Do You Have OCHD?

November 17, 2016

Steve Stone

Hi. My name is Steve, and I’m an addict...

Caledonia Yawl Sunset - Off Center Harbor

After 41 years of explaining away my behavior as a “love of sailing,” I have come to realize that this "love" of mine presents most of the symptoms of an addiction, disease, or full-blown personality disorder. I feel compelled to share this discovery with members of OCH, because I suspect others may be under the spell of this life-altering affliction as well.

Last summer, while watching Maine’s Small Reach Regatta from an anchored powerboat, I watched dozens of beautiful small sailboats ghost by. As they sailed past on a fickle breeze, I felt I was aboard each one, easing the sheet through my fingers, leaning to leeward to heel her over a bit more, and pulling on the tiller to fall off and accelerate.

Maine's Small Reach Regatta - Off Center Harbor

Each time I came out of those meditations at the helm, I felt a pang of anxiety in my gut, unfulfilled and unsatisfied. In that moment, I realized my “love of sailing” was not a love at all. It was a neurological response — a real addiction to riding the edge of the wind in a hypnotic rhythm over waves and swells. The sounds of the water rushing around me adds to the overall buzz, and when eagles fly overhead and a porpoise swims by, it's as if I'm leaning inside the doorway of some greater existence. When I’m on land for too long I get anxious and yearn for longer voyages and farther-away places, and this feeling builds until I need a fix and I'm gone again.

Sailing with the kids - Off Center Harbor

Since that moment last summer, I’ve done some research on all this, expecting to find a diagnosable disorder or maybe a 12-step program for recovering sailors. A short film about a Californian neurologist confirmed my suspicions: acceleration along any axis, relative to the center of the earth, creates a sensation that stimulates a set of receptors in the inner ear. For some people, this creates a sense of ecstasy.

Maine's Small Reach Regatta - Off Center Harbor

I suspect that there's something to this phenomena that's greater than what anyone is talking about, and it may be at the core of why sailors need to go sailing. And why skaters skate, why surfers surf, and why pilots fly.

I’ve created a description for this disorder, and identified a few symptoms, for anyone who might find it helpful:

Off Center Harbor Disorder (OCHD)

Off Center Harbor Disorder (OCHD) is a long-term pattern of behavior seeking an ecstatic feeling from being at the helm of a floating vessel. Feelings of ecstasy are enhanced by the three-dimensional g-forces experienced as the vessel rides swells and waves. Once experienced, this sensation can prompt a person to do illogical things to repeat the feeling.

Why, you ask, OCHD (Off Center Harbor Disorder) and not OCSD (Obsessive Compulsive Sailing Disorder)? Well, it's because there are other elements that go beyond just sailing. I have a growing addiction to authentic things hand-made by artisans. My keenest interests these days include slowing down, learning to live more simply, and spending less. I have a yearning to live closer to the earth and friends and family. Most of the modern sailing world is about the newest, fastest, biggest things that shine the brightest. So, for me, the addiction goes beyond sailing.

Symptoms

How to recognize if you have OCHD:
~ If you've named your family pets something like "schooner" or "jib", you might have OCHD.
~ If you often dream of boats and sailing trips rather than working, you might have OCHD.
~ If you shop endlessly for boats online, you might have OCHD.
~ If you lose hearing for your spouse's voice around boats, you may have OCHD.
~ If you take long mental voyages without untying from the dock, you might have OCHD.
~ If you spend hours sanding defects that are unnoticeable to others, you may have OCHD.

Treatment

This is the part where I realize the true depth of my affliction. I've spent the past six years working with friends to create a coping mechanism for all of us who have OCHD — that coping mechanism is OffCenterHarbor.com.

All around the world, I hear one consistent comment from members about their experience on the website: they say that when life gets too hectic, too complicated, and they need a place of refuge, they login to watch a video or two and “all is right with the world again.”

I can’t begin to tell you how gratifying it is for all of us who have created this little haven for boat nuts to get their fix. I hope you enjoy indulging your addiction, and may none of us ever be cured.

I'm interested to hear of your own experiences or symptoms of OCHD below.


 

39 Responses So Far to “Do You Have OCHD?”:

  1. John Bukowsky says:

    I was 6 or 7 years old when I purchased my first boat. I bought her with 3 sticks of Beemans gum. She was a heavy wooden flat bottom, blunt bow row boat that at one time was painted deep red. With seaweed properly jammed in her seams she’d stay afloat long enough to row around the bay, which at my age seemed like an ocean. When I tired from the heavy chore, my German Shepard, Cindy, would jump overboard with a rope in mouth and pull me ashore. Like many others on this thread, the addiction remains and I thank the lord that my affliction is boat and not some other substance. Now it is down to 4 boats and I need to share one of them with someone wanting to encourage their addiction vs abandoning it. That will leave me with my current primary passion of sprucing up our Cape George 34. She is a hybrid. A wooden boat living in a fiberglass hull. Perfectly proportioned and enjoying her home on Liberty Bay in Poulsbo WA. For one stick of Beemans I gladly take any visitor for a ride.

