No Sailboat, No Problem: Sail Into the Metaverse

fantasy, illusion, sailboat

Since I can remember, I’ve been drawn to the ocean. I’ve been a member of the Blue Water Cruising Club my entire life, spending many glorious summers sailing out to Big Geiger Cove, Catalina Island with my family. Both my parents were teachers, so we took advantage of the time off during the summers.

The tradition continues with my wife Cyn and I, as we visit Catalina Island often on BINGO, our 1977 Cal 34 sailboat. I love the travel experiences I’ve had while out sailing, and have taken on new challenges, like putting BINGO’s engine back together and offshore racing for the first time.

While you might be familiar with the basics of sailing, did you know that you can go sailing in the metaverse? I recently spoke with fellow sailor Dave Bloch on the #GoodJibes podcast, who is also an ambassador of Summer Sailstice, an annual, global celebration of sailing, created by Latitude38 magazine publisher John Arndt.

Dave is resident Dale Irata in Second Life, a virtual world created in 2003. After learning about boats, pirates, yacht clubs, and even races in the metaverse, I was psyched. Being naturally curious and an early tech adopter, I knew I wanted to explore one of my favorite hobbies in the metaverse.

As a simple definition, the metaverse is a virtual world in which large groups of people interact with each other online. Think of Minecraft with its vast user-generated content and strong support community. And there are several metaverses out there that operate using virtual reality, augmented reality, and decentralized currencies like ether.

Keep in mind that Mark Zuckerberg’s idea of the metaverse for everyone is far off and that most people aren’t wearing VR headsets for everyday tasks just yet. Also, just to be clear, Zuckerberg didn’t invent the term metaverse.

In our interview, Dave shared that Second Life is different from a video game, where users play as a preconceived character to complete a task or finish a mission. You get to decide what experiences you want to have. You might run a business, you might be a teacher, you might be an animal. And you could even be a sailor!

Second Life is a place where you can meet fellow sailors from around the world. It’s a place where you can learn the skills that you would normally only be able to learn in a classroom without the application or on a boat where you’re worried about doing your job.

Everything that you interact with within Second Life was created by its users or residents. The 3D environment allows residents to move around and visit different locations, or sims. One of the open public spaces created by Linden Labs, called the Blake Sea, has islands and land areas. And from what Dave knows, somebody decided to invent the first sailboat around 2006. 

There are marinas and yacht clubs. People pay real money to be able to take these spaces in the virtual world (think virtual real estate) and build whatever they want on it. There are some small yacht clubs, huge marinas, and ocean space that you can sail in. People pay a slip fee to house their boat in the marina, and can even host parties on their boats with other sailors–similar to interactions in a real-world marina. That’s pretty cool, right?!

One of the reasons I’m interested in Second Life is that it’s a great sailing simulator. According to Dave, boats have become very smart. They sense the wind. They sense currents. If there are currents where you are, or if another boat is blocking your wind, your boat will slow down. It’s all programmed into Second Life with great accuracy. The fact is you’re going to have to do everything to make your boat move as efficiently as you would have to real life.

You’re going to have to know where the wind is coming from, which direction you should point your boat, how you should trim your sail, and more. And all of the rules of racing (except for the “wear a lifejacket” requirement) apply. And, get this, the race director can actually control the weather. Sailing in Second Life can help you remember sailing basics that you might have forgotten if you’ve been docked for a few months.

Remember that these boats are built by residents. Second Life has pirate ships, Merpeople, beautiful schooners, and little Sunfish.  Some boat makers focus on reproducing historic boats. There is everything you can think of. And you can buy a virtual boat! 

Dave says that racing in Second Life is exciting because you get to take risks out on your boat, and that each race is different because the wind direction and wind speed change. That means you’ve got to have a strategy to navigate the waters when things go awry, just like you would in real-world racing. 

Second Life residents do not trade NFTs or cryptocurrencies (yet), but as the virtual world has seen an uptick in users since the COVID-19 pandemic, big changes may be in its future. One day, influencers and other users could have the potential to make passive income using their avatars.

I’ll point out that there are some barriers to entry when it comes to the metaverse. People may not have the access to powerful desktop computers or fast internet speed to process the graphics in existing digital worlds. You can’t just jump on your mobile phone to navigate any virtual world. Some may find the technologies or worlds are difficult to learn and get frustrated. Others may not want to spend time online, preferring in-person interaction. Others might not have the budget to buy and sell digital items to fully participate. There is also the opportunity, through philanthropy and education, for people to help others gain access to the metaverse. 

Whether you’re a tech newbie or a tech junkie, you should try getting into the metaverse to explore existing worlds, give feedback to companies about changes they could make for a seamless experience, become a creator, make friends, and more. You don’t even have to spend a dime or use a cryptocurrency wallet if you just want to explore it. You can help make these digital worlds even more engaging and exciting for future users. 

I hope to meet you cruising, racing, or just sailing in Second Life! I will be sailing as resident “Ryan Foland” and if you want an excuse to visit, then consider attending the Summer Sailstice virtual event coming up on June 18. I’ll be holding an in-person event at my favorite sailing spot, Big Geiger Cove, on Catalina Island. And don’t forget there are people going sailing all over the world on Summer Sailstice. It’s a great day to get out on the water for a sail! 

If you have questions about the metaverse, sailing, or Second Life, I’m happy to share what I know, so connect with me on Twitter @RyanFoland

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