Jonty Pearce celebrates the joys of a quiet sail on calm seas

The sun blazed down and the air was still. Not a breath of wind disturbed the mirror-like finish of the sea; the sails hung loosely, too listless to flap.

All was quiet; sultry and still, a haze hung over the land while the horizon seemed blurred by a distant mirage.

We sat comfortably on soft cockpit cushions, well basted in sun cream, our eyes shaded by dark glasses.

Yet Aurial was not still; a tiny ripple of wake stretched out behind, and oh-so slowly the scenery changed, more by the tidal currents than our own progress. It would be a crime to disturb the peace by firing up the Bukh, and we were in no hurry.

So we just floated, creeping our way to nowhere over still water. Bliss.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a brisk sail as much as the next yachtsman.

The feeling of the wind powering well-trimmed sails never fails to thrill me; the cant of the deck and the happy gurgle as she slices through the water to leave a tumbled slipstream behind, the slightest pressure on the wheel counteracting any whimsy to head up, and the firm surge as she leaps forwards in the gusts.

I love the undulations of the sea as the spent Atlantic swell courses under the hull, and the lift of the shorter waves driven by the breeze.

And all too often the steady escalation of the wind speed that brings the hull alive before the heel becomes enough to bring thoughts of pulling in a reef; and once that task is done the pleasure of sailing faster and flatter under shortened sail.

How I do love a brisk sail. But I also love the quiet times.

Continues below…

The lack of rush, the absence of pressure, the time to drift.

All too often our lives are full of haste as the taskmaster of time cracks his whip over our heads, hustling our lives above its natural pace; the scampering shoppers, commuters, workers and parents beaver away like busy ants with eyes that look but never see.

How lovely it is to have the time to dawdle, to touch the rough texture of wayside stones, to watch the bees hum in the cotoneaster, and to relish the honeysuckle’s scent.

When I practised as a GP, I coined the diagnosis ‘floral anosmia’ – a failure to smell the flowers – for busy patients suffering under unsustainable expectations driving their poor overstressed bodies and minds to a lack of wellbeing.

I, too, suffered that experience, but was rescued and healed by the joys of a retirement whose prospect had shimmered on a distant horizon for far too long.

When it finally came its benefits transcended my wildest hopes, and one of its greatest boons has been the gift of enough time to slow down.

Our lives are still hectic, but the demands made upon us are all our own; it is our choice how much to take on, and when it has to be done by.

And this control gives us the freedom to chill and relax when the need arises; we no longer driven by our diaries, and can drift when the opportunity arises.

So, as now, when a stable heatwave of still, calm, gorgeous weather settles over us, get out on the water and slow down.

Drift with the currents; let soft eddies of air waft you where they will. Forget the push and shove of daily life; forget the habit of motoring when the boat speed falls under 4 knots.

Leave that starter switch alone, and relax under the peaceful sky while you feel your body tension ease away, and open your eyes to the world. There’s a lot of it out there to enjoy, so don’t waste it.