An Ode to Sailing


The Swan under full sail….

This has, at long last, nothing to do with videojournalism, television news or the video revolution.

This is August and this is about boats.

They say that the two happiest days in a man’s life are when he buys a boat, and when he sells it.

They also say owning a boat is akin to standing in a cold shower tearing up $100 bills.

I owned my first boat when I was 9 years old. It was a Sunfish – easy to sail great fun. It was the boat I learned how to sail on. I have owned a sailboat ever since, at least until my divorce in 2005, when my Swan 36 was dissolved as part of the ‘community property’. I swore than that it was the last sailboat I would ever own.

Yesterday we chartered a Sparkman and Stephens 48. It was an old boat, but built in that classic style – low cabin, big cockpit, broad foredeck.

There is something magical about sea, sail and wind. No engine. No noise. And a kind of harmony between you and the boat and the elements. The boat glides out onto the water, the wind fills the sails and the boat heels into the wind and water and takes off. People who ride horses (and I do not) tell me that there is a kind of connection between them and the animal. They don’t ‘ride’ the horse, they ‘pilot’ it.

It’s the same with the boat. You feel a connection between you and the boat and the wind and the sea. It’s all part of one thing, all moving in the same direction.

This is one expensive hobby.

A screw at a hardware store will cost you 39 cents. A ‘marine’ screw will cost you $39. So when I sold this Swan, I swore I would never do this again. And even the Swan was a new boat. Before that I had owned a Cheoy Lee Offshore 41 – a wood boat that was 30 years old. You cannot imagine (impossible!) the upkeep on a boat like that. It is like taking an fine piece of antique furniture, tossing it in the river, leaving it outside all winter and summer and expecting it to look varnished, shiny and bright. Insane!

But sailing is like heroin. You make all kinds of rationalizations.

But this morning I find myself on

(even if you have never sailed, take a look. they have powerboats there also.. but who cares?)

Those Hinckley B-40s look awfully nice.

Here’s one I love. Redhead. And she’s only 32 years old. Nothing!


7 responses to “An Ode to Sailing

  1. it is like heroin.

    get to a twelve step meeting immediately.

    if that doesn’t work i have a friend here that sells beneteau.

  2. Let’s infuse some business (friendly) into your sailing day.

    Some of us might not be able to own a 48 foot sailboat (I know I’m not) but it doesn’t mean that we don’t get to ride on one, and what better way to be on one then getting paid to be there. When I first started in this business as a still photographer some 37 years ago I had my doubt if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Those early days I was a freelance still photographer doing work for AP, UPI and ANSA, most of my work was at the UN or in Washington doing the usual hand shakes, meetings and other very boring things. Then one day I got a call to cover the Denmark-Stamford Friendship race on the Long Island sound. I spent several days on a 60’sailboat and never again had doubt about my future. For the next five years I covered every sail race that took place on the Long Island Sound from Westchester to Martha Vineyard and Nantucket.

    These are the hidden benefits for those who do well in our profession. Last year after a day shooting in a Hilton resort in Curacao the producer and I were sitting on the beach enjoying a sunset when we started figuring out how much money we would have to make every year if we had to pay for everyplace we’ve been and everything we’ve done every years for the last 20 years, we figured that we would need to make close to a mid six figures salary. And we were actually getting paid well to be there. That’s an incentive to move up in quality

  3. Amen. Grew up on the water, been sailing since I was 11.

    Not being able to afford heroin or sailboats, I teach a few weekends a year at Manhattan Yacht Club and get my fix for free. 🙂

  4. I have an old Dufour 34′ (called 4800 for some stupid reason) and I completely understand the expense and the insanity of sailing. It is just wonderful when you are out there but what it does to checkbook! You are right when you say that the silence of the wind and waves is a kind of spiritual uplift. It really is hard to describe.

  5. annie and I have a cheoy lee 44 – perry and when we get all of the hurricane damage and progressive insurance damage reduced to a safety level of “getting back out there” you are invited to come out with us. I too began sailing at a young age and 55 years later the joy is still the same, I can’t say that about what I do to afford this joy, architecture, but it does have its moments also. Several years ago I got to enjoy 3 days of gale force sailing in 25 foot seas – I just can’t wait to do it again: stars in the sky and stars in the water, cat claws up the back sides of the wave, wave tops blowing off into the night glowing as they spray away. some people take pictures others take photographs, and some reveal spirit.

  6. Victor Sovereign

    So true… glad to know I’m not the only one…

  7. I too long for those days of bygone. My Vega27 and the Great Lakes. What a wild and wonderful place to sail, day and night. If you can handle the Great Lakes, i have to imagine the rest of the world might be your pearl. Sadly that is all in the past. I am now a paraplegic. I decided to buy and fly a “powered Parachute” at 71. At 72 my life came crashing down, it actually did. I tried suicide after that. For whatever reason i am still alive at 82. I have since renewed old friendships, Firefighters that i lived and worked with over 25 years. They have kept me going 30+ years later. Al Mellen

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