Sunday 6 October 2013

Awareness: Night And Day

One of life's more interesting aspects was brought to the fore this morning. Again. I have written about this on the first day, but it continues to amaze me.

Us city dwellers probably do not realise just how much we lose touch with nature. The surfers may think that they have it pat watching the weather and waves. The hunters may think that they know it all due to their affinity for the bush. And others may think they understand Nature due to their academic studies.

And all of us lose touch in some small way.

This morning dawned on another steely skies and a leaden sea. The swells are now in the region of three to four meters, with the wind having blown non stop for two days at around twenty five knots. Exhilarating sailing, no question there. Making good way too. Our daily run was over 150 nautical miles. Not too shabby for a heavy cruising catamaran.

But the awareness thing caught me unawares. No pun intended. Our lady crew member is a relative novice at sailing, but quite happy to keep watch on her own. She really enjoys the sailing experience, especially having her husband as our other crew member. A very happy family. With smiles and jokes all around.

I had the 06h00 to 10h00 shift this morning, but got up earlier to enjoy the sunrise. And found a girl almost frightened by what she was seeing. In the night, with an overcast sky, there is not much to see. You see some white foam reflecting the stern light and feel the motion as the boat rises on the swell. But you have no idea just how big the swells are.

That is, until the steely light of early dawn.

Then your awareness changes suddenly. And this girl woke up with a start to the realities of what she had just made through for the preceding three hours. Quite an interesting change I saw this morning. And it has to do with awareness and shaking off the fetters of civil society and being allowed your own thoughts and emotions. And understanding the limits of your own senses.

There is another aspect which is not so obvious and that has to do with fear and your comfort zone. Having first experienced the sea all alone on her watch, she never worried about her safety of the safety of the boat. Not one iota of doubt in her mind. Until the daylight came and she saw the sea.

Then her fears kicked in, but only for a few seconds. Her rational mind came to the fore and she could relive her watch, along with the knowledge that she was safe, in spite of what her fears led her to believe. Personal mastery is what Peter Senge calls it in his book The Fifth Discipline.

A catharsis, no less. All of us go through these emotions, irrespective of our level of experience. And having sat at home for a long time, I am also living these experiences anew, as time and city life has dulled my awareness yet again.

The woes of my navigation exercises continue with the cloudy skies and the rough seas. It is exceedingly difficult to take proper sun sights when the sun is visible for short periods only, sticking its face furtively out of the clouds. Couple that to seas where the horizon is mostly a few hundred meters away and you have a recipe for inaccurate readings

I persevered and managed to get two decent sights. Reducing these revealed the inaccuracies and my fix was just over twenty miles different from the ship's GPS. Twenty miles may seem a lot compared to what I achieved before. However, in the open ocean it is quite sufficient. It is better than just dead reckoning and the update circumvents the errors associated with dead reckoning over long time intervals.

From my calculations and plots it is clear that we had much more leeway than I had allowed for. A good lesson to take to heart, even if you have the privilege of a GPS. Practice makes perfect and I shall persevere even more. It keeps the mind gainfully occupied if nothing else. But that seems a vey negative way to look at it.

Navigation is also part of the awareness theme. You need to understand where the forces of Nature are taking you. This has to do with judgment as well as some mathematics. And the judgment comes from practise.

Not sitting and watching TV in a mindless fashion.


Authored by Johan Zietsman.

Last updated on 2013-09-28



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