Email This Page to a FriendDo You Have OCHD?
November 17, 2016
Hi. My name is Steve, and I’m an addict...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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