Who sails your Boat? And are you lost?

I learned to shoot a sextant and reduce a site to latitude and longitude co-ordinates from Bob Stimson, a sailor friend. He was preparing me for my first (and only to date) blue water crossing which was to be from Florida to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. It was the early days of GPS, and we hired one for use on the passage, a miracle of a black box that could tell you exactly where you were in the middle of the ocean. Bob told me, learn to navigate the old ways with sextant, sun and stars, keep track of your position with dead reckoning, then if the technology fails you, you’ll have the skills you need.


That was some 20 years ago. The passage took 10 days, and was a combination of miserable and glorious, as I think they all are. There were a few times that no GPS reading was available, and quite a few days where no sun sight was possible. But really, the GPS, even then was a marvel.


A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to share a meal with Bob and his wife Lise. We talked of the “old days” and many friends. Both commented that the GPS had really changed the sailing world, because many people were out sailing that did not have the skills to navigate without a GPS.


I’m on our sailboat at this moment. With John and the kids, we’ve come down from Bay of Islands on a 26 hour overnight run (miserable) to Kawau Island. Today we visited Tiritiri- Matangi Island and are anchored near Rangitoto. (glorious)


As I was sailing overnight on the horribly lumpy thing called a sea, watching my GPS reliably tick by our position, I thought of Bob and Lise, and their words.  We are losing some of the old skills, not just as sailors, but as a culture of people. Technology, with its ease and accuracy has become a placebo for real life, and real skills.


We have come to rely on technology to navigate our lives, from car to phone to calendar to games, music, news, and e-mail.


Who sails your boat? How do you recognise when you are off course? What old skills have you let lapse?


In a few weeks I’m heading to Gisborne to spend 4 days with Cindy Powers- Prosor, and allow myself a strengthening of some old skills.  The most central skill is finding the song of my own sweet heart.  This is an old skill for which there is no app or GPS. It is a skill that stands by me when technology and linear thinking fall short.


Does that sound good? It does to me. If you are living a life and feeling a bit lost, wishing there was an “app for that”, maybe you should come too.


If you’d like to know more, all the details are here. Cindy has let me know that she has 2 places left (for a total of 12), a sacred space for women to remember what they already know, but perhaps feel lost for the moment.


Cindy’s retreat centre Tuamotu is set in a wild ocean coast line, the perfect spot for connecting with a life filled with wind, sun and stars. Here’s a short video she did about the retreat.


Here’s to the glorious golden-orange light of long sunsets, and not too much miserable mixed in.

With respect, sailor, Bex


ps1. Cindy is a colleague and trusted friend, and I recommend her because I have come to love her  and the way she teaches. If you come join us, there is no financial acknowledgment back to me.


ps2.  I’m driving down from Auckland to Gisborne on May 11th or 12th, in case you want a ride. No GPS required.


ps3. Last night’s sunset from Kawau Island, glorious!





Bex Cashman




The Nourished Life

Kerikeri, Northland, New Zealand


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