  2. Murray Phillips says:

    Great article. Here is another symptom – wanting to know the design/history of any attractive boat you clap eyes on – does anyone recognise the middle yacht in the second picture above?

  3. Joseph Greeley says:

    I am a longtime sufferer-my first word was boat. As a child we had a Klepper Fol-Boat that we would sail up in Maine, but alas we sold it once we moved to Oregon. All my shipmodels (and there were a lot of them) were (and often still are) properly ballasted. I twitch when I see those soi-disant ‘pond yachts’ in gift shops, my hands instinctively wanting to cut off the keel and replace it with lead so that would actually BE a pond yacht. . . My dog’s name was Arabella after a favorite Chanty (she died two years ago and my heart still breaks for her). I have the privilege of being the Mate and Site Supervisor (education) aboard the “Maryland Dove” a recreated 17th century Pinnace at Historic St. Mary’s City Maryland and we are beginning up-rigging for our opening on 13 March. My two boats are “Arabella” an O’Day Daysailer that I am restoring, and our shallop “Parrot”, the ship’s boat for the “Maryland Dove”. She is a 16 foot double ender built mostly of oak with leeboards, a spritsail main and a staysail and the stoutest little vessel you could hope for. She will handle a good 15-20 knot breeze and never dip a rail. Come see both the “Maryland Dove” and “Parrot” at Historic St. Mary’s City!

  4. William Newman says:

    ARRRRRRH Yes

  5. Richard Greenway says:

    Well here is another dimension to this sickness.
    Standing in line to enter the Wooden Boat Show a
    discussion was started about how we deal with Winter
    and our boating chores. Can you see where this is heading?
    Workshops! Quite an eye opening non bragging sharing
    took place. There was real passion when describing what worked
    and met their individual needs in the Winter.
    I thoroughly enjoyed it as we entered the boat show we all
    went our merry ways.
    In looking back what I remembered most was not the
    details of the workshops, but rather nobody seemed to have
    any envy in what the other Gentlemen possessed.
    Richard
    PS This was the year that you started OCH and I signed up.
    So you were not in the conversation. Now you would be as
    I have a large Led tv in the shop.

  6. Kent Lewis says:

    Hi Steve

    I’m Kent. Hmmm, I guess we need to change our cat’s name, then we’ll have all 6. Except it is my wife who afflicted me, I didn’t know OCHD was contagious. We found out that some people can have it be dormant, but it afflicts itself aggressively when you live near water.

    -My coworkers ask about our boats…by name
    -I have alerts on my computer for craigslist listings of different dinghies
    -I manage online resources to help others with OCHD, a blog and fb page and a yahoo group…
    -Notes everywhere on tips and shopping lists
    -I may be in partial recovery from the sanding part though, telling myself that I want a “workboat finish” vs fine furniture…or is that still denial?

    I read a few years back on other ways to diagnose the “Attribute,” as I call it, (OCHA). Add up the waterline of all the boats that you own, and there was another factor for how many boats you owned. Math was involved, I got sleepy. But also if you heard yourself using the word “Rescue” when speaking of derelicts and needing to “save” a boat. Big waterline numbers* and compensatory language meant that yes indeed, we were “boat struck.” And loving it!

    *Our number is 233 LWL/17 boats. Read their “rescue” stories at smallboatrestoration.blogspot.com
    Cheers!

    • Patrick McGough says:

      Hi Kent,
      Besides smallboatrestoration.blogspot.com, I was wondering what other online resources you help others with OCHD. I am always looking for great resources and you have passed on the need to start monitoring craigslist. Starting to get bad with having to clarify which boat I am talking about when someone says: “now which boat is that?”

