Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Break on Through to the Other Side

The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear - fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable.  What he wants above everything else is safety.  ~Henry Louis Mencken

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 dies?  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...Helpful, honey.  Helpful.

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, booming CRASH!...followed by the loud 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 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' that night it was our boat - she is one sturdy vessel, that is for sure.

When wind was under 30, we called it a "lull".  25 is the new 15!
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 rounded up with every powerful 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 never know - you might just find it's actually a whole lot of fun!


Mike Tehensky said...

GREAT post and glad to know you guys are ok! I find myself looking forward to the blogs more and more. It's like I'm truly right there with you....ps after your journey you should write a book! You have a way with words!

Windtraveler said...

Ha! Thanks Mike - I love to hear that! About the book, well, we'll see... :)

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Great post! I can only hope I handle myself as well as you did whenever I find myself in the same situation. So glad it turned out well, and fun! Also, love that quote about losing control and it turning to fear - so true.

Drew and Melanie said...

Sounds fun from here! Reminds me of a song by Kenny Chesney called Boats. The boat was named "The Other Side" because it made it through a hurricane. If you are not familiar with his music, download the cd "old blue chair". It is all about the Virgin Islands. Love that music. Here are the lyrics to boats, written for people who like boats. Enjoy.

Ol' Joe's got a Boston whaler
he bought in Key Biscane
He swears since the day he's got her
she's been nothing but a pain
when the sun's at his back
and the winds in his face
it's just him and the wheel
he wouldn’t take a million for the
way it makes him feel

vessels of freedom
harbors of heeling

Newport is where John hung his hat
til he lost his wife Jo
now forty feet of sail and teak
is where Ol' John calls home
he watched his life pass before his eyes
in the middle of a hurricane
came out alive on the other side
that’s where "the other side" got its name

vessels of freedom
harbors of heeling

twenty years of a landlocked job
was all that tom could take
sitting at his desk
all alone and depressed
says this just cant be my fate
went home that night and told his wife
you can tell all of your friends
it's been real but it ain't been fun
gonna get us one of them

vessels of freedom
harbors of heeling

vessels of freedom

Ford said...

Great posts, keep em coming!!

Julie Melissa said...

I am laughing out loud about your Red Bull comment. Great post indeed. TOWANDA!!!! I love every moment of your journey. So proud of you two. I second everything Mike said above. Excellent stuff!!!

Junaid said...

Nice post. I like your comment about 25 being the new 15, that just about sums up how I felt. The threshold of what you consider acceptable keeps increasing as you face tougher challenges. What kind of sail configuration do you use in winds of that speed (25-30kts) ? Do you just keep plugging along on the same heading during the gusts or try to run off to lessen the apparent wind speed ?

Anonymous said...

Here in the work-a-day world, we say (oh so sarcastically) we're "living the dream", or "another day in paradise". You two can actually say those words sincerely!

Chels-pup said...

I love this post. indeed the most amazing "ah-ha" moments - the moments of exultation - are when we shake hands with our fears, pay them respect, and then ask them to kindly step the hell outa the way.

But Brittany, "im a women therefore I want to take care of others"? interesting generalization.....is someone's biological clock ticking??

ps. i want to illustrate your book. Love you, sisto (and scott too)

Chad Gleason said...

I am a fan of the redbull for night watches too. Are you hand steering at night or do you use the windvane or autopilot?

Windtraveler said...

Thanks for the comments all...
@Melanie- thanks for sharing - LOVE LOVE LOVE it!! Will try to download...they truly are vessels of freedom, aren't they? Nice way to look at it.
@ Julie - love you too! To pieces!
@ Junaid - we had one reef in the main and the full jib to start, then put in the second reef...then we rolled up the jib about half way, but the shackle holding the cam cleat broke so we rolled it up fully...we wanted to put up our gale sail, but by that time it was too dangerous for Scott or I to go forward, so we just did it with a fully reefed main (we have two deep reefs) - we had a lot of weather helm, but other than that - she was a dream!
@ Chels - haha! No biological clock...you should have seen me doting on Kevy when he was seasick!!!
@ Chad - hand steering...no windvane yet and would never trust our autopilot in that kind of wind and waves :)

Team Giddyup said...

I enjoyed reading this a lot. Perhaps I've missed this (probably) but do you have self-steering gear? I'm curious why you are hand steering...unless you are just enjoying it of course.

Windtraveler said...

Thanks Estrellita! We do not have a windvane (yet) but do have an autopilot, however in the seas and winds we were in there was no way we'd trust it...plus, hand steering in those conditions makes for summer arms! HA!

Team Giddyup said...

Gotcha - thanks. I understand now. We wouldn't use our autopilot in those conditions either. Enjoy!!!

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