A few days ago, we landed safely in New York Harbor after sailing over 1,000 miles, nonstop, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on my family’s 46-foot sloop (a Swan 46 to be exact). I was with my dad, my five-year-old son Julian, and two additional experienced sailing friends.
It was a good trip. We completed the delivery in a swift five days, thanks to favorable winds and the Gulf Stream current — the powerful, warm and fast Atlantic Ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida and flows along the coastline of the United States.
Among the trip’s highlights was introducing my son to his first offshore sailing experience. That included battling seasickness and mom withdrawal during two first choppy days while he gained his sea legs. We were out of sight of land for nearly the entire trip, and out of mobile range as well.
Another highlight was catching a mahi mahi, filleting it five minutes later, and eating it 30 minutes after that. I seared it in an iron pan and served it with an impromptu garlic, shallot and olive oil sauce. Since the fish weighed 20 pounds, we had enough of it for sandwiches, with aioli, the next day.
And I will never forget the trip’s midpoint, off Cape Hatteras, when several dozen dolphins arrived to play at the bow of the boat during my 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. watch. Thanks to the intense bioluminescence of the plankton on that dark night, each dolphin left a glowing, green trail at least 150 feet long. It was trippy.
To most landlubbers, a sailing trip from Florida to New York in late spring seems carefree and easy. The reality is that it’s hard work — physically and mentally — and potentially dangerous. I’ve encountered crew injuries, tropical storms and even a hurricane during similar trips.
So what’s the appeal?
First, I love everything about sailboats and the ocean. Second, for all its greatness, the Internet and social media have a hidden side — a tendency to cheapen, distract, dehumanize and to overstimulate. Raw experiences in nature, like offshore sailing, counter these negative symptoms of digital life, and restore clarity and balance.
The Zen scholar Daisetz Suzuki, in his book “Zen and Japanese Culture,” wrote: “However ‘civilized,’ however much brought up in an artificially contrived environment, we all seem to have an innate longing for primitive simplicity, close to the natural state of living.”
After spending last week hundreds of miles offshore and unplugged, I’m reminded yet again how important it is to pause digital immersion and satisfy that primitive longing.
Following is a video highlight reel I put together. I have a much longer one, which YouTube’s copyright software blocked, because of some ambient songs picked up by my video cam. Damn those copyright nannies, who deprived themselves of free promotion. I’m ready to start hosting video myself.