Monday, May 6, 2013

Advertising The Sailing Lifestyle. Part 2: Happy Place

I've received some nice response to my first installment of this series I posted last week entitled Auto Pilot, thank you all for reading and for your messages. Not surprisingly, the popular reaction from members of the sailing community to those idyllic car ads which feature the 'sailing lifestyle' in some capacity is... "So.. What Happened?"

This is a difficult question for sure. As the years go by and technology changes our gauge on the 'good life', having to process and form opinions and perceptions of our hyper-chaotic immediate surroundings are enough for our brain to deal with. For most of the population, whatever is happening this very instant has a tendency to take precedence over our rich history and what happened in the 'olden days'. All of us are feeling the pressure of the 'now'. Because of this, it's easy to look at vintage advertisements with warm fuzzy nostalgia and with a desire for simplicity and innocence... these days it's difficult to just find a minute to yourself, let alone be able to break away for an afternoon of sailing. or a pleasure cruise in a car. We are constantly bombarded with so many distractions and propaganda in the media today, ultimately advertising now confronts us with the demand to consume life instead of enjoying life. Thankfully our society has an unbelievable perpetual popular culture archive occurring organically, and we have the means to access it anytime. These things, these ideas of our 'happy place' make us feel good and we should embrace them. It's always important to look back to the past for some perspective on the present, our knowledge of history is increasingly relevant to how we live our lives today and how we communicate with each other as humans. It's also very therapeutic and enjoyable to lose yourself in the way things were, aside from sailing there is no better escape than letting your mind wander through a good classic book or vintage magazine, or listening to an LP on an old record player. Tune the 'real' world out for a few minutes.

That is, if you can find the time.

My first sailing experience was at eleven years old, with my brother on a 10' Montomery dinghy my dad had just bought. A few years earlier, my parents had purchased a waterfront vacation home on the Georgiana Slough in the California Delta, and summer was in full swing again. We would all muck about in the water from sunup to sundown, taking full advantage of our new playground and our new little boat. The property was magical, across the slough from us was a picture-perfect dilapidated barn behind a levee wall covered in blackberry bushes, met at the water's edge with a natural beach which only appeared at low-tide. We would swim over with coffee cans and jars to pick the blackberries for mom's famous cobbler, and then cool off by walking out into the water up to our necks, searching through the sand and mud with our toes to find clams for bass fishing.
On this particular day, I was with Tom on board the 'Misty' for transportation duties of our family foraging, he was at the tiller and I was in charge of gathering all the containers of berries and clams from my mom and my sister. We'd beach the dinghy, load up, and then sail back to our house on the other side and drop the bounty off with my dad. I felt like a little bad-ass sailing on that boat... until... we were on our second trip back and were buzzed by our neighbor Brett on his shiny new white Jet-Ski. He had just customized the machine to shoot out a massive rooster tail of spray, and he completely soaked us as he passed. I looked up and Brett nodded at me and my brother and smirked. I remember feeling so lame at that moment, like some sort of Huck Finn farmboy with my ill-fitting outdated life vest, holding stupid berries and stupid clams on a stupid sailboat. This emotion was a complete contrast to the 'cool' nodding experience I'd had years before riding in my dad's MG. What happened? It wasn't the embarrassment of getting hit by his spray, we were all friends and this type of playful water harassment was normal. It was because my 11 year old brain didn't like that his leisure time was more advanced and faster than mine, and therefore more 'fun' and more 'cool'. It's strange to think that such a perfect and memorable day with my family was ruined for me in a second by jealousy for something I didn't have, and something I couldn't do. Something I assumed was 'better'. I often think of that period in my life and would give anything to go back to those times in the Delta. I would be super proud of that stupid sailboat. And perhaps if Brett is thinking of that incident today, he's visualizing my family picking berries and our sailboat with the same endearment we have for these vintage advertisements.

So, before we rush to consider what happened to the real or advertised 'sailing lifestyle', let's relax and enjoy another group of ads I scanned which express the carefree unpolluted climate of days gone by... that seemingly unobtainable 'Happy Place' feeling of sailing bliss sorely lacking in our current pressurized marketing world...

Advertising The Sailing Lifestyle. Part 1: Auto Pilot

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