Sex and Sailing

Sex and sailing.  It all comes down to this really.  The heart of my myth is that simple.  Around half a lifetime of experience (all being good, maybe a bit less if I stop drinking like a pirate), four years of challenging myself, giving myself over to my intuition, trying new things, learning about new passions, reflecting lots, freeing myself of the old and embracing the new, and that’s the beautiful core of what I’m about.

To date I’ve been rather more up front in this blog about my love of sailing than my love of sex.  What can I say? I’ve been feeling my way, finding my courage and my own voice of conviction.  There may be some relevance in the fact that I have regrettably chalked up more hours rolling around in boats than in beds in recent times, but nevertheless my reticence to date has more to do with caution than a lack of tales to tell.  Caution isn’t something I’m generally known for, but in this case I’m glad to have entertained it.  The time that I have sat with this has greatly clarified my intention and my purpose in opening up this conversation, as well as bringing me to a place where I simply can’t keep it within me.

The last five months have been a time of personal challenge, of grief and introspection.  Although the cause of that time remains painful, it has nevertheless given me room to reflect and the impetus to make some important choices about my future, about what I stand for.  If I have learnt anything in this time, it is the importance of creating our own story, standing up for what we believe and taking action to bring what we love to life.  I love sex (and sailing) and it is time for me to claim my purpose, to express my passion and engage my voice, the voice that each of us has within us, to explore and address one of the most important aspects of human life.

Sex is a beautiful, wonderful and I fear often mismanaged area of human interaction and potential.  It is a meeting place, a place of love and intimacy, of fun, of incredible pleasure, of connection and of deep creative power.  Sex is also sadly a place of darkness, of power games, of violence, of judgement and shame.  Sex is a powerful indicator of the state of play between man and woman*.  At the micro level sex is one of the first things to be sacrificed within a relationship that is not flourishing.  At the macro level It shows us, through common attitudes and prejudices, social convention and quality of conversation whether or not, as men and women we are engaging with ourselves and each other with the full joy, power and creativity of which we are, each and every one of us, capable.

My choice now is to direct my energy, my skills, my passion and commitment to making the world a sexier place.  A sexier place with boats.

* A major aspect of my interest in sex is in the broader play between masculine and feminine in individuals, in relationships, in business, in government, in communities.  My own experience and insights are those of a heterosexual woman, and much of my language and focus will reflect that.  I believe this conversation is equally valid for gay as for straight people, and welcome input from those with other experiences and perspectives than my own.

The Spirit of Adventure and its Treasures

I write this at the close of my most recent voyage of discovery, crewing Soteria, a classic, wooden two-master, from Fowey in Cornwall to La Gomera in the Canaries, via the Bay of Biscay in storm season, with stops in mainland Spain, Portugal and Madeira.

The trip contained everything my adventurous pirate heart could wish for, except for copious quantities of rum – I guess that’s what you get for signing up to crew a dry boat. I knew there was a flaw in the plan. There’s always a flaw in the plan. Why do I keep trying to make a plan? Never have I felt more connected to my alter ego Captain Jack Sparrow in his mournful observation “Why is the rum always gone?” In this case, it’s particularly always gone when it never even existed in the first place. But, stepping away from the non-existent rum bottle, back to adventure.

It started with a storm in the Bay of Biscay. Any sailor knows about Biscay and what it can offer and I became particularly aware of this on discovering that you have to have special insurance to sail after September. A small detail that became increasingly more significant as our departure date slipped well into October. Biscay didn’t disappoint, with winds gusting at force 10, towering black waves, a helm with a mind of its own, a galley (muggins here was one of the two main cooks for 12 starving sailors) which seemed intent on bucking me off my feet or pitching me directly into the oven. The saloon had definite overtones of Hades in the wet season in it’s chaos as night watches changed over; wet weather gear hanging everywhere, damp sailors sleeping anywhere they could due to water-logged bunks, water running in rivulets through various cracks and crannies. You’re getting the generally soggy theme of it?

In fact, I loved sailing the storm, with some serious reservations about the wisdom of my two attempts to sever my connection with the boat and enter the watery and fairly terminal embrace of the Atlantic. My first effort left me hanging doggedly from a rope along the boom as my feet, which had been firmly planted on deck, suddenly dangled over nothing but churning, terrifying water as the boat heeled over. Shortly afterwards I found myself clinging onto something, quite possibly the beard of one of my crewmates, to resist the efforts of a wave that had broken over our bows to re-unite itself, and me with it, with the awfully big, drowny body of water it calls home. These events left me with very wobbly knees, a fine appreciation of my pirate-like, tenacious grip on life and a mental note to self to not be such a complete numpty in the future, and clip on.

Further adventures followed as they do at sea, interesting encounters in foreign ports, new foods, including some particularly grim combinations of cold cans when we ran out of gas and finally being becalmed and swimming above thousands of feet of water in the Atlantic. The swim was utterly magical, until someone idly wondered just how many miles of water there were under my careless toes, at which point, being back on deck suddenly seemed like the attractive option.

Not all of the adventurous possibilities of sailing come from physical action. One of sailing’s greatest gifts comes from its ability to bring you slap, bang up against yourself, and the opportunity to fully experience being cell-tinglingly alive in every moment. This aspect of sailing isn’t as good for toning as the physicality of hoisting, and pulling things, such as the aforementioned crewmates’ beards, but it is certainly food for my soul.

