Hoist Sail

Editor’s Log

The following anecdote is a true story about a real guy. I’ll call him Phil. The details have been confirmed, but the protagonists prefer to remain anonymous. These are sensitive times, and I respect their wishes. But I feel this tale deserves telling.

On September 11, Phil was one of the thousands who arrived

for work at the World Trade Center not knowing the changes the day would bring. Phil, who in idle hours found joy sailing the waters of Long Island Sound, was lucky. He got out and survived. But many, many others who also called themselves sailors-including dozens of employees at the devastated financial-services firm Cantor Fitzgerald-did not.

Very soon after, Phil did something that may have struck some who knew him as odd. He traded in his old sailboat for a brand-new 38-footer from a popular American builder, a purchase his yacht broker says was directly influenced by the events of that September morning. Spring was months away, but Phil had made a plan and was moving forward. He was going to take his family sailing.

Now you could argue that such a frivolous notion is totally inappropriate in the wake of such devastation. But the opposite might even be more true. For what could be more life affirming or meaningful than simply going sailing?

I don’t mean to dishonor the memory of those sailors who lost their lives in the September attacks-my purpose is exactly the opposite-but I know what I hope my family and friends would do if I were to meet such an unholy fate.

I hope they’d go sailing.

To me, there’s no greater sense of open freedom or quiet contentment than raising sail and pointing a boat seaward. Whether puttering around a pond or crossing great oceans, where else are we in more complete control of our destiny? What other activity affords us the opportunity to test our self-reliance, to have an adventure, to become more in tune with ourselves? Is there any one place better suited to forging the bonds of family and friendship than aboard a small boat on the open water? And what, really, is more important than all that?

Quite surprisingly, for the odds seemed long, last October’s U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, was a resounding success. Many sailors showed up with a plan similar to Phil’s. It seemed, perhaps, that the events of September 11 had sparked in some a fresh sense of urgency, a shifting of priorities. The time had come, for many, to stop deferring their dreams.

In days like these, it’s not hard to get overly introspective, to question what one is doing or why. And I must confess to having had stern talks with myself recently about my obsession with sailing. On the other hand, if one thing has been driven home of late, it’s that life is short. Maybe the greatest tribute we can make with regards to our very existence is to live it fully.

In a complicated world, perhaps more than ever it’s the simple things that count. So here are some ideas. Hug your kids. Fly a flag. Kiss your honey. Hoist a sail.

Herb McCormick