Christian Williams
AUTHOR

Christian Williams

In 15 years at The Washington Post Christian Williams served as arts editor of the Style Section, feature writer and reporter on the investigative unit. In 1987 he moved to Los Angeles to write and produce television programs from "Hill Street Blues" to "Six Feet Under." He is the author of "Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way," a biography of Ted Turner (Times Books, 1981); "Alone Together: Sailing Solo to Hawaii and Beyond" (East Wind Press, 2016) and "Philosophy of Sailing: Offshore in Search of the Universe " (East Wind Press, 2018). Williams has four children and lives in Pacific Palisades, CA, with his spouse, Tracy Olmstead Williams.

2018:

Q: Why "Philosophy of Sailing"? Is there such a thing?
A: Philosophy is an activity. It asks questions. I had a lot of questions about the experience of going offshore, especially alone again, and about what you see and feel out there.
Q: The universe, you call it.
A: I don't know how else to put it. We live in the same universe at home, but we don't seem to notice. Offshore you're closer. You're part of something bigger.
Q: You had 30 philosophy books aboard. Do you read philosophy books between reefing sails and navigating?
A: Not when seasick, that's for sure. The books were more companions. I know them pretty well, they're sort of a guide to how to think about things. They help sort out gods from men, and tell you where to look. There's a lot to see out of sight on land beyond whales and clouds.
Q: So you went back to find yourself?
A: Not really. At 75, you know who you are, like it or not. The ocean is beyond any one person, I think that's the appeal. Every sailor feels it--something bigger than himself, something out there that doesn't have a name. The universe isn't a mirror, it's a window. It's a view of us all.
Q: Even though nobody else is there?
A. Oh, they are there. All of us who ever lived. And all the questions everybody has always asked. There are moments when a squall passes and the sea goes flat and the stars reappear when there are almost answers. It happens in an instant, and then it's gone. That's what I tried to write about.

2016:

Q: What prompted you to write "Alone Together: Sailing Solo to Hawaii and Beyond"?
CW: People had a lot of questions about being alone that long. I think they expected me to go nuts. My video on YouTube sort of stirred the pot.
Q: Did you 'go nuts'?
CW: Let's say the experience wasn't what I expected at all. There are always voices
with you. It's never alone inside your head.
Q: You have said you worried more about that than 6,000 miles across the Pacific and back.
CW: Singlehanded sailing is challenging, and nobody likes gales and hurricanes. But that you can prepare for. All the famous singlehanders wrote books, Slocum and Chichester and the rest. They were heroes to me. But you never know how you'll do out there.
Q: How did you prepare for being alone?
CW: I read up on astronauts and medical studies and people like Reinhold Messner, who climbed Everest alone. I was expecting sensory deprivation, I think. But it wasn't like that.
Q: What was it like?
CW: I was a failure at being alone. It just never happened.
Q: Explain that.
CW: I can't. It's the question of who are we. Are we somebody distinct, or are we a part of everybody? That question never comes up ashore, among people. We're overconnected nowadays.
Q: You mean, turn off the cell phone?
CW: We're just never alone. Not from when we're born till we die. We become feedback.
Q: So is this book about a mystical experience?
CW: Not at all. Sailing a boat alone is a 24-hour job, you have to eat and try to sleep, you have the concerns of sinking and storms, there's plenty to worry about. It's less mystical than watching TV, where every commercial makes you wonder why you're wasting your life sitting there.
Q: So, you came back changed?
CW: I think being alone for a while helps you understand where you fit in. Everybody wants to know the answer to that.

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