Home . Articles . Columns & Blogs . On the Wind . Sailing affirmations can unlock your best self

Sailing affirmations can unlock your best self

2021 June 1

She Who Must Be Obeyed is a big believer in affirmations. Until she entered my life one spring vacation many moons ago, I freely admit that I didn’t know what an affirmation was. Or, at least, I didn’t know how it was used. 

I certainly had affirmations that I used regularly, such as “I know I can port tack this start, I am this port tack start, I own this port tack start.” That, of course, is a fairly simplistic approach to affirmations that should properly horrify anyone with a spiritual bent. 

So, it was with some amusement that a product called the “Impact Deck” came across my desk. It is a deck of 50 cards the size of playing cards, which the promo material guarantees will help you to “Make your mark, get out of your own way, and unlock your best self.” These cards are prods so that you will, as they say, “Take action to step out of your comfort zone, Cultivate self-awareness, nurture positive beliefs” and, of course, “Turn personal growth into a consistent habit.” 

You actually have a choice of several decks, starting with the above-mentioned Impact Deck. You can also opt for the Icebreaker Deck, which includes something only a fool would ask on his first or second date. “When was the last time you cried?” 

My ready answer to that one is “When I sold my last boat.” No matter how much I want to get rid of it to move into something faster, cheaper, in better condition, or just plain cooler, I always rue the day I hand over the keys and the sail bags to someone else. 

A second Icebreaker, “What’s your favorite family tradition?” is an easy one: falling in between the dock and the boat, directly in front of the yacht club. I’ve lost track of how many times my mother did it, each time getting better scores from the kibitzers sitting on the club patio. 

But it’s my father who perfected the “widening chasm,” as one foot stays firmly planted on the dock and the other is equally planted on the boat that is moving away. He was approached by a past commodore once who complimented him on his élan before the inevitable swim, saying “Damn, I would’ve bet 10 bucks you were going to make it!”

Back to the Impact Deck, which is going to help me make an impact on the world. One of the first cards I pulled is almost too simple. “What’s one daily action you can take to elevate your mental health and physical fitness?”

Really? Going sailing every day would do wonders for my mental and physical being. That’s too easy.

Another: “Say no to something you don’t want to do.” Ah, here’s a very long list, starting with mow the lawn and paint the eaves. Another task is found onboard when I look at the varnished hatch that seems to be less varnished every time I see it. I know that once I dig out the can of varnish, find my favorite Epifanes boar bristle brush, and get some sandpaper that actually has sand on it, I’ll delight in the varnishing process. It’s very zen as you lay down flawless strokes. But beforehand, I’ll put it off until the wood has literally no varnish left. Sigh.

Another: “Where are you placing blame unnecessarily for something that happened in your life?” Well, I think either Eric or Jon will have to share this particular trophy. Both managed to drop 10-inch Lewmar winch handles, valued on the far side of a Ben Franklin, into the drink somewhere in the deepest part of the Catalina Channel.

I take responsibility for allowing these two klutzes, who are unable to pop a beer can without spilling, to grind in the genny after a tack. My fault, I own it. But damn! How does a winch handle slip out of your hands if it is properly in place, and how does it make its way across the deck in one bounce before anyone can grab it? Yes, my bad.

The Icebreaker Deck questions began to get tougher. “What book has made the biggest impact on your life?”

That would have to be “Royce’s Sailing Illustrated” that I memorized between the years of about 12 and 15 (mostly under the sheet at night with a flashlight). Pat Royce simplified everything with drawings, and I even carried the book in its plastic bag secured with a rubber band in my dinghy for immediate reference if I needed to properly baffle the finklesnork. 

I love the Impact Card that asks “What would your rap name be?” Oh, my, where to go with this? I immediately came up with Yot Guy, 4Decker, Bilge Pumper, or even Rail Meat. But I leave it to She Who Must Be Obeyed, who has much more experience with rap music than I, to come up with clearly the best: Phat Aft, Over Bored, Three Sheetz, and her favorite, Poop Deck. 

There is also a Wordsmith Deck, in which you describe things in more than one word answers. For “Describe a time you felt lonely,” I would easily say in a few words that capsizing a Finn in the middle of a very cold San Francisco Bay during the Zellerbach Series gave me real insights into what loneliness feels like, especially when there isn’t a rescue boat in sight.

The Icebreaker Deck has the best question: “Would you rather be the funniest or the smartest person in the room?”  That one is almost too easy. At the yacht club bar after racing I am both.

Having exhausted all the Impact Deck prods and affirmations, I realized there is a niche available for Caswell’s High Impact Sailing Cards, soon to arrive at a marine store near you. Here’s a quick sampling of 50 cards that will change your sailing life:

Let’s start with some introspection. “What boat has made the biggest impact on your life.” Hmmm. I’m going with the Lido 14 dinghy in which I took the future She Who Must Be Obeyed on her first sail, no doubt impressing the heck out of her on a sunny day on Alamitos Bay. The luster of my sailing skills may have tarnished slightly, as I’ve inveigled her to join me on some sails that were wet, cold, uncomfortable or all of the above. Talk about affirmations. 

SWMBO had her own short list: “I will never, ever do this again!” “How did you talk me into this?” “What is it that you don’t understand about weather before we left the dock?” Still, she doesn’t laugh (out loud) as I try to get into my 8-foot dinghy for a sail across the lake. 

Let’s move into present day Caswell’s Cards, with “What do you love most about your boat?” For me, I’m torn between the great afternoon sails with friends and laughter (and, of course, considerable spirits) or the great beats to the weather mark, spray flying and knowing you have your worst competitor buried far to leeward. But then, of course, there is the sheer delight of tucking into the pilot berth with a warm comforter, a trashy spy novel and rain pattering on the deck. Tough call, but that’s what Caswell’s Cards are all about.

Heading into the future, “Where would you take your boat that you haven’t gone?” This is a litmus test for your bold side. Are you stuck in a rut, same marinas, same anchorages, same, same? Or are you ready to break out and try something new? 

Another future question: “What one project would most improve your boat?” Let’s stay away from the big stuff, like a full set of new sails or having the boatyard micro-polish the bottom for unbelievable speed. I’m thinking more along the lines of an all-new stove/oven combo that will win me everlasting love from SWMBO. Or even smaller: replacing that #%*$ showerhead that wets down everything except me. I see a list here.

And last, let’s start a bucket list from the Caswell Card question: “What one adventure (cruise-race-charter) do you want to do most?” Oh, my, doesn’t that open the world of sailing adventures? If cruising lights your fires, your dreams are already filled with postcards of the volcanic peaks of Moorea deep in the South Seas or perhaps the steep fjords of Norway. Carpe diem, do it now. If you’re a racer born-and-bred, what races pull your strings? They don’t have to be nearby. With a little energy and the ever-helpful Google, you can probably land a crew slot on a Fastnet Race, a Transpacific, or something party-laden like the Fort Lauderdale-Key West race (160 miles between rum parties!). 

And filling in any gaps are all those charter destinations that hum to the lyrics of the Beach Boys “Kokomo” in your ear as you fight rush hour traffic. 

So, there you have the starting point for Caswell’s High Impact Sailing Cards. What affirmations would you suggest I add? What questions need to be answered honestly (or not so much). 

Operators are standing by for your input. I look forward to hearing from you.