My friend S. used to ride and train horses, and has spoken often about the tricks of that trade. She put it quite pithily and I can’t quote her verbatim, but I remember her talking about the challenges of controlling an animal ten times your size and twenty times your strength. She said something like “for the horse it just has to be unimaginable that you’re not in charge.”
in addition to having the stronger will, though, you also have to be smarter than the horse. And, especially when he’s feeling recalcitrant or ornery, you have to be able to predict what he’s going to do and preempt it. You can tell what he’s thinking and planning, she said, from the set of his neck, the flick of his tail, the toss of his head, the way he looks or doesn’t look at you. All the clues are there, once you learn to read them.
This came to mind as I was steering Vingilótë this morning. She’s a young boat, scarcely two weeks out of the
crèche factory, but she’s developing a personality and I think it’s going to be a mischievous one. Take your eyes off the compass for a minute to sip some coffee and you’ll find she’s trying to play games: wriggling around a wave to get her head into the wind, or waggling her stern and grabbing a gust to veer downwind, cruising along smoothly and then when you’re not expecting popping up on a wave crest, sending up a spray of water sparkling in the sunlight. But always good-natured. She hasn’t spilled my coffee yet.
Just like S. training her horses, I’m learning to read Vingilótë’s signals, understand how she’s going to act as the wind, waves, and current shift around us, learning how firm a hand to keep on the wheel so she believes I know what I’m doing while still letting her play.
Yes, I anthropomorphize my boat. So sue me.