I’m a worrier. I hate it. It’s a horrible habit. One that I attribute to a) my being a woman, and therefore constantly wanting to take care of others and to b) my own little psyche, confusing as it may be. I worry about Scott, about my friends, about my family…you know, the usual, but I also worry about the wind…namely wind over 20 knots and at night.
I know – this is totally contradictory being a cruising sailor and all. However there is a fine line between a nice, surfy, broad reach with a following sea – and screaming down waves, feeling the rigging shudder and fighting the incredible (and it is incredible!) force of the waves on the rudder hoping “dear god, please don’t let something go wrong here”. Some of you may recall our first storm on Rasmus – perhaps it was that experience that made me a little gun-shy. It was that storm that opened my eyes to what could be, and what opened my mind to the fear of it possibly happening again.
I read an article a while back by Beth Leonard in which she stated “Fear begins where control ends”. She was writing about the fact that she gets scared every time she goes offshore. Beth Leonard – one of the “it” women of cruising (if there is such a thing)! That line struck a chord with me and I have thought on it ever since I read it. There are times on this journey where I have let fear and worry inhibit me; what if the rigging isn’t adjusted right? What if the engine fails? What if the weather forecast is wrong? What if a shackle fails? What if a halyard snaps? What if, what if, what if…. Scott likes to say, “we are always just a ring-ding away from catastrophe!” Hardy har har har…
Last night was one such situation. We checked the weather and the forecast was 15-20 knots out of the northwest. When we got out there we realized it had changed. Before too long, the wind was 25 to 30 knots out of the West and we were flying. On Rasmus we take 3 hour shifts – Scott and I were lucky enough to have Scott’s Godfather, Uncle Al on board with us (what a trooper!) to divvy up the schedule – sailing offshore is much more manageable when you can get 6 hours of rest. My first shift began with winds 25-30 knots of breeze. Immediately my stomach tightened and I clenched my jaw, “The forecast called for 15-20…” I thought to myself. Imagine if you will; rigging howling, the whole of the boat shuddering with every gust, blackness all around you as giant rolling waves break over the bow with a powerful CRASH!…followed by the SPLAT of the water as its weight lands all over the boat. All you see is the white foam spray over the deck and the white caps of the frothing waves that approach you. It’s 50 degrees, tops – and you are taking the helm. For THREE hours. Yikes.
By the second hour of my shift, I cracked open the can of Red Bull I had* and drank it down. With a newfound boost of energy I decided to look my fear in the face – it was doing me no good out there. So I did. The wind started gusting up to 35 knots, waves were bucking and rearing our old girl but she was stellar. If there is one thing that helped to abate my ‘fear’ last night it was our boat – she is one sturdy vessel, that is for sure.Before I knew it, I was actually having fun. The wind was screaming, the rigging whistling, waves crashing, water coming in through our hatches, spray in my face – and there I was, out there in the darkness alone fighting the wheel as the rudder got rounded up by wave after wave, when suddenly – I caught myself smiling. Holy crap! I was enjoying myself. I had control. I was no longer intimidated by the strength of the wind or the force of the waves, I was simply guiding our vessel through them – and I knew I was safe as long as I was with her. I had faith and a newfound confidence – the kind that you find on the other side of adversity.
Facing your fear is the hardest thing to do – but when you don’t have a choice it’s a heck of a lot easier and you might just find it’s actually a whole lot of fun!
Brittany & Scott
_When two people, with the same life long dream of sailing around the world find each other, there’s only one thing to do… make it happen!
Which is precisely what we, Scott and Brittany, are doing aboard our boat, Rasmus, a Hallberg-Rassy 35 which departed from Chicago in September 2010! Follow along at !