Monday, October 15, 2007

Sailing the Seven Seas in Second Life

One of the great delights in Second Life is 'freedom of mobility', something that has become a bit of a catchphrase in advertising recently in 'First Life' media.
Although the power to teleport originally was not available in the world of Second Life, it now probably is the most common means of transport. Flying, with or without wings, is as easy as walking. It simply is a matter of choosing an option.
Despite the existence of these otherworldly magical means of transportation, some of the greatest delights in Second Life are found in virtual sailing, driving and flying in crafts of one sort or another.

Every conceivable type of seacraft or aircraft can be found in SL, from rowboats to funeral barges, and from helicopters to elven dragonflies. There are spacecraft and houseboats, pirate ships and power boats, incredible yachts and cruise ships.

Even a fairly penniless individual can own a wonderful craft. Many boats and airships are given away free of charge. Owning land on a real beachfront allows one to 'rez' a ship from the land and sail it effortlessly from a dock but even if one is not fortunate enough to own beachfront land, one usually can find a place on some coast where objects can be rezzed. It may take time to find a spot but the rewards are tremendous, as I discovered yesterday.

I had a fairly simple pirate ship that I longed to try. My land is not on the beach but a friend of mine found a place where the ship could be launched. He also found a race course for us to try. There were 11 waypoints. I piloted my ship and my friend sat in the crowsnest. Although we had cannon, we had neglected to 'supply' the ship with the necessary ammunition to be able to fire them. It was of no consequence. Although the pirate ship was designed primarily for sea battles, we were more interested in sailing on this particular day.

With the help of my 'crew' who gave me the landmark for the next wayspot as I reached the previous one, we sailed through the night using navigational aids including the mini-map and coordinates. As in real life, the wind played a factor in our speed and I had to be conscious of the depth of water as well as land masses and obstacles. At one point, a very small quick craft sailing the same course appeared to be determined to ignore our presence completely. It was a bit of a challenge not to run it down and capsize it.

We actually sailed from waystation to waystation and reached the finish line after two hours of constant sailing. Much to my delight, fireworks erupted overhead as I sailed over the finish line. I thought that a very nice touch, but my companion confessed that he had been responsible for the fireworks! It was a wonderful moment and gave me a great sense of accomplishment.

Yes, these are virtual seas and this is a virtual ship. We could have teleported instantly from one location in SL to another, but the entire experience of sailing the ship was extremely real. The darkness with the stars overhead, the sound of the water lapping against the sides of the ship and the need to steer with the winds made it a real sailing experience. I could lower or raise the sails. I could moor the ship, stopping it at any point. If we had supplied the ship with ammunition, we could have fired our cannon!

For those of us who once lived on the water in real life and no longer do, the oceans of Second Life offer an incredible substitute. One may not be able to taste the salt on the lips but the sense of freedom is tremendous.

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