Words by Issa Braithwaite:
This past summer with Colour The Trails we were able to sail with Pacific Encounters from Madeira Park in Pender Harbour up the Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada. It was not only beautiful seeing the Southern Resident Orcas, the mountain ranges, and the wide-open spaces, but it was beautiful looking upon the faces of the others who joined the journey and seeing how they lit up of what could be. The experiences that people had never imagined, seeing the wind blow through our hairs as we felt the cool, consistent breeze on our cheeks.
I grew up very fortunate. Given the gift of a mother who pushed me, given the gift of siblings, cousins, family-friends that laid a path for me, and given the gift of the spirit from those ancestors I have never met to guide me to places and spaces I’ve never seen.
I was twelve when my mother took me and my best friend Yohance to sailing camp, it began as something she wanted me to experience and grew into love. I imagine when she stayed and watched that first day, it was akin to a mother watching her baby bird trying to fly for the first time. There was probably an ‘I hope he doesn’t give up’ mixed with some oooh and ahhhs, but I made it. I asked to go back a second year as I aspired to work my way up to the big boats (which looking back, a 16ft Hobie Cat is not big at all), but it’s interesting, at the same time you are in your adolescence, figuring out who you are and gaining inspiration who you will become, is the same times you are recognizing your otherness and noticing your ‘place’ in the world, and sailing never felt like the ‘place’ for me.
At some point, you get tired of people asking you, ‘where did you learn how to do X?’ as if you are a dog that learned how to surf. It takes a while, but you learn to ignore those who can’t see beyond the immediate and embrace those who care about wind, the water, the sounds, and the feelings of the boat. Sailing is largely shown and showcased as a white activity when in reality there are millions of us who already do it. We are already doing it, our ancestors and our contemporaries who live in places other than North America. Sailing for me is maintaining and growing that connection because while I have not been to the islands in years, it would be silly of me to get there and as a Black man who comes from the Caribbean sea… White folks always ask me where I learned to sail as if the answer would be different than theirs… My mother dropped me off at a sailing camp.
Later in life, when I moved to Vancouver, BC, Canada, I found those people on the Ultraman II, a racing vessel out of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, and it was through the captain and the boat, my love for sailing was unearthed. All they cared about was if you showed up willing to learn and put in the effort. After a few years of learning on the Ultraman II, I decided the time was right for me to buy a boat of my own. Tired of waiting to be asked to sail, I wanted to try what it was like to go out alone.
I tell my friends that when I bought my boat, it felt like I bought wings. There is something about the freedom one gets on the water that is intoxicating. There are few places that exist where you’re alone and the only laws to abide by are the natural ones. It’s a feeling I hope everyone experiences once, especially us.
Sailing is travelling, Sailing is recreation, Sailing is competition, Sailing is Freedom.
Photos by Pavel Boiko