergraduate philosophy classes; there may still be a faint glimmer of a recollection of Jean Paul Sartre’s seminal work, “Existentialism.”  Me?  I can sort of still picture the book cover.  And, now I’m wondering if I ever really even opened that book.  Anyhow.

I was reminded today, that just getting a small sailboat away from the pier, getting the sails up, and simply just being there, is pretty damn close to an existential truth.  Part of that revelation, melds nicely with the basic question:  “why don’t we all ‘just go sailing’ more often?”  The stark answer is, of course, “because sailboats are complicated, confusing, and oftentimes a lot-of-work.”  Especially, if you don’t have one ready to go, and in the water, in a convenient place, and at a convenient time.  For just about all of us, that would be “not,” “not likely,” “ain’t such,” and “are you kidding?”




So, dragging a boat to someplace wet, launching, rigging, and timing the ephemera of wind can be just about a non-starter.  Has been for me, for some time now.  Once upon a time, I went sailing almost every day.  Sometimes two, or three times.  All the time.  So, today was sort of a peek into the howcomes of the universe.  Ol’ JPS might just have approved.

I was supposed to meet up with another boat.  But, that boat canx at the last minute.  I almost decided to bag it.  Sound familiar?  But, we were hooked up, and ready to go.  Someplace.

Seemed a shame, not to go find a wet spot.  Someplace.  Basically, if I didn’t go south, or west; there was either north or east to choose from.  So.  I headed east, toward the rising sun.  Thinking that I’d head north.  But, I was still dithering over that decision, when I reached the turn.  Somebody behind me had already started to enter the left turn lane and I didn’t think it prudent to pull over abruptly with my little red wagon train.  So.  We just continued east.  Toward the rising sun.  Pretty basic.  The first ramp we came to (and passed up) has a mast-eating cable strung over the top of the backing-in area.  Not a deal breaker, since we can rig in the water.  But, on we went.  The next ramp is a nice ramp, but there’s a train bridge over the water directly adjacent.  Another mast-eater.  Yeah.  We could launch and anchor to rig, after transiting under the railroad.  But, that turn off was a bit too sharp to make with my lack of commitment.  One we went.  Toward the rising sun.  The next ramp is OK.  Actually, there are two ramps, each with a long dock alongside.  But, truck and trailer parking is pretty limited.  We’ve launched there before.  Quite a few times, in fact.  But, for one reason or another, we continued on.  The ramp we were then headed for is often crowded, exposed to wakes, and not quite what we had in mind.  So, that’s where we went.

And.  There were no boats.  No people.  No wakes.  And.  A nice breeze sprang up, just as we backed in.  So.  For the next three hours, we beat off to weather.  Toward the rising sun.  Long boards, from side to side.  Poking into every cove, hidey hole, and marsh along the way.

A pretty steady 3-4 knots boat speed from a pretty steady 5-6 knots wind speed.  Dunno, for sure.  Speedo’s busted.  But, we really didn’t care.

 

Lady Bug can self-steer pretty well in these conditions.  We do have an autohelm.  But, it’s on a shelf in the shop, someplace.  Didn’t matter, so much.  The boat and the wind were figuring things out.  I went below and made a snack.  Came topside, and it was time to tack.  Just the basics.  You know.  Existential.

Sometimes, I put my foot up on the tiller.  To help out with the steering.  Mostly, Lady Bug didn’t want help.  She just wanted companionship.  Most of know this.  We do tend to forget.  But deep down, we know that the boat knows how to sail, already.  We’re just along for the ride.  And, to put the mast up.

So.  Here’s what I got to thinking.  Whatif?  Whatif, we sort of rearranged our priorities.  Just a bit.  Whatif, we tried to think of raising that mast, and running all those strings through all those blocks and fairleads, as part of sailing?

Not, as something we have to put up with, in order to go sailing.  What if all the “work” was just part of it?  What if we really didn’t care how long it takes to rig and un-rig?

To the boat, it’s just, like, existential.  Like.

And, we’re just along for the ride.

11 Comments

  1. Existentialism tends to be the philosophy of the “human orphan” without any guiding supernatural structure (generally, a god), such that the purpose of life is something we has individuals and as groups must define for ourselves. In this process, we must define what human nature is. Boats make a good framework for this when the boats involve design, construction, and use (particularly a social use, much talked about, etc.), an activity that is serious enough to be a lifestyle and involve so much of what (we feel) is human that we can say the boating life helps define human nature.

    • Plato said all things are copies of an ideal. Sartre said all things are defined by their own existence, hence “existentialism”. Any ideal is a generalization from many similar things. Look at a bunch of things all floating on the water with people in them and call them “boat”. 🙂

  2. Those of us who chewed our way through the works of Albert Camus in undergraduate French litterature class recollect more his philosophy of the absurd.

  3. I’ll never forget the day, in a sophomore year philosophy class, that we invented time. Henri Bergson, though, not Sartre. 48.5 years ago.

    Then, several years later, there was this, found in the pages of the CoEvolution Quarterly, follow-on publication of the Whole Earth Catalogs:

    Time flies like an arrow.
    Fruit flies like bananas.

    Namaste, y’all.

  4. Thank you …. it’s why I read Duckworks daily ……. Chuck had more practical things in mind when he and Sandra started this, but he’s well aware of what it’s becoming. Thank you to them too.

  5. Thank you, all.

    There is one comment, in particular, that continues to tickle me:

    “Then, several years later, there was this, found in the pages of the CoEvolution Quarterly, follow-on publication of the Whole Earth Catalogs:

    Time flies like an arrow.
    Fruit flies like bananas.”

    What a delightful way to touch on what “sailing” is. The same boat, the same water, a completely different experience. Every time you get her away from the pier.

    Also, I had the privilege of spending a night at Rancho Leinweber a couple years back. Mean Gene and I were towing “Norm” from Gene’s homeport on the west coast of Missouri to Port Isabel for that year’s Running of the Bulls. I chanced to find not one, but two, Whole Earth Catalogues on Chuck and Sandra’s bookshelf. Those (oatmeal paper, I believe) pages took me back to a time that I mostly tend to try to forget–as one of a cohort of American Boys sent off in a grand attempt to blow up a portion of the Whole Earth. But, that then vestigial movement gave us as a society an alternative way of thinking. A lot like those fruit flies, that tend to prefer bananas…over arrows.

    Dan,
    AlmostCanada, where the snow has begun to melt, and spring must be just behind the berm. Time to figure out where I left that coiled mainsheet

  6. Unless, you are a boat fly. They seem to like it just fine. Only negative, when you discover them, with your sandals– “relativity”

  7. Mostly, Lady Bug didn’t want help. She just wanted companionship. Most of know this. We do tend to forget. But deep down, we know that the boat knows how to sail, already. We’re just along for the ride. And, to put the mast up.

    So. Here’s what I got to thinking. Whatif? Whatif, we sort of rearranged our priorities. Just a bit. Whatif, we tried to think of raising that mast, and running all those strings through all those blocks and fairleads, as part of sailing?

    “Not, as something we have to put up with, in order to go sailing. What if all the “work” was just part of it? What if we really didn’t care how long it takes to rig and un-rig”?

    i cant comment on Existentialism; never did it at school or uni. However, those lines above? those I get completely. Its exactly how I feel every time I’m in Arwen. And yeah, for me that 35 minutes setting up, that is part of the sailing experience. Great article – thank you

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