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For United Methodist, sailing is spiritual journey

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Feb. 8, 2008

Nelson Price

For Nelson Price, sailing is not just a hobby, it’s nourishment for the soul.

The 79-year-old United Methodist, who lives in Syracuse, N.Y., wants others to understand the spiritual benefits of sailing as well. So he has published a memoir, Spirit Sail: A Memoir of Spirituality and Sailing, to share his experiences.

Price––who retired as head of the former public media division at United Methodist Communications in 1991, after more than 30 years of service––said the connection between spirituality and sailing first occurred to him during a solo sail from Block Island to New York City.

He had been reading Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore. "He talks about everyday spirituality, that soulfulness tied to good food, genuine conversation, good friends—those experiences that touch the heart," Price explained. He had the same experiences while sailing, he added.

Being part of God’s creation also is important. During one spectacular sunset on the Cape Cod canal, "it was really like sailing through a giant cathedral," he said. "It was so awesome it felt like God touching our lives."

Drawn to adventure

The original lure of sailing, for Price, "was adventure and excitement." He bought his first sailboat in 1957 and sailed on Lake Michigan for several years before moving to landlocked Nashville, Tenn. There, the reality of raising four children "took precedent over sailing."

In 1975, after moving to New York, he bought a "Contest 25," a hardy, 25-foot Dutch-built boat. "We sailed it from Haverstraw, N.Y., on the Hudson River to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island," he said. "You could sleep five, but you had to be very, very good friends."

“Each port is (about) negotiating hazards, so making it into a port is a challenge.”– Nelson Price

Price’s current boat, a 34-foot ship named "Wind Dancer," was purchased in 1984. He first kept the boat at City Island, which is part of the Bronx. Since moving to Syracuse in 1996, Wind Dancer has been docked at Henderson Harbor Yacht Club on the northeast corner of Lake Ontario, about 65 miles from where he lives.

His favorite sailing haunts include Cape Cod, Block Island, Cuttyhunk and the Thousand Islands, but he enjoys exploring new areas as well. "Each port is (about) negotiating hazards, so making it into a port is a challenge," he explained. "Each time is an adventure because you don’t know for sure what the weather will bring."

Starting a conversation

Friendship and camaraderie can be key aspects of sailing. One of Price’s longtime sailing buddies wanted to be buried at sea after learning he was dying of cancer. Instead, Price agreed to take his ashes to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, where they would flow to the sea.

Through Spirit Sail, he wants to help others realize that sailing can nourish the soul. "When I’ve gathered after sails with sailors, I’ve never heard any talk about spiritual experiences on the water. It’s not a subject we naturally feel comfortable with," he said. "Part of my motivation is to help start the conversation."

Price hopes people will contribute their own sailing experience to the "dialogue" link at www.spiritual-sailing.com, which also has a link to order the book.

Meanwhile, he intends to keep on sailing. On Feb. 11, Price is flying to the British Virgin Islands, where he will fulfill a "life dream" and join a six-person crew for a weeklong sail.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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