Sergei Shushunov on Sailing
Learning to sail in St. Petersburg was as natural for me as living there. After all, sailing for pleasure was established right there just a few years after the city was founded. This is where in mid 19th century first Russian yacht club was opened.
I knew I was going to sail sooner or later from as far as I can remember. My mother used to sail in her twenties, she gave it up not long before my birth. It took 10 years of listening about her sailing adventures, before one cold and rainy late October day she took my hand and traveled with me far across the city – to enroll me into a sailing school.
This was love at first sight, though I had to wait until spring before stepping on a deck of an old dragon class sloop. Waiting for the love of your life to open up to you is good – it lasts longer, and this one is still a part of me, 50 years later.
I used to race. I loved this tension, when boats rushed towards the invisible start line, when skippers and crew silently and openly wished the other boats to sink, to go to hell, to disappear, grinding their teeth and swearing, profusely and helplessly. The sailing race is the best swearing school possible. I did my share of cruising on the Baltic, too, but it was the racing I loved the most. Life put a long break on my sailing career: medical school, immigration, children, work.
The call of first love brought me back again in my late 30’s. From this time on I was only cruising: Aegean, Caribbean, Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Coast of Main…
What is it about sailing? There’s hardly a more natural mode of transportation, other than walk and swim. Humans captured wind long before they captured a horse. The soothing sound of the wind, breaking waves, braving the weather and physical stress, and desire to win when it all gets bad. Then there is the Unknown. Even if there’s no place left unknown on Earth, every new place I sail I imagine Columbus in me.