This past summer, I finally cast off to live aboard my sailboat. I had been thinking about that moment of casting off for four years before slipping the docklines.
My vision was to live mainly aboard for several years. That may, or may not, still come to fruition, but at this point, I was happy to spend two months living aboard. The fine ship Dolphins is now back "on the hard" for the winter. I look forward to spending next summer living aboard again.
This past summer, I navigated Dolphins down Lake Champlain, through the 12-lock canal to the Hudson, down the river around Manhattan and out to Long Island Sound, across to Provincetown. And from there straight north to Maine for ten days of gunkholing before backtracking to Lake Champlain.
Journeys are discoveries. That's why we enjoy them. I discovered parts of Lake Champlain, I had never seen. I got to imagine being an Abenaki indian rowing a canoe along and seeing the massive Fort Ticonderoga declaring its dominance over north-south traffic along the Lake. I discovered islands and coves in Maine that can only be discovered by boat.
The challenge is to experience journeys as discoveries about ourselves. As such, this journey taught me skills which I had hoped and had expected to learn. Refining my docking techniques, engine maintenance and repair, and navigation skills. It also introduced me to some feelings that I knew I might encounter. I discovered the terror of being underway in fog. I am glad I ran into fog, so that I could learn to overcome my terror and deal with the circumstances.
There were a few discoveries on this journey that were unexpected. And those I treasure the most. Those discoveries were beyond the physical or geographical. They were insights into life in general. In order to make such discoveries, I have to put myself in a dual state of consciousness. One in which I am in the experience and the other in which I remove myself from the physical experience and observe myself objectively.
One if those discoveries was the relationship between time and distance. We have lost the true appreciation of that relationship. I can drive from Burlington, VT and to Manhattan in about six hours. I can board a plane and be hugging my siblings in Germany in just a couple hours more than that. Airmail and FedEx has made shipping distances irrelevant. Internet has closed gaps in finding information and made shopping all over the globe instantaneous.
We have come to expect that distance is a variable. Even flying to the moon is a shorter trip than driving from coast to coast.
But once we are forced to travel at the speed of yore, about seven miles per hour, you begin to realize just how large this globe is. It takes five to six days to get from Burlington to the Statue of Liberty. I saw the Tappan Zee Bridge and was excited that after days of motoring down the Hudson we were "finally" arriving in the city. I stood on the bow while my friend took a picture of me in front of the Tappan Zee. Well, it took another hour to get under that bridge. And since the Tappan Zee is about a dozen miles north of Manhattan, it took another couple of hours to reach Harlem. And the same time again to get to our slip near Liberty State Park. My moment of "finally" was close to an entire day's trip.
Is there any value in rediscovering this relationship between time and distance? Have our advances in technology, which allow us to diminish distance and distort time, been beneficial or to our detriment? I can't say categorically.
I look foward to living aboard my sailboat again next summer. This time I will be expecting time's inexorably self-determined pace and its jealous relationship to distance which can only be observed from such places as the deck of a ship.