Navigating unknown waters

In a phase of great self-confidence, I signed up for training. So, as an absolute sea novice, I am currently studying theory for the "international coastal certificate 1", the sailing licence to be allowed to sail within 10 nautical miles (18.52 km) of the coast. I am sitting over the documents, and, in view of my naivety, I can hardly stop marvelling at the chapter "Navigation": The geographic North Pole does not coincide with the magnetic North Pole: ok, I have heard that before, relevance for me so far is 0. But not only that this difference is responsible for several degrees difference in the course to be set. It also moves from year to year as our iron-bearing earth centre "sloshes around".

There are all kinds of sea signs that play with colours and shapes during the day and flash, blink, and sparkle at night at certain intervals and colours, each with a specific meaning - because orientation is precious, especially when there is only water in sight, or it is dark. Not to mention the winds that may be blowing straight off the Sahara, forming long, high wave systems. And there are clouds in a wide variety of shapes and wind directions, which may make my life as a sailor easier or considerably more difficult or even dangerous.

I am amazed at this complexity in an area of knowledge that is many thousands of years old. All over the world, people have passed on and deepened their experience in dealing with wind, waves and much more over generations. At the sea, the forces of nature show themselves in all their dynamism. Everything is in motion, everything depends on each other, influences each other and man with his boat and his technology sits as a guest somewhere in the middle, plays along, tries to aim at his goal and get closer to it.

What provides support and orientation amid this interference of so many different significant systems and effects?

- Attentive, profound perception of the participants in this interplay: How do they interact? What reinforces each other, what cancels each other out, what provokes something completely new? What rhythm emerges?

- Humility about one's own role: we are only one player among many - and yet it makes a difference. Maybe not for the big interference, but still for ourselves. What is categorically beyond our availability? What can and do we want to contribute and with what do we ground our boat?

- How can we usefully bring our own experienced resources into this interplay? How do we have to question them in comparison with what we are currently encountering, look at them anew, use them in a new way?

- Courage to take the next step, because despite all the planning and preparation, here and now everything can turn out to be completely different.

- To face the wind, because not all steps have to be taken by us and the right wind can give us wings.