  7. Thorin Messer says:

    Kermit had it:
    “All of us under its spell
    We know that it’s probably magic
    Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
    I’ve heard them calling my name
    Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors
    The voice might be one and the same
    I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
    It’s something that I’m supposed to be”

    –Kermit D. Frog

  8. Bill Taylor says:

    Thanks for defining my affliction. Now I know why I wrote this poem a few years ago:

    I have a wooden boat I keep afloat, and she’s my pride and joy
    Sitting in the yard, high and dry, the sun shines ‘tween her planks
    I promise the crew a “Boarder Run” so we caulk her seams tight as a drum
    We paint the topsides and oil the teak, she’ll be ready to launch in a couple o’ weeks
    Hang the rudder and step the mast – with new sails she’s bound to be fast
    I yell, “Let her go” and she slides into the bay
    We take her out for a shakedown cruise and point her to the cay
    Just one finger on the helm, no need to hold tight
    With her sails trimmed, she’s balanced just right
    She comes to life without strife, dancing in the breeze
    From the rib of man or the hearts of trees creation has similarities
    Sailing before a following sea under the setting sun
    My very soul and boat are one

    William E. (Bill) Taylor Dana Point CA

  9. Mark Sailer says:

    Hi, my name is Mark and I am addicted. I have OCHD.

    – My dog’s nickname is “Mizzen”. My wife says the dog is going to get confused. ;)
    – When on conference calls I searching OCH for new videos or comments
    – I have a daily list of bookmarks that I search in hopes of finding a cool boat to play with
    – When in the boat yard all I see or hear is the boats and water. Drop by the boat yard each weekend to see what is new, even off season.
    – Seems lately all I dream about is getting the boat back in the water. When does spring arrive??
    – Boy was I really pissed in the spring when the boat yard put on the bottom paint before I finished sanding! Bothered me all summer long. Already planning the spring projects and sanding those “defects” out.. Actually brought the boat home so I could work on it when ever I had a few minutes.

  10. ellis kennedy says:

    Thanks all who shared with their conditions,Now I know what my conditions are, I am very glad to hear that there are others that share my conditions, and how to antidote myself, thanks och ,and fellow members!

  11. Rifat Sele says:

    Hello Steve,
    As a new member just signed up, this is the first article I have read and enjoyed on OCH.
    You discribed it well as to what is OCHD. Now I know I am not along. I will add one more symptom;
    – when one have all the reasons to sleep at home in one’s cosy and worm bed, but one chooses to sleep in the boat with sounds of the ropes hitting the mast all night long but yet one feels still well rested in the morning.

  12. Robert Muir says:

    I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
    John Masefield SEA FEVER

    My naval architect, marine engineer father’s favorite poem. The man who started me sailing in wooden boats where I could sand, but had to buy my own boat before I could varnish.

    I bought and refurbished my first wooden boat in college then sold her to buy an engagement ring for my wife. The ring has the same name as that boat. Still happily married though she has said I have an addiction. She will be reading about OCHD soon.

  13. Al Noble says:

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one ruining my life on boats.

    It started when I was 10 & spent the next ten years figuring out how to make boats my life.
    All boats that is power, sail, row or paddle. now been in the boat biz for 35 years. lets take the test.
    Cats. Dory, Mate,Schooner,ginger& skipper. Dog Gilligan

    Made most of my boat dreams come true working in the industry.
    Spend my time at and on the water identifying every boat I see power or sail.
    This started very early in life at the Jersey shore watching boats come in and out of Manasquan inlet. Still the best power boat watching spot around.

    How long are we staying out & haven’t we been out long enough The ballast stone of my boating,sailing & fishing life.

    Being on ,in or around any boat invokes the imagination of were I can go.

    Think about boat project plan boat projects and doing boat projects consume my attention.

    Boats owned to many to name current boats 10 inflatable,12ft American dingy,12ft Kayak,14ft canoe,Compac 16 1978 & 17 center console 1989. 81 foot of boats in the yard.

    Yep got it got it bad. Not sure were it actually gets me. Away from reality or to it.
    May You Weather All Storms.

  14. George Weinbrenner says:

    You know when you have it when you need a bigger garage. OCH is contagious. I have six boats four of which I made. There is no cure!

  15. Ellen Massey Leonard says:

    Two more symptoms:
    –You can’t wait to start living on your boat again, even though it’s almost December and you’re in Washington State (me).
    –You’re seriously considering sailing down to California from said Washington State even though it’s almost December…

  16. James Arthur says:

    so that’s what I have, finally a diagnosis, my wife will be glad to know. Thanks Steve!

  17. Albert Foley says:

    Finally, a diagnosis – OCHD. I feel liberated. I can’t wait to tell my wife. She has been worried for years. I have a Cape Cod Frosty, a Laser, an Arch Davis Peapod, a Hinterhoeller Shark, and a John Alden Malabar Jr yawl. I sail them all and still dream of new boats to buy, build, or rebuild. During the winter months, if Lake Erie is frozen solid and I can’t get out on the water, I sand, varnish, and watch Off Center Harbor videos. I’m glad I have this disease. I hope there is never a cure. Thanks OCH folks – it’s nice to know other people are afflicted by this wonderful disorder. Albert:)

  18. Peter Gossell says:

    Do cats count? We used to have cats named Schooner and Boson, and currently have Jolly Roger (Roger for short). I think the most telling, however is that our daughter has just named our Grandson Noah in the hopes that someone will finish the bloody boat! (Her words).
    Peter Gossell

  19. John Supan says:

    OCHD is Legendary and I’ve got it bad.

