Friday 20 November 2009

Slow sailing

Watching the sea to windward, milking every gust, keeping the boat exactly trim and when boat speed falls below 3 knots breaking out the oars and rowing for billy-ho. That’s how I sailed this summer. Driven by an urgent unwillingness to sail at night. Spurred to action by its inherent horrors I raced across the sea. And in the moments when I could relax I studied the GPS, course made good, miles covered, average speed, ETA…I was a regatta sailor racing against time.

Back on my home beach I can once again take up what my friend Joan Sol terms ‘Slow Sailing’. Joan is the author of the top Catalan sailing blog El Mar es el Camí. It’s the blog of reference on these shores and Joan is one of those lynch pin figures who manage to organise events and bring like-minded folk together. Recently he coaxed a good number of Spanish bloggers from behind their screens to a big meet up and presentation at the Barcelona boat show. A man of great sensibility in all things maritime he has an enviable collection of maritime literature and is the owner of the lateen rigged El Corb Mari, in which I had the pleasure of sailing this summer. (And sailing quite fast at that.) As an antidote to go-faster times Joan wrote a manifesto, which, at Joan’s request, I am happy to translate and pass on.

The Slow Sailing Manifesto

1.- Whatever your craft, whether a rowing boat, or a luxury yacht, it’s your realationship with your boat and the sea that matters. Regardless of length, price and equipment, your craft isn’t just another of your many possesions but rather an agreeable travelling companion with whom you can learn about the sea and, more importantly, about yourself.

2.- Spend time aboard your craft even if it’s just tied up in the harbour. Make the boat part of your living space. Do little jobs aboard, this will hieghten your sense of ownership and will strengthen the ties between you and your craft.

3.- Leave your hurries and worries on the quay when you go sailing. Go without a set time to return, as if you were leaving for a long journey. Forget your watch and let the sun guide you. If you take speed and time out of the equation you’re left only with space: the sea.

4.- Sail without a strict course or destination. Let the wind and sea take you where they will. Don’t think about miles covered or those still to go. Don’t go anywhere, just sail and enjoy the moment.

5.- Disconnect the electronics and sail like they used to. Learn not to depend on your instruments. When was the last time you took a bearing? Or a sun sight? Find your position and mark it on the chart. Forget the windspeed indicator, feel the wind on your face. Learn the art of sailing, become a real sailor.

6.- Disconect the mobile and turn off the music. Cut your ties with the land. Listen to the murrmuring sea, the bow wave, the flap of the sail, the breathing wind.

7.- Don’t hog the helm. Let somebody else take it. How long has it been since you stretched out on deck or sat at the bow? If you’re sailing alone, tie off the tiller, balance the sails and let yourself go. Trust in your crew and in your boat.

8.- Write a log book. Detail your sailing trips and note down your feelings. Then go back over your notes and re-live the experience. Share your experiences with others in what ever way suits you best.

9.- Race, if that’s what you like but don’t go for the prize. Go to learn about the sea, your boat and yourself. There’s no more stimulating prize than this.

10.- Don’t desert your boat, she’d never desert you. (This is a play on a famous Spanish campaign to stem the amount of pets that are abandoned by the roadsides in Spain, particularly during the summer holidays.)

11.- Contemplate the sea for a while each day, let it’s energy flow into you and take it where ever you go.

Slow sailing in Onawind Blue. Cooking lunch while ghosting along at one knot on a November afternoon.

And what better when the sun’s gone down and the woodburner’s glowing than some armchair slow sailing with Keep Turning Left and master of the go slow crowd Dylan Winter. I’ve followed Dylan up to Essex and now find myself wishing he’d go a little faster so that I don’t have to wait so long between episodes.


Osbert said...


I love the slow sailing manifesto! Read it as I took a break from slow building my Welsford Walkabout. It the sort of sailing I'm looking forward to! Tho a watch might come in handy for tides here.

May I re-post the manifesto, with full attribution and link of course?


Thomas Armstrong said...

Ben, you might enjoy the blog 'Hove to off Swan's Point', whose subtitle is "sailing as slow as I can".

Ben said...

Osbert, feel free.

Thomas, thanks, I've have a look.

Unknown said...

Ei, Ben!

Ets molt amable i generós amb mi i amb el meu blog. T'ho agraeixo molt i també que facis difussió del "Slow Sailing Manifesto" o "Manifest de la navegació tranquil·la". La idea és compartir-ho amb el máxim de navegants possible i, fins i tot, que vagi creixent amb les aportacions de tothom. De moment m'alegra comprovar que ja hi ha algú que se'n declara obertament partidari.

Una abraçada!

Far de la Banya said...

Aquesta combinació de la teoria amb la pràctica és genial! Un post que respira vida i idees :-)

Bon manifest i bon parell de blocaires mariners :-)



Anonymous said...

Hello Ben,

I'm a crazy Swede, so they say here in Murcia where I live and work, because I'm working on building a small trimaran in my garage. I like the slow sailing manifesto very much its things like that that I'm expecting to do with the boat if it ever gets ready. I'm also expecting that it will be a toy that will pass to my children my sentiments for the sea and for sailing. I have been following your cruise to Ibiza and back on your blog, amazing performance, and now I'm suddenly realising that you are probably the best person to help me with my doubts. I have problem to find out what the legislation here in Spain says about the paperwork necessary for a small (4,5m ) home made boat. I am also searshing for materials like epoxy etc with little success. Please contact me on if you agree to give me a hand. Maybe the questions are interesting for other would be home builders in Spain.

Hakan Ericsson Murcia Spain

Russ Manheimer said...

Hi Ben, Joan, Osbert and all,

Delighted to find you and other like minded Slow Sailors. As Thomas mentioned above, I've been "Sailing as slow as I can" for years and Blogging about it at

Keep in touch,


Viagra Online said...

what a beautiful sunset! I love the photo, that setting is excellent to be with your girl and both watching that gorgeous view, thanks for your blog Ben!