Sailing habits

As you spend more and more time on a boat you develop habits. Things like being aware of where your head is in relation to the boom; using one hand for the boat, one for yourself; knowing where the wind is, where the shallow water is, where the rocks lie.

Things like taking the winch handle out of the loaded winch, or being aware it’s there. Like keeping your fingers clear of winches, blocks and cleats and not putting bits of yourself between boat and dock.

Habits like never pulling on a line if you don’t know what the other end is attached to. (The first time you lose the end of a halyard up the mast you start to develop this habit).

You learn how easy it is to lose things overboard and you develop habits to prevent it. You don’t dismantle complex bits on the cabin top, you do it in the cockpit with a rag in the cockpit drain, or you take the whole project below.

You become aware of the unstable nature of boats – they list, they move unexpectedly – you develop the habit of securing things in place. When I moved back onto land after three years of cruising I would marvel at how things remained stationary when they weren’t secured. I had to unlearn the habit of wedging things in place.

You learn to husband resources – waste not, want not. You don’t run the water tap continuously while you’re cleaning your teeth or doing the dishes; you switch off unnecessary lights – good habits even if you’ve never been on a boat.

And on a boat, as in life, you learn to sail in the wind you have, not the wind you wish you had – but on a boat you do it literally as well as metaphorically.

Good things, habits.