A boat knows she is alive at all times.... Ever responsive to the tides and the sky….
“All that canvas up in the air! I will heave everything taught as we first come about beyond the corner of the breakwater. The sheet winches creak, the water murmurs on the bottom as Joshua gathers way and begins to come alive... People who do not know that a sailboat is a living creature will never understand anything about boats and the sea.” (Bernard Moitessier)
A sailor will always be aware of his vessel. A sailor will be present to the conditions he and his vessel are in at all times. A sailor will know where she is going, having checked her course before leaving. She will have checked weather reports. She will have gone over her boat with a keen eye before leaving. The sailor will know his vessel's sound and movement, and be aware of any change which signals action the moment it is needed.
We are a living vessel too, animated by the winds and tides of life, yet one that frequently sets sail with no checks, no passage plan, no course-to-steer, no awareness of the conditions present - ‘present’ meaning ‘right now’. Leap on board, slip lines, head off...and hope. Not so the sailor. Not so the master mariner, ever connected to, and respectful of, the ocean and his best friend, his boat.
Ropes - the lines - are checked frequently for chafe, the sailor’s enemy, causing breakages at the worst moments.
Knots consciously learned, long practiced, and placed in the muscle-memory to be right there, even in a gale at 40 degrees heel - being at sea is no place for trying to remember how they go and opting for an old habitual granny knot, which will tighten down never to be released, and creating rope only fit to be cut and thrown.
No, the sailor exhibits perfect inhibition, direction, and conscious control of his vessel, his situation, his intention, and his experience. He is present, aware, and with an eye on his vessel, the sea, sky, sails, and compass - at all times.
And then nature kicks in with her ornary ways; wind shifts, sea state changes, tidal anomalies....and acute presence to what is is required from the sailor reveals itself again. There is no point in living the ‘But it said...’, or ‘I’ll just keep doing what worked an hour ago’; nature is powerful. As the saying goes, ‘You can’t alter the wind, but you can alter your sails’. Constant presence. Constant alertness. Constant immediacy.
No wonder people love to go to sea and say it makes them feel so alive; they are alive! More alive than most of us ever experience on land. Unless we are at the helm of our own land-ship; our body, and thus experiencing the aliveness of our whole self in each moment.
Alexander Technique is the learning to be alive at the helm of your own earth-ship.