This year we realized a long time dream – having a sailboat was truly a lifetime dream for my husband, and something we had both fantasized about since getting married 13 years ago. But it wasn’t turning out to be quite the idyllic bliss I’d imagined. Don’t get me wrong – I love our boat, how it has given us a bonding point for our family and new friends, and the time on the water. However, the overall amount of anxiety coming from this new part of our lives was more than I had anticipated. Being a good consultant at heart, I finally sat down to consider the sources of stress and figure out a plan of action. I quickly realized that fundamentally this was an issue of being on the steepest part of the learning curve on many dimensions at once. I was trying to learn everything from which lines control the jib, to how to operate the cockpit shower, to what food worked best for a lunch out on the water.
Atop the list, dwarfing everything after it, was docking. I had never docked a boat until we had our own baby and frankly I found it terrifying. Each time we left and came back into the dock, I gained a bit more experience – but too often that was only showing me more clearly what could go wrong. Far from easing my fears, I found myself starting to push back on taking the boat out because I knew it would mean that eventually we would come back and have to dock her. This I quickly decided, was crazy, and was not the reason we got the boat. The John A. Shedd quote is one of my favorites: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” And so I needed to find a solution.
This is how I came to find myself up at dawn on a Sunday morning, driving across the Bay Bridge in the morning light for the second day in a row. I was heading back to Rock Hall, Maryland for day two of my docking class. The winds had been too strong on our first day to practice going in and out of slips as planned, so that was on our agenda for today – and I was distressed to say the least. The first day, as we left the slip to start our time on the water, I found my anxiety as high as the mast. I thought about this as I drove – we had a highly experienced Captain onboard as instructor, handily directing his four students on how to exit the slip. Despite the strong winds, he did not show the slightest concern, and had the knowledge and skill to get us out of any jam we could get into. So why had I been standing there on the deck with my heart racing and knots in my stomach? I could see then how disproportionate my reaction had been to the situation at hand, even if my fear was real. And I knew that I needed a better plan for the day to come as we spent the whole day going in and out of slips, otherwise my fear would jeopardize my ability to do what I came to do.
At that moment the lyrics of Great Big Sea’s music struck me like a gust of wind….”Hey…Hey somewhere you threw your fear in the sea of no cares.” Immediately I knew that was what I had to do. I listened to the song over and over and over as I drove, adapting the words to be my mantra for the day: “Hey… HERE is where I threw my fear in the sea of no cares.” I had to let the fear go. I have practiced mindfulness long enough to know I could recognize it when it came up – and I had to make the decision that when it did I would cast it out into the water to drift away. Fear was not going to serve me today, and I would not let it get in my way.
I won’t say the day was easy, and there might be a piling or four on Lankford Bay with a little more “character” than they had before. But I can’t wait to take our boat out and practice what I’ve learned.
“Hey somewhere you threw your fear in the sea of no cares. Let yourself go with the tide, There’s an angel by your side” — Sea of No Cares, by Great Big Sea