Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Zen Sailing by Lee Carlson- J/80 Sailor

J/80 sailor Lee's new book on life and sailing* Now and Zen-  We sail for a lot of different reasons.  Some people like to win races, but they don’t even really like the pure act of sailing.  Some people never win a race in their life, but they just love being out the water.  Then, there are those of us for whom sailing can become an act of personal salvation.  Lee Carlson has an excellent story to tell about how sailing gave him back his life through his book “Passage to Nirvana”.

You can read the whole version of the events in Lee’s life that led up to his need to write this book, but the short version is that a culmination of some pretty negative things – a nasty divorce, his mother falling down a flight of stairs and dying, topped off by being hit by a car and sustaining a traumatic brain injury – gave the net result of his book. Somehow, Lee found the resolve to recover his life and did so largely because of the support of his fiancé Meg, and their boat, aptly named “Nirvana”.  Toss in some Zen, and you have a book not so much about Lee’s life, but lessons that can be applied universally.  Here’s a quick Q & A with a guy who has had more than his share of bad luck, but who has also had the good fortune to have the ability to turn it around.  Scot Tempesta at Sailing Anarchy did one of his famous "SA InnerViews" with Lee--- here's the intro, you gotta read the rest.  Absolutely amazing and inspiring story.

SA - What is your background in sailing?  Where, and on what, have you sailed?

Lee - I was born on the Navy base in San Diego when my father was on a destroyer there. I started sailing soon after I was born, going out with he and my mother in a Star. I grew up at the Buffalo Canoe Club on Lake Erie. I raced with some of the top Lightning sailors in the world, and I also raced the usual and not-so-usual assortment of dinghies and small keelboats: Tech Dinghies, Lasers, 420's, 470's, Albacores, Sharks, J24's. Then I graduated to larger keelboats: Ted Hood's fantastic centerboard one tonner “Abino Robin”,  an Ericson 39 “Warlock” on Lake Erie and LIS, Eight-Meters on Lake Ontario (changing headsails in the middle of the night in freezing 8-ft. seas while clinging to a knife-edge bow with no lifelines is not something one ever forgets), and other bigger custom keelboats. Those were the days of the SORC and I raced on the maxi Windward Passage, on a mini-maxi that was a Doyle team boat, as well as racing captain of a Dubois 46 and as crew on assorted other boats. I also cruised fairly extensively, first on my family's Islander 37 on the Great Lakes, with a few charters in the Caribbean. My father bought part ownership of a 34-footer with a family in Miami, and we used to do family vacations in the Bahamas, before the drug scene got too bad. For my honeymoon my wife and I bareboated in the Virgins. When I moved to New York City to become a magazine editor, I raced a number of different boats on Long Island Sound, such as an Evelyn 32. Before my accident I was crewing regularly on a J/80.   Read the rest of Scot's SA InnerView here.   For the book, you can get it here.