The couple did not show for their sailing lesson, and neither did the wind. These are two potential- and fairly common disappointments for a sailing instructor. I had taken time to prepare for the lesson and drive to the dock, for seemingly no reason. In order to make something good of my trouble, I walked down the beach a bit, to at least enjoy being near the river, even if it was glass. My cell phone rang, and I saw that it was Morgan, an older gentleman whom I had met when he contacted me about the possibility of being a leader for my Sea Scout ship.
Morgan was a lifelong sailor who had not been out on a boat for over a year, since a scuba diving incident had left him disabled. He had made great headway, but was still recovering his balance and coordination, both of which are important faculties for sailors. I invited the retired naval officer to join me at the dock. We took out a Catalina 22, just to say we did, and in hopes that the fickle wind might rise and give us a ride.
Morgan and I chatted for almost two hours as MOONSHADOW drifted northward to Neabsco Creek on the incoming tide. He told me that he had grown up sailing in Connecticut, aboard “every size and type of boat there is from Woodpussy catboats to Maxi racers,” sailing through adulthood and on past retirement from the US Navy, only stopping after the diving accident had left him nearly paralyzed.
Given his love for sailing and his absence from it, Morgan was happy just to be on a boat, even if we never raised a sail. We traded stories as we sat in the boat on the river, airless, pushed upstream by the current and avoiding crab pot markers by sculling. Morgan told me about being aboard the boat of his father’s friend, a Frenchman with whom he sailed when young. The wooden vessel had no motor, and the wind died when they were far from shore, leaving the crew stranded. When someone asked the Frenchman, “What do we do now?” the old salt replied, “We wait for ze wind,” with emphasis on “wait” and “wind.” Morgan informed me that this phrase immediately became part of his family’s sailing culture; whenever the wind disappeared, someone would recount that excursion and quote the Frenchman.
MOONSHADOW has a small outboard, so on the day Morgan and I were out, we were not stranded. I simply fired up the motor and puttered back to the dock when we were ready to go ashore. However, after that day, I repeatedly thought of the Frenchman’s statement, “We wait for ze wind,” and recognized that it is not only a reminder of the necessity of patience, but also of the need to keep faith. A sailor who waits for “ze wind” is doing so because she must; it is futile to try to control the wind, and to be impatient is to ruin an otherwise good day on the water. The sailor also waits with the knowledge- the faith that the wind will return, not whenever it is convenient for us, but on its own timetable. And so it is with life; we cannot determine when the wind will come, or where it will take us, and impatience does nothing to make any positive difference. Therefore, our best choice is to enjoy companionship while we wait, in patience and faith, for a fresh breeze in a new direction, taking us to where we had not thought we would go.
The wind comes of its own accord; we cannot know when or how or for how long it will blow–only that we need to take advantage of the good wind days, to sail, to enjoy, to drink them in.