There is a quality to life at sea that makes it so easy to succumb to full appreciation and receptivity. From stunning sunsets and sunrises to the stately, wheeling progression of a ridiculously impossible array of stars at night, reflected by the magic of a phosphorescent universe below. Other beings that we meet inspire awe and gratitude, from muscular, racing dolphins to ponderously huffing pilot whales, even once a little sea bird that seemed to be very happy keeping it’s new, very big mate company, swimming companionably alongside us as we ambled along at 0.0 knots.

Being on the sea does something to the soul. You can’t help but be present in the moment, fully appreciative and alive to the beauty of what’s around you, and the reality of what might need attention. Maybe that’s why sailors are on the whole such a great bunch of people. There is a mixed quality of presence, of practicality and of romanticism in many sailors. Add a sense of humour and even just a dash of sexiness in a man, mix it together in a boat and I’m salivating and ready for dinner. You can see why my own dashing pirate remains somewhat elusive – a lolling tongue and drooling mouth isn’t a good look anywhere, even out of sight of land and civilisation.

When you decide to, it’s easy to take yourself on an adventure. You find something a tiny part of you would love to do, which the more vociferous aspect of your nature absolutely refuses to do on account of the fact that it’s clearly insane, and you go and do it. I re-found my own sense of adventure in my 40s. I think I might have dropped it down the back of the sofa that I spent too much time on in my 30s, and it took a bit of a full on spring clean to unearth it, along with a load of copper coins and a dusty ear plug. With a little practice, here I am now, 46 and living a life on the seas of the world, and on a voyage of infinite possibility discovering the unchartered realms of my heart and that.

As a regular adventurer, I am aware that it is also possible to disconnect from what is most important in life by taking yourself on journeys. The constant seeking of the new can become a way of avoiding the intimacy, depth of experience and connection that is such an important part of a life well lived. Sailing as an activity can take me very aloof from the world, yet by it’s very nature, receiving what is moment by moment, it also brings me into close connection with what I most value about life.

In this last voyage, my greatest treasure was in moments on night watch when I felt, in my missing of family and friends, a deep connection with them, and a dizzy sense of gratitude that I have this rich and bright thing at the centre of my crazily swinging compass. I want more of the vivid experience of physical adventures, the immediacy of a life lived with spirit. I choose this as part of a greater whole that is about being awake to the possibility for greater intimacy, openness and love in the moment. After all, we just don’t know where, or with whom, our greatest adventures start and it would be a shame to miss something beautiful that presents in the moment, because I have my telescope too firmly fixed on a distant horizon.

Swimming in water 4 miles deep while becalmed

Jumping in to 4 miles of water while becalmed in the Atlantic

Storms can be fun, but they play havoc with your hair - as do violent crewmates

Biscay Hair – Storms can be fun, but they play havoc with your hair – as do violent crewmates

Sunset and sea inspired happiness

Sunset and sea-inspired happiness

The Big Leap

For the last couple of days my wiggle walking around the park has been accompanied by growing evidence of the leap into spring.  The first, tender early blossoms are now dusting the trees white, pale pink and fuchsia while below them daffs nod their merry heads.  The coots are massing on the lake and putting on impressive displays of macho intent (and that’s the girl coots) and today I noticed little spikes forming on the cherry trees lining the pathways; a pre-curser to the wonderfulness of the thick, massed, dreamy blossom to come.

As our little pocket of the world readies itself for this big, annual leap into life I’m sitting with the niggling tension of not knowing whether or not I should be making my own leap into my new mobile life.

My intuition is screaming at me to get away, to get on sailing boats in beautiful, tropical waters and enjoy the freedom of the sea and of exploration.  My intuition is also informing me, gently and insistently, that my next learning exploration is through tantra, and with the tantric master Nityama here in London, very happy to share his learning with me (I could get all sorts of double entendres in there, but I feel fairly confident you’ve done that for yourself by now) it seems smart to stay and make the most of that.  My logical mind is putting its own concerns into the mix reminding me that I am not sitting on a bottomless pit of money and if I want to be back for my friends’ wedding at the end of March, it’s just daft to do anything right now.

When I got back from my walk, with this post bubbling up I realised that it is Leap Day.  Luckily I’m not getting any impulses to propose to random men to add to my confusion, but I think it does put some context to my sudden ants-in-the-pants-got-to-get-moving urge.

I am in the process of making up what I’d love, making up the myth I want my life to be.  In my myth I am a sailor, engaged in a wide-eyed adventure with the sea, I embody the essence of my femininity and am supported by the vibration of my sexuality, I am at the centre of a loving, jolly community and I am grounded in the home my heart creates wherever I am.

All this and more is the substance of what I am creating in my world.  My practical mind separates it all out and says I can have this or that, one or the other, travelling or tantra, celebrations or sailing, weddings or woaming (*shrugs apologetically*).  My mythical self sees the big picture and is using the symbolism of today to tell me that my next big leap is another leap of faith in the belief that I can have it all.  To take the first step of my journey and watch all that I’d love magically drop into place.

I’ll let you know how that goes.