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Sailing Feng Shui: Chris Caswell isn't sure what to make of the use of Feng Shui and positive ch'i as a race-winning strategy.


Occasionally, I encounter something so bizarre that it's inexplicable. I was sitting in my cockpit doing nothing except draining beer bottles and regretting my dumb decision to varnish my once bare teak caprais. I admit I did do it in a fit of yachtiness after looking at a book full of magnificently varnished yachts.

I don't think I've mentioned Gary before, but he has a racer-cruiser a few slips away. He views himself as very hip, and so I follow his activities with a bemusement that verges on wariness. For example, he was the first in our marina to decorate his boat for Christmas with lights all up and down the spars.

Shortly thereafter, we had an epidemic of electrolysis problems with through-hull fittings and keel bolts, culminating when a friend's keel actually fell off. No one ever proved that Gary was the culprit in the electrolysis infestation but, of course, we all knew that he was the carrier.

I was on my second beer when I saw Gary, walking around his cockpit, doing something weird with his hand. As I watched, I realised that he had a saltshaker, and was carefully distributing something on his deck.

I assumed that he had just painted the deck and was using the shaker to dispense sand for a non-slip surface. That's the way it's been done for years, or at least until we started mixing little resin beads into the paint itself. Then I realised that he was walking on the deck, so it couldn't still be wet. I watched a while longer and finally couldn't stand it, so I walked up his pier and said, "OK, I give up." He smiled as you would to a child and said simply, "Fungoo".

"Hey", I said, "nice way to talk to the guy who held a wrench for two hours while you bedded your porthole".

"No, no", he said, "not fungoo, Feng Shui."

"Aha", I said, not having the faintest clue.

"Look", he said, reverting to his speaking-to-a-dolt mode. "Every boat has some bad ch'i, so I'm helping to alleviate all the negative feelings that are keeping me from winning races."

"And the salt shaker?" I asked. "I commissioned a Feng Shui expert to cure my boat, and that's what he recommends."

So that's how I spent a few hours watching Gary "create positive ch'i flow" on his boat. And, because I know all of you are on the edge of your chairs to find out ways to have a happier boat, here's what I managed to pry out of him.

If you haven't been reading home magazines, Feng Shui is the 4,000-year-old Oriental concept that governs the design of homes to create a positive energy force called ch'i. If the ch'i moves through your home or boat comfortably, it will shape your life for the better in all ways--health, finance and relationships, not to mention getting to the finish line first.

Now, most Feng Shui relies on using a compass to determine where the ch'i enters the house, but Gary was using something called Black Hat Feng Shui, which uses the location of the front door (in this case, his companionway) to position the Bagua (bah-goo-wah), which is the mapping system for your house or boat. Got that?

Sprinkling sea salt around the cockpit, I'm told, will absorb the negative energy from crewmembers. That might not make the boat go faster but, on the other hand. I've seen Gary's crew douse the spinnaker and, boy, there's a lot of negative energy flowing. I think my boat's already pretty well protected because I'm a little lax about washdowns so sea salt is almost always crusted on the deck and topsides.

Gary has tied little blue ribbons on his helm wheel, too. Blue is the representation of water, which is the perfect state for properly steering the boat: clear, thoughtful and flowing.

He also cleaned the windows and ports on his boat because keeping windows clean allows ch'i energy to enter the boat from outside. In Feng Shui terms, the ports are the eyes of the boat.

He has a tiny plaque that he installed on the inside bulkhead facing the companionway door, which is a representation of the Three Star Gods named Fuk, Luk and Sau. (No, really, I'm not making this up). They stand for wealth and prosperity (in this case, fancy trophies), rank and authority (correcting out on handicap) and longevity (keeping a crew together for more than one season).

He also put a little plastic dragon inside, which symbolises good fortune. The problem is that you can't put the dragon in the bedroom (there are bunks everywhere on his boat) and it can't be near the head (which is close to everything). We'll see how that one works out.

Gary also changed the docking of his boat. Now he backs into the slip because one of his main competitors is on the next pier. A boat is considered to be a "predatory tiger" and, when facing another boat, will create a threat to its occupants.

There's an epilogue to the story. Before he left the dock to go racing last weekend. I watched as he led his entire crew in a cockpit ceremony. They clapped their hands and sang along with "Cheeseburger In Paradise" because, he explained, clapping and singing makes the statement that the boat is now a cleared space and the crew will go forward refreshed and free from past events.

Later that day, I saw him stalk up the dock looking unhappy. Turns out they'd finished near the bottom of the fleet after taking a flyer hoping the wind would swing left. It didn't.

All he'd say was. "I need some more sea salt".

Frankly, I think he needs ch'i that knows the wind never swings left at this time of year.
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Title Annotation:THE PIN END
Author:Caswell, Chris
Publication:Offshore Yachting
Date:Aug 1, 2014
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