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Musings & Inspiration: Learning to Navigate Life's Mercurial Seas

Many years ago, I lived in Hawaii and encountered numerous learning opportunities every day, whether at work or discovering something new about the islands. Quoting an English Proverb, “A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.” We all navigate life's challenges, but how we handle tough situations reflects our true character.

Commuting to work in downtown Honolulu gave me new insight on rush hour traffic, it also introduced me to the cultural diversity found on public transportation. The city was a far stretch from the small town where I had grown up. Navigating the downtown streets in a city with a 12-letter alphabet was also very challenging, but like many unfamiliar places, repetition and landmarks were very helpful.

Aside from working, enjoying beautiful scenery and hosting family and friends visiting from the mainland, I spent time learning to sail. The entire group had no experience at all, and our first class was indoors, so we all excitedly wondered when we would actually go sailing.

The instructors lectured, handed out worksheets, ropes and homework that included getting canvas shoes and a tetanus shot, just in case! This class was just for pleasure, but my work ethic surfaced as I studied every sailing knot and nautical expression. Finally, after a few classroom lessons, we teamed up in groups of three and boarded the tiny 14' dinghies.

From there, we each had to jump out of the boats, one by one, and swim to the dock to prove our swimming capabilities. In the safe confines of the small harbor along the south shore of Oahu, the only real hazards were the baby hammerheads, and jet fuel fumes from the nearby shared runway of the military base and Honolulu International Airport.

Our first real challenge came while we were shown how to intentionally capsize the boats, and learn how to right them in calm waters. If we were too shallow, it was a bit more work if the mast got stuck in the sand. It was then that I was very appreciative of the canvas shoes because they're lightweight and have great traction on the bottom of a slippery boat!

Before long, I was rigging the sails, tacking, jibing, guiding the tiller, and working in unison with my fellow sailors. The last class was the solo sail. My nervousness clouded me more than the overcast sky that day as I headed out for my little jaunt. When I returned, I was rewarded with applause as the ladies all cheered "Yes she can! Yes she can!” – just as we all did when every one of us safely made it back.

I continued sailing while living in Hawaii, and had the privilege of sailing around Pearl Harbor, where another life lesson was learned: “It's always important to have a back-up plan.” While out on a calm, windless day, the trusty oars helped to quickly steer away from a ferry that was entirely too close for comfort and about to broadside my tiny boat.

Learning to sail provided unparalleled experiences that I'll always remember, and just one of many personal accomplishments over the years. Through sailing I rediscovered many important life lessons:

  • We're all in the same boat, regardless of age, status, faith or color.

  • Confidence can be built in the most unusual of circumstances.

  • Teamwork is always valuable, especially if you find yourself stuck.

  • Wherever you are, enjoy the surroundings, beauty is in everything and everyone.

Quoting an English Proverb, “A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.” We all navigate life's challenges, but how we handle tough situations reflects our true character. If we're lucky, we open ourselves to new lessons every day. We could get hurt or experience great joy, but whatever happens next is where real magic is created in life.


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