    “Amado mio, love me forever
    And let forever, begin tonight
    Amado mio, when we’re together
    I’m in a dream world, of sweat delight”

  20. Bill Conlyn says:

    In answer to do you have OCHD, “You bet your sweet ass I do”. To explain the quote l’ll have to show my age. When a callow youth of my late 20’s, after learning to sail (bitten) and serving 4 years in the USCoast Guard, I was strolling down the Annapolis city dock, what to my sullied ears came the cry, “Are you a turtle?” And of course not knowing any better I answered of course not, “I’m a Coastie”. Well the elderly gentleman with the Greek fishing hat standing on one of the Chesapeake Bay’s last brougans wharfed as usual to the city’s bulkhead, informed me that he could by the cut of my jib, that
    I was definitely a turtle and that I should always answer “You bet your sweet ass”.
    As the owner of a Garry Hoyt designed Manta Clipper 34′ “a mono hull with wings”, (#1 of only 3), a DeFever 49′ CMY, a 8′ Sabot, a 13′ Boston Whaler, 3 kayaks, a 15′ canoe, a 10′ Livingston catamaran skiff ( small boat to “Mari Jo”) the DeFever. So I believe one could safely say I have the Disease. Nice talking to you!

  21. Clay Ford says:

    I know I’ve got OCHD when I can’t see the next video that won’t be posted for another week

  22. Ross Gardner says:

    Another symptom. You own more yachts than you can possibly sail and spend all your time fixing them rather than sailing them 😯

  23. Stephen Jackson says:

    Perhaps another sympton–my first boat was a Triton, and I distinctly remember for the first year, I would go to sleep each night by just visualizing the perfect shape of her spoon bow. Steve

  24. Floyd Graves says:

    OMG!!! About 18 years ago my therapist said “Floyd, when I know you are sailing again, I will know you are getting better, mentally and emotionally”. About a year latter my wife of 25 years walk out of our marriage. Within few months I found a 12 Step Group (Celebrate Recovery) and started working on me, on my anger issues. Then my youngest son insisted I live my dream, buy a sail boat and live on it. He stayed up all night on the internet and at 6am woke me up with the 30′ boat I would latter buy, rename “Second Wind” (as he put it, my second chance at life), then he at 19 and my dad 71, helped me sail it down from San Fransisco to Long Beach, California where I lived on it and sailed to near by ports and islands for the next 6 years. Life changed and in the recession I needed to sell it. Many things have happen since then but my love of sailing and interest in building my own boat has not in least diminished. Since I was a child I’ve always wanted to sail around the world. That is a shared dream and goal with my lady, my new wife. Finding Off Center Harbor helps me get my “fix” when I can’t get on the water. Oh….and that check list… I’m 5 out of 6. Oh…and the dog…that will happen after we get a boat and make sure it’s a sailing dog (her request for the dog). I’ve taken screen shots of this article and will be taking it to my recovery group and share in the Open Share Group. Maybe…maybe we’ll have to start and issue specific Open Share Group….for Sailing Junkies like me. LOL Thanks for letting me share, Crazy Floyd

  25. Bill Kaiser says:

    Great article and good comments.

    Sailing season is just starting here in the desert of Arizona at lake Pleasant.

    I must have OCHD sailing out of Scorpion Bay Marina with over 60% of the passengers never having sailed before. Look me up when you are visiting the Phoenix area this winter.

    Captain Bill Arizonasailingadventures.com

  26. Colin Parker says:

    Yup, I got it. Scored 5 out of 6. Now that I have been properly diagnosed, I can help my buddies who definitely are afflicted with the disorder but don’t know it yet!

    Thanks for everything.

    • Edward Hollister says:

      OCHD, never herd of it til now
      Now that you did all that reach sea rch
      I am still in the Nile well I need to Reach out and have some tack on how to
      protest this barging of my addiction.
      got to go now and check out some float switches.

  27. Conbert Benneck says:

    All so true. Once addicted and after becoming a proficient sailor, who can withstand the lure of new ports to visit that are just under the horizon; or maybe day’s travel away. Sailing is catnip for humans; there is no better feeling than being Captain of your vessel heading out….
    What a wonderful description.

