Friday, December 19, 2014


I am a wuss. I know that might come as a surprise to some of you, but it's true. Prior to any passage longer than twelve hours my belly swarms with butterflies and my mind wells up like a balloon with millions of "what if's." As we haul anchor and set sail, my worry manifests itself into fidgety hands, darting eyes and nervous questions like, "Are we sure this weather window was a good one?" "Do these waves seem bigger than predicted?" "Does the engine sound funny?" and "Wait a it Friday? (Gasp) We can't leave on a FRIDAY!"

Scott just looks at me and shakes his head.  I should know better, he says. I'm not like other girls, he reminds me. Scott is a pragmatist and, for better or worse, he treats me like an absolute equal on the boat. He doesn't coddle me or placate my worry, he simply tells me to suck it up and either a) take the helm or b) get some rest (depending on who takes the first watch). Scott spends no time hemming and hawing, he doesn't believe in unnecessary worry, nor does he pay any mind to sailing superstitions. If the perfect weather window opens on Friday, then we leave on Friday. Mother nature > superstition. Simple as that.

Truth be told, if it were up to me we'd never go anywhere, my worry can - at times - be paralyzing. I need to be pushed out of my comfort zone. Sometimes even dragged kicking and screaming. But once I am out, I love it. I am better for it. Which is just another reason why I love the cruising lifestyle so much - the constant growth into new territories. But that first step? It's a doozie for me.

Being something of a control freak (one of my least favorable traits and the one I do battle with daily), means I have to constantly suppress my need to know *exactly* what will happen and when. This obviously doesn't bode well for the cruising lifestyle (or life in general, really) where control is hugely limited and we must, quite literally, go with the flow. The sea, weather and boat form the trifecta of dominion in our lives - not us - and those three things provide lots and lots of surprises. "Plan" is just another dirty four letter word.

I think this is precisely why many sailors cling to myths. A quick Google search of "marine superstitions" will keep you busy for hours. In fact, I even wrote a post about them years ago, before we set sail. Clearly I am not the only one who finds this loss of control slightly unnerving. We as cruisers are constantly at the mercy of mother nature and live a lifestyle where the feeling of "control" is replaced with that of "adventure." If not bringing bananas aboard your vessel or refusing to look back after you've left port puts your mind at ease and helps you to take that first step, well then, I say to each his own.

Despite this, there are very few superstitions that hold any credibility to me (I already told you Scott's take on the matter). Turns out, most nautical superstitions were born from biblical times and many of them have either been debunked or are simply irrelevant these days. Women are bad luck on a boat? If that was true there'd be a lot more of those awkward single handers I mentioned earlier. We can't all be that bad (Right?) **** crickets****

In place of superstitions, Scott and I are pretty meticulous and methodical about how we care for and maintain our boat. We watch weather closely and sail very conservatively. That's not to say we haven't been bitch slapped here and there, because we have. But no amount of nautical juju is going to keep your engine purring if you don't change it's oil regularly. That said, I do say a little "prayer" to the Universe before we leave and I am always "thankful in advance" for our safe journey. I breathe a little easier if there's a red sky the night before a long passage and I take dolphins swimming at our bow as a very auspicious omen. I think we all have our little beliefs and rituals that we cling to when at sea. After all, the ocean is a constant reminder that we are not in charge, an ever present measuring stick that shows us precisely how tiny and insignificant we are.

So if you do happen to sail with us, please don't whistle. Ever. No need to summon a gale. Thanks.

When you believe in things that you don't understand then you suffer. Superstition ain't the way.- Stevie Wonder

So what about you? Do you have any rituals or superstitions you observe? LOOK Insurance are doing a study and would love to know if you are superstitious on your boat. Take thirty seconds and fill out their very simple three question survey (no need to fill out email address or anything so it's very painless!) and help them out!


Deb and Phil Perfitt said...

Well written, I think you have hit the nail on the head!! For most of us who are cautious we use these worries and mitigate the risks as much as we can so we can have safe passages even the short ones. I heed 2 sayings first better be safe than sorry and any fool can be uncomfortable. Why take risks! As for superstitions well they are just yellow lights to make you think what if.

Anonymous said...

I've whistled a merry tune and ne'er paid the price of an ill wind rising, at least not within conscious memory.
I've had stacks of bananas onboard. I've even sailed long distances on sailboats which had their names changed. And just about all those passages were hunky dory. What I never, ever, want to do again however, is tempt fate and leave on a Friday. Aargh! Not after last time. There must be something to that one after all. As for women onboard, I would only wish for more.

Neophyte Cruiser said...

The art of the sailor is to leave nothing to chance.
~Annie Van De Wiele

Bill said...

There is always the "what if" factor. But if we spend all our time planning for and expecting the worst than we may never do anything else. At some point you just gotta go. But, I'm like you and often second guess, but it usually turns out just fine I'm coming to realize. :)

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