Editor: I’m constantly surprised by the contexts in which Foucault’s name pops up.
Sailing as an essential activity
Published on April 30th, 2020
by Darrell Nicholson, Practical Sailor, Scuttlbutt Sailing news (Florida, USA)
Let’s take away all the boats. Not the ships engaged in essential commerce, not the barges hauling goods, not the net boats catching fish. Keep those. And the Navy, of course, keep that. But all the rest can go.
Now, imagine as we look out over the waterfront we see no skiffs on the bay, no dinghies along the shore, no sloops or schooners on a sunset sail. This arrangement, if it persists, could have dire consequences—at least if you believe French philosopher Michel Foucault:
“In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure and the police take the place of pirates.”
Some, like Pompey the Great (as quoted by Plutarch), put sailing above even life itself. “To sail is necessary; to live is not.”
As summer fast approaches and COVID-19 persists as a threat, coastal communities, sailing clubs, schools, and camps around the country are asking the same question: Must our boating activities be curtailed, and if they are to continue, what measures are necessary to ensure public health?
The situation is changing, but at the time of this writing, the boat ramps around our homeport in Sarasota, Florida were opening up again. All state municipalities have banned gatherings of boaters on sandbars and on-the-water events that might draw a crowd—although some impromptu two-boat “regattas” will likely spring up (as they tend to do whenever another sail appears on the horizon).