Monday, February 16, 2015

Fear, Anxiety and Epiphany



1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

We all experience fear. Motor quits in high winds on a lee shore (Long Island), winds whip up to 50 knots with a water temperature of 34 degrees Fahrenheit, we all have these moments sailing. Well, perhaps we don't all have these moments. In the world of offshore sailing they happen. The nice thing about fear is when its over, its over. One gets the sails and heading under control and rides it out.



a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. The problem with anxiety is that it is, at least for me, cumulative. I have been sailing in the Great Lakes and offshore for about 10 years, my sailing career spans over 50 years. I have done about 20,000 NM offshore in the last 5 years. And for me the memory of each event that caused me fear is still burned into my brain.

Today's post is about anxiety. I thought it was about procrastination and apathy (procrastination is my greatest strength and apathy my strongest emotion) but it isn't. Its about anxiety.

I have been having a lot of trouble getting up and working on Reboot. Each night I look back at another day where I have gotten very little done. I chide myself and promise to do better the next day.The next day is the same. And the next day. I thought that I was just being lazy. I started questioning my lifestyle. I took some time to chat with my older son about my lifestyle and came to a couple of interesting conclusions. Of course I already knew the answers but had to find them again. Perhaps I will share that conversation in a later post. The summary: the only thing that changes in your life when you take up full time sailing is the scenery.

But back to anxiety. One of the very small projects I need to do is to turn Reboot around in the slip. When I left Nassau, Bahamas I had a lot of trouble getting away from the dock. I ended up springing off a dock post to get the bow around through the wind and current. As a result the entire rub rail ended up hanging off Reboot. Fortunately it is pinned at both ends so I didn't lose the rubber insert. I was able to tie it up to the stanchions. The rub rail is on the port side and the boat is in the dock starboard side to. It should be a simple thing to turn the boat around and back it into the slip - I get to choose the wind and tide and I have friends that will grab lines and drag me into the dock. It has been several days since I fixed the bow light so it is time. There have been several opportune times. Why haven't I done it?

My epiphany moment came when I realized I wan't lazy, I was scared. In my subconscious I have a catalog of every time backing into a slip turned bad. Too much speed. Not enough speed. Not judging the cross wind correctly. Not judging the current correctly. Dropping out of the channel and almost running aground. Almost hitting another boat. And that litany of experience was driving my emotions. Of course I have docked hundreds of times without incident. But I was only remembering the scary times. That led me to the realization that I was anxious about everything that had ever happened. Engine failure. Not getting the sails down before a big blow. Running aground. And the list goes on and on.

From Passage Weather
There is reasonable fear, unreasonable fear, and stupidity. Sailing the Bounty into Hurricane Sandy is stupidity. Leaving Newport with this weather forecast as a couple did a couple of days ago is stupidity. (They got the free vertical elevator ride courtesy of the US Coast Guard.) But then again there is unreasonable fear. I have equipped Reboot pretty much as best one can from a safety standpoint. My safety gear is up to date, e.g. I just dropped $1,700 to get my life raft serviced. I will not leave for the ocean unless it is all in good working order. And yes, it is possible to get hurt or even killed doing what I do. But I choose this lifestyle because it brings me unique opportunities to both travel and meet other people. I like the way I live. I think its time to "man up" and realize that I am actually pretty well equipped and pretty good at this sailing gig. We will see if tomorrow that means I turn around the boat!

Fair winds and following seas :)

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