Monday, November 10, 2008

The Lasting Gift of Sailing

The Sandoval Family on a Sail- (Summer '08)

It should come as no surprise that as a parent of two small children- sleep is a commodity that is hard to come by at our house. So this morning I was having one of my bouts of insomnia and I decided to channel surf a bit. I ran across a movie titled 'Canvas' starring Joe Pantoliano and Marcia Gay Harden. In reading the TV review it look to be something I could use to fill my lapse in sleep. The movie is about a young boy who is struggling to fit in. His mother suffers from schizophrenia. His father (Pantoliano) is working hard to make ends meet and keep up with his mother's (Harden) medical care. A turn of events forces hospitalization upon the mother to treat her illness. The father (being a non-communicative type) struggles to deal with the situation that has fallen upon them. He misses the woman that he met, fell in love with and married. He comes up with a coping mechanism to help him deal with things. He decides to build a sailboat. The sailboat is significant because the father first met the mother while taking sailing lessons. Their first kiss was on a sailboat. He struggles while recollecting the past and he longs for a return to those days. He is overcome with the rich memories created while sailing and taking lessons.

Meanwhile, the son is dealing with his own loss of a parent. He is angry at the turn of events. He fears that he will become afflicted with the same mental illness. Long story short- the father and son connect while building the boat. They endure a series of additional challenges during the building of the boat, but eventually they finish it. The father teaches the son to sail- they create new memories of their own. They share this new memory maker with the mom. I won't tell the ending because you'll have to see it. But hopefully, you get the sense of the movie.

OK- so this has a bit of Hollywood spin to it. My point in sharing this movie and it's story line is that metaphorically, a sailboat has a magical power. Beyond the wood, fiberglass and sails- it represents a common passion that we share with those we love. Much like the family in the movie- often times family and friends share this with us. As human beings- there is a communal element to us as a species. For some it may be the summer cottage on a lake someplace that holds sentimental value. We value the role it played in helping us create memories. For sailors, it's our boats.

I was speaking to a client and his daughter recently at the Annapolis Boat show. Independent of each other, I asked them how their first year of ownership had been. They both lit up when I asked the question. She shared that the boat represented a great new common point for their family. She was impressed at the new level to which the relationship between her father and her nephew had evolved. The young sailor had found a connection with his grandfather. A connection that transcended any generational gap. "It's a beautiful thing" she shared. "He is so hooked on sailing and It's because of the boat. He has something that he can relate to with dad." For the grandfather- his response was "It gives me something to share and pass on to my grandson." I hear this quite a bit from many of our owners. It is truly an amazing thing.

After 9/11, there was a huge surge in people looking to reconnect with loved ones. It was a sign of the times due to the circumstances. It was people stopping and realizing the finality of our existence on the planet. Our realization of the fragile nature of human life. For those of us who have owned boats- we know it has always been there. The passion for these boats and what they represent to us. What they represent to our families. We just need to relish in the moments and continually remind ourselves of the value it brings to our lives.

I can fully relate to this. Given the nature of my business, I understand and respect your potential skepticism. My wife and I had our chance 'first date' (her version is a bit different) on my sailboat. We were able to spend four hours on the water during that afternoon. What a perfect first date. It allowed us to get to talk, share laughs and relate through our similiarities. Our daughters, nieces and nephews have all been exposed to the sport at very early ages. Our daughter Sofia- has become quite the lover of sailboats in her two short years of life. She first went sailing at the tender age of six months. We took photos to commemorate the event. She has one in her room and always points to it- "Sailboat daddy?" she says. It truly becomes a part of you. A part of your blood that many who do not sail can't begin to understand. A ritual of spring, summer and fall. With the hectic schedules we all lead, it is the one place we can find solitude. In these times, the one place we can get away from all the media negativity about the world.

Ron Lieber speaks of this in his NY Times Article: "Some Purchases May Still Be Worth the Price". Ron reminds us of how short life is and how (in the end) it's the memories that live on. You cannot measure the return on investment for a boat in dollars and cents. I t's the fond memories that will last for years to come that are your R.O.I. It is the memories that enrich our lives and help us get through the tough times. If you believe the gloom and doom media, our country is on the verge of falling apart. "We may cease to exist as the United States", one reporter inferred recently. It is now more than ever that we can use our sailing fix. The shame is in the Midwest, we will need to resort to screen savers of boats and talking about sailing through the winter months. Call me an escapist- but I NEED my hydro therapy!

One of my favorite pictures of this past year is the one shown above. It has also become one of my daughter Sofia's favorites as well. We got some friends together and went out on 'Karma' on a moment's notice (those are some of the best sails). My wife was five months pregnant in this photo the day we went sailing. The thing I like the most about this photo is that I will forever be able to show that photo to my daughter Sarah (born this past August) and say "You were there on that day too." Now that is what sailing is all about.

Do you have a good sailing memory or story?

Share it below on the comments. I would love to hear it.