  28. Steven Wallace says:

    I SOOOO have OCHD

  29. Frank Crumbaugh says:

    Yeah. Wow. They say if you can spot it, you’ve probably got it. I’m right there with you. I feel the acute onset of OCHD this time of year when the birds are flying…and there is the irresistible urge to re-rig my hunting boat and the decoys, and pull on my boots to go hunting….the feel of the sneak box quartering across a running tide, and the stability of her even in a heavy sea…her responsiveness, turning in her own length like a small polo pony… the smell of the boat after the decoys are set and I’m hidden, lying down under the dodger waiting and watching- a wiff of 2 cycle fuel and old canvas and dried cork that has flaked off the decoys….the gentle slap of cove and inlet waves against the hull, waking the dozing hunter- usually in time to spot broadbills tumbling onto the head end of a gang rig….or a couple of black ducks dropping into the pocket in the middle of the rig…the gentle touch it takes to walk the boat through the decoys while picking up…the ease of climbing back aboard for a comforting ride in a small boat, going home in the growing gloom….oh yeah….I’ve got it bad.

  30. jim wedd says:

    HA ! Wow… Guilty.
    My dog’s name was Windy (she passed this year). I live on a lake in Ohio with a 25′ Oday tugging at her lines twenty feet away from my desk and an old Whaler in the driveway. Last year (after the wife went away) I bought a Peason 35 in Charleston and sailed her to Titusville where I’ll spend the winter working & sailing her along the coast. My newest boat was built in 1978 so you know the relationship I have with Defender Marine. Still I’m always looking at boats on line or watching cruising channels on YouTube…
    Yep. My name is Jim and I’m addicted to old boats and the places they can take you.

  31. Karl Aigner says:

    Hi,
    I defInitely must have it because all the symptons you mentioned I have got except the dog name one. My wife tells me she doubts our dog will become a water dog ever. Lets find out when I splash my coastal cruiser in June ( you notice I do not mention the year because the sanding symptom can prolong a build dramatically ) By the way the dogs name is Sunny and the sail boats name will be Wilde Qualle ( Crazy Jellyfish ). Keep up the nice entries and videos on the website. I love the old shipwrights videos the most and will mark my waterline the way he has shown in a video.
    Greetings from Karl ( Austria a landlocked country with nice lakes but the nearest dockside of the sea is 450 km away, dreams pass that distance in no time )

  32. David Tew says:

    This list is GREAT! I definitely succumb to #2, 3 and 5 on the list.

    Re #3- The internet sites Yachtworld, Uncle Henry’s and Craigslist are absolute catnip!

    Re #5- When I delve into Francis Herreshoff’s “The Compleat Cruiser” (which I reread each winter, as with “Moby Dick” and back issues of Woodenboat) I fall into a catatonic state of dreaming about sailing the warm waters of the Southern New England coast. I’m no good for anything at those times. My wife just rolls her eyes… but I tell her it’s cheaper than drinking, drugs, or catting around!

    • Ben Mendlowitz says:

      A few of mine to add:
      If you go directly to the brokerage ads when a boating magazine arrives in the mail.
      If you grab Hamilton Marine out of that stack of Christmas catalogs stuffed in your mailbox.
      If you row out to just “check” the mooring or bilge and end up stretched out in a bunk staring at the deck beams and other interior structure for an hour or so.

  33. Daryl Clark says:

    I think I may have to buy a second boat in warmer climate and go there!

  34. Marc Ranger says:

    Thanks for this excellent diagnosis. Winter approaches and my boats are on the hard. My just built wooden tender is upside down on my back deck, where I look at it every day wishing it was still on the river. My Tupperware Tanzer 22 is on the trailer in my driveway under a tent like structure.
    Every now and then, mostly now, I go aboard and just fuss around a little and plan for spring.
    I think I may have OCHD.
    Thanks for everything
    Mar

  35. Jerry Stavola says:

    Steve; waddya think?
    Our cat’s name is Noah (NOAA)
    I’m commenting on this while I’m at work.
    Thinking about Block Island next summer,
    just purchased some boat supplies last weekend,
    never hear what the Admiral’s saying while we’re on the boat (I’m only the Captain)
    just covered the boat 2 weeks ago and will be there this weekend to start some projects.
    2 years ago, I started using a clear plastic tarp to cover the boat so I enjoy the greenhouse affect while working on her.
    This is so funny but it’s true. Many people just won’t understand how it is to be addicted to boats!
    Thanks to you all at OCH – Nice website!

    Mad Cap
    1967- 40′ Chris Craft Corinthian

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