After a collective two months aboard a sailboat in French Polynesia, I have come to realize two things: I have a lot to learn, and boat lessons are basically life lessons.
And man, boat life is not as easy as it looks. I have made incredible mistakes, like that time I mis-tied the dinghy in the remote Tuamotus and the vessel floated off nearly to sea. This being one of many errors I have committed on that floating white ship. But for every moment of embarrassment and vulnerability, I have had one thousand lessons -- many of which I probably still do not fully comprehend. The following is a list of what I’ve managed to grasp so far (other than that I owe my friends Scott and Melissa, captains of Kaimana, an enormous thank you for your gracious hospitality, remarkable friendship, and immense patience). Sail on, friends.
Order of Operations.
Life gets complicated. Shit happens, and oftentimes when it rains it proverbially pours. On a sailboat, things are constantly breaking and going wrong - usually at the same time. At 2am, the sail tore at the same time the navigation went out and when I got up to figure it out, I dropped my camera straight onto the hard fiberglass. On a boat, as in life, it’s up to you to figure out the order of operations. What’s most important to fix? What deserves your attention first, the most? You are in charge; you are the captain of your ship, your life. Make your plan of action, and execute on it.
Water is a precious resource.
All things come from water, from the earth. Including tequila, for example. Tequila, like water, is a precious and limited resource which should be conserved. Kaimana is surrounded by crystal turquoise water at anchor and rolling navy and white fields of waves at sea and yet treats water as if its always on it’s last sparkling drop. Clean drinking water is a privilege, a human right and essential for global life. Use only what you need; don’t waste a precious resource, and enjoy every drop. Manuya.
Make it Count.
“Well, we don’t have a plan quite yet.”
“Depends on the wind.”
“We’re playing it by ear.”
Guess what? There are no dentist appointments on a sailboat. You are not late for anything. Stop thinking about tomorrow or the weekend and focus on today, right now. Release a bit of control and be present. We move according to the weather and the waves, so we could leave this incredible lagoon tomorrow and we may never be back. So jump in now, take your photos, and commit the stunning view to memory. Do what you want to do now, without procrastinating another moment — by chance or by choice, you may not have it.
How are you contributing?
So you’ve been invited aboard Kaimana. It’s a stunning 42’ floating piece of fiberglass with everything you need to live a comfortable life. Beyond the accommodations, you’re sharing these close quarters with a couple of humans who just own boat life: they keep the vessel safely afloat and operating; they catch food with grace and honor; they diligently treat dangerous wounds and did I mention they manage to have fun every single day? Aboard Kaimana, you are forced to find self-awareness to gauge whether you’re annoying anyone on board (is inescapable ukulele playing annoying?) and how can you make Kaimana a better place? Sure, you’re going to mess up, but everyone has something valuable to contribute; what’s your gift?
It’s about the connection, man.
It’s ridiculously beautiful here, and I promise you will never, ever forget the drop dead gorgeous views from this boat. But as you come here to surf, to enjoy, to drink the water and eat the fish, what will you give back? The Tahitians are an incredible people, and each Tahitian is incredible. We humans want to be seen, to be appreciated, and to leave a positive mark on the world. Get to know the people; talk to them; share a Hinano and really listen. Smile back with your mouth and your eyes. This exchange of goodwill is a priceless gift to your compatriot, and to yourself.
Give everything away.
Finally, let go of everything you know and expect. Surrender yourself to the experience, and you may feel what it is to truly feel alive. Whatever you have, give it away. Your material goods should be distributed thoughtfully to the appropriate person who needs that thing you happen to have. They will appreciate it to a greater degree because it was bestowed upon them by you, and you will gain more by letting go than by holding on. Like the things you own, your spirit must also be set free. Release love freely with every exhale, and keep your heart permanently split open. Shine your face to the sun and radiate joy with abandon. You are alive, and on the adventure of your life. Let go. Be free.