Life Lessons From Sailing: Just What You Need

One of the most powerful motivators to determine priorities is self-preservation. When you’re in the middle of an ocean, you have to have everything you need. But on a yacht with limited space, only what you need.

Which is why learning to victual (supply) a trans-oceanic yacht is a great way to teach priorities. And this is a great metaphor for business, relationships, and life in general.

Consider your next ‘journey.’ What will you need:

  • If everything is just smooth sailing
  • If things go bad and you have to weather storms
  • To help keep up morale
  • To ensure you remain healthy, nurtured and stimulated

What don’t you have room for?

What could you repurpose?

Take only what you need, but everything you need.

Lessons from Sailing: Timid Virgins And The Art Of Education

“Timid Virgins Make Dull Company. At Weddings.”

Our sailing instructor was teaching us the fine art of compass navigation back in a dusty classroom in Durban, 1993. In a lifetime of learning technology and applied science, this lesson sticks out as one of my most memorable.

There are others, like mask clearing as a Scuba Diver, and configuring frame sizes in PC networking. Mastering the chord of 'F' on a guitar. Conceding 'according to plan' in a negotiation.

But calculating the compass directions from the true course takes the cake. Just the act of making an acronym such an outrageous, relatable, humorous image means I will never forget it.

If you're in the business of teaching, or more importantly, learning (who isn't) make your lesson a hilarious picture. Even if you don't remember it, your students will remember you, and you'll be having fun.

If you're navigating: True + Variation = Magnetic + Deviation = Compass. Add for West.


What Your Wake Can Teach You About Life.

Yacht Wake
Hardly a ripple, and you're gone (c) RGB Stock

One of the greatest experiences in life is watching the phosphorescence glow ghostly green in the black ocean in the middle of the night. During the day you get to chart your course with the creamy white wake streaming behind you across the circle of blue.

Sailing gives you a perspective that flying across an ocean cannot.


Sheer immensity. Against which, no matter the size of your yacht, you are insignificant.

For days you are the centre of a sphere with sky above & sea below. Once your wake reaches the horizon, your progress is imperceptible on an hourly, or even daily basis.

In the vastness of the ocean your presence is indicated by your wake. Perhaps it's massive, creating waves of its own; or a mere ripple hardly noticeable in the maelstrom.

Just like life.

3 thoughts from sailing an ocean that have helped me gain perspective on life.

1. Little changes in course have a big impact later.

Just because of the scale of the journey, a percentage of a degree lands you at a totally different destination. This is exacerbated by different climates, weather systems, and others you meet along the way.

Make the hard choices, not the easy ones. The smallest decision you make literally changes the course of your life.

2. Your wake affects others.

Either constructively or destructively.

It is up to you to grow, then position yourself, so you can support others nearby. Learn how to compound the effect of your influence, with others, with the environment.

If nothing else, be a guide for those coming behind you. But also realise that you are a guide for those coming behind. Be the best guide you can be.

3. Your wake fades away once you've passed.

So does everyone elses. That's as it should be.

No matter the size, it's impossible to determine from the ocean the boats that sailed passed yesterday.

This may help you 'get over your self.'

It should also help you treat everyone with the respect, and lack of adulation, they deserve. 🙂