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Captain Laurel (and Crew Kent) received first spray ever on the Peep Hen, approximately 09:30 in a riptide with winds at 15-17 knots. (Note: the dodger caught about half the spray.) Eventually, in the lull between upchucks, Crew Kent put in a first reefing (partial) and – some thirty minutes later – a second reefing (nearly complete). Winds from the (north?)west whipped the waves to about five or six feet at max. We spent quite a while hove to while Crew decorated the port side of the boat.
We had multiple adventures during my mere twenty-four hour stint. I realize I severely lack situation awareness, which – at this point in my sailing career (!) is hardly surprising. My focus on the current command is clear and I think I am quick (or as quick as I can be, given whatever obstacles/incompetencies present themselves). Nonetheless, I was aware, on several occasions, of operating in a vacuum: following orders with no comprehension of their relevance, sometimes without cognizance of their urgency. Things can change so fast in a small boat on the water! Sailing involves, as discussed with Megan (Shore Support/Limosine Service) on the ride back after the Crew Change, a blend of adrenalin that is felicitous and adrenalin that is decidedly not.
Defining the boundary between the happy and unhappy kinds of adrenalin is tricky, but range of awareness and degree of perception are definitely involved. For instance, our initial magnificent sail from the boat ramp took us toward a certain (closed) drawbridge. When the Captain, having turned the boat toward shore as if circling around, said, “It’s time for the anchor,” I knew the anchor needed to be dropped now. As I fumbled with the chain/cleat, I experienced my mind as if it was insulated, enclosed within a bubble of non-knowledge. After the anchor caught (90 feet of line!), I took stock of the speed of outgoing tide and strength of the wind and realized uh oh! how dire the situation was (had been). We were only 100 yards upriver from several stone pylons supporting a bridge that was quite low enough to snap the mast like a toothpick. We were, in fact, already safe: the adrenalin rush which then surged through me was an almost pleasant aftereffect.
Felicitous adrenalin describes (for me!) those moments when skill and teamwork is necessary but risk is not imminent. Since the potential of risk is always present (particularly while sailing), what I mean is, one has to mess up before threat is actualized. Adrenalin from peak performance and coordinated action against challenging conditions is happy. (I choose “felicitous” as an homage to J.L. Austin, whose (1962) famous work on the performative capacity of language to actually “do things” (not just describe them) includes this distinction: “Performatives cannot be true or false, only felicitous or infelicitous” (a truncated overview of speech-act theory from Dr. Andrew Cline’s dissertation, chapter two).
The moments that I enjoy best, though, are not thrilling at the visceral level of survival (e.g., danger, injury) nor the emotional satisfaction of smoothly-enacted top teamwork. My favorite experiences are the calm moments after the rush, when the wind dies down, the water becomes flat, and the beauty of the landscape overwhelms the senses. There is no more alive perception than this experience of being with the universe. The Back River near the mouth of the Connecticut in the Long Island Sound is one of these gorgeous places. The stars last night, from our anchorage behind Griswold Point, were breathtaking. Sometimes such vistas impress insignificance – oh how tiny and infinitesimally unimportant this solitary lifetime; yet after adrenalin enlivens every bodily process, consciousness of timespace is more unified and expansive. Rather than one speck “in” (and therefore separated from) the universe; I am an integral component “of” its vast complexity.

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