As a physician, martial artist and chef, my comments generally run along the food and health lines, but today I will opine upon a different topic: sailing. Sailing is a happening that exists year round for those of us in southern Florida, but like many with an incredible opportunity at my doorstep, I never took advantage of it. I recently had the pleasure to embark upon such an excursion while on vacation, and wondered why I’ve never taken advantage of this right here at home. We greeted the seals, porpoise and whales upon the beautiful sailboat Civil Twilight with Captain Alan and first-mate Gerri. They made everything perfectly easy and care free. Firstly, my disclaimer: I know nothing about abut sailing. On a wind born vessel I am about as useful as Paula Deen at a granola convention. However, this is not about my sailing expertise, but rather what lessons my sailing experience taught me.
Air: One of the first gems they taught me in medical school; air-especially oxygen rich air- is good. Sitting around like a mushroom in fetid re-circulated air twenty-four/seven does not promote good health. Getting out and about promotes movement, which for some can be dangerously close to exercise. However, recent studies have suggested that if we just reduced physical inactivity worldwide by just 10-25%; deaths from heart disease, diabetes and cancer would decrease by 533,000 to 1.3 million per year. Ocean air, in particular, tends to be richer in negative ions which purportedly may have some health benefits. Get to the ocean, get some air and move it into your lungs. Then move yourself about a bit.
Water: Another medical school pearl; water is also good. Forget the energy drinks, soft drinks and super-sized banned in NYC monster gulps. Drink water. Out on the ocean it is truly water everywhere but not a drop to drink. It is truly amazing how refreshing some plain old H-2-O can be. We generally do not consume as much water as is recommended each day; sixty-four ounces or the eight and eight rule. Eight glasses of eight ounces each day; for those looking to shed some extra ballast this guideline is extremely helpful. Speaking of which….
Food: Put down the foot-long (or as they call them in New England, grinders), Phelps. Unless you are training as an Olympic athlete you don’t need eat like every meal is a competitive challenge. On the ship they were called provisions. On land we call them portions. In the modern marketplace we tend to think everything is a better value if we super-size it for only thirty-nine cents more. Wrong. Value is as much about quality as quantity. Since the space on the ship is limited, you have to be particularly fussy about what you are going to bring on board. A small portion over a long time as you sip wine and drink in sunsets makes a little food go a lot further, in the best possible way.
Time: Since it is not prohibited by any known laws of physics, I can testify that while at sea time travel occurs; or at least time loss. I completely lost track of the days of the week and the hours, and I could care less. In our hustle bustle everyday had-to-be-there-five-minutes-ago world, this is some kind of blessing. Stress is a known risk factor and accelerant of many of what we might call today’s illnesses of civilization. When you have to engage in neither fight nor flight, the stress melts away (if only the excess pounds would as well).
The beauty of the sea and sky, the wind and water is its ability to connect us in a very primal way to our roots. Without the motor, you hear the sea and feel her rhythms and a caress of salty spray. The wind whispers and sings through the riggings and you can see this blue planet from a periwinkle on the horizon to a deep, dark mysterious blue straight overhead. As that Keysian philosopher of old, Jimmanicus Buffetus wrote; Margaritaville is wherever the hell you want it to be. I think it remains here in South Florida, on a sailboat. Just get on your boat and get out there. Doctor’s orders.This article was contributed by Michael S. Fenster, MD, F.A.C.C., FSCA&I, PEMBA. He currently has a blog site which can be found here. You can also follow him on twitter @WCWD
Thank you for sharing your sailing experiences, Michael. It’s always great to read some great stuff about it. We all have our own way of learning through sailing… it’s either we gain an advantage on our mental and physical aspect, or we gain deep benefits for our spirits and emotions. Be free and safe, friend.