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"Confessions of a Long-Distance sailor"
Copyright © 1991 — 2005, P. Lutus

An account of an around-the-world solo sail in a 31-foot boat, 1988-1991


A seasoned sailor
When I started sailing, I thought I only had to learn about my boat, so it would take me safely across the sea. But as I sailed, I realized I had to know the sea herself. My boat was a walnut shell in the hand of the sea, and I was even less.

I learned to love the sea — but no, that doesn't say it. Before I sailed I thought I was afraid of death. Then I learned something, somewhere among the islands — I had actually been afraid of injustice, of being cheated out of life, say, by someone who couldn't point his car very well.

On the sea I kept my boat in order and wore my safety harness — so if I was swept away, it was the sea, the sea did it. As a result, as the days went by and I faced the risks of sailing, I cared less about death. I only had to avoid outright stupidity — if the sea took me in spite of that, I was hers.

Then, one day as I watched the waves, I realized I had surrendered to the sea — in exchange for my knowing her, she could take me if she wished. I could have stayed on shore, but that would have been merely waiting for death. I had to sail.

Before that day, I believed I could outwit nature, plea-bargain my way out of mortality. But I knew there was something I wasn't getting — I could see it in the eyes of animals. When I looked into their eyes I realized they knew about death, but they didn't believe they could give it directions. I saw a resignation and a fondness for experience that I thought proved how stupid they were.

I no longer believe I can save life up — it has to be spent to have any value. And that in order to live, to have adventure, you have to be willing to die. The sea taught me this, and turned me inside out — among her swells and islands I became an animal, an inhabitant of nature. You can see it in my eyes.

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