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Old 08-01-2012, 20:48   #1
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I'm Not Afraid to Say I'm Afraid

I am a woman single hander and I returned to my boat in New Bern, NC the day after Christmas after spending a month and a half on a delivery to the BVI's. I spent the next three days provisioning, sewing a window in my bimini, changing the oil and filters, replacing my bow running lights, and completing many other boat projects. I spent hours going over the charts of the ICW between here and Florida. I've now run all the way down to the Stono River, just south of Charleston, and yet I find that tonight I have that familiar shaky, nervous feeling in my gut. I think they call it fear.

There’s a great shop in New Bern called the 4 C’s. I went in there to buy a pair of waterproof shoes for schlepping the dog ashore in the dinghy, and I chatted with the woman who was working there. She asked me the same question that I am often asked by folks who hear that I am a woman sailing alone. “Aren’t you afraid?”

I always give the same answer, which is “No.” I give my reasons about how you’re probably safer in a boat than you are on the Interstate, that you’re just as likely to get mugged or raped in the city – if not more so. Yada, yada, yada.

Tonight, sitting here alone on my boat out at anchor again, I’m thinking that my answer to her was mostly B.S. Courageous I am not. I’m always wondering – Am I going to run aground? Am I going to drag anchor in the strong tidal currents? Am I going to break down? Am I going to be able to care for my elderly dog and keep him alive in these cold temperatures? Can I handle this trip alone?

I am an author and I am reminded of a story I have often told at book signings. This happened years ago when I was invited to a Friends of the Library luncheon in St. Pete. It was held at some bubble gum pink hotel on the beach and several authors were in attendance. They sat one author at each table with about ten library patrons and they were serving those fancy cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off which taste like you’re eating airex foam. I sat next to this tiny blue-haired lady, and when she found out who I was, she said, “I read your book.” I thanked her, and then she added, “Your character Seychelle, she’s reckless.” Then she bit into another foam sandwich.

Her comment stuck with me. I didn’t think of my character as someone who was reckless. I had her do things that I thought were perfectly natural given the circumstances. That made me ask myself if I was reckless.

Let’s see – I rode my bicycle 1,000 miles down the new Baja Highway when I was 19 years old, I crewed (unwittingly) on a drug-running Norwegian schooner for the trip back north up the Mexican coast, I hitch-hiked through Europe, I took off for the South Pacific from Hawaii on a boat with a guy I had known 3 days . . . need I go on?

So, when I returned from that luncheon in St. Pete, I looked up the definition of the word reckless:

“Not recking of consequences; desperately heedless, as from folly, passion, or perversity; impetuously or rashly adventurous.”

Okay, so I will claim ownership to parts of that definition – perhaps the folly, passion and rashly adventurous parts – on occasions, maybe even the perversity. But I am not heedless of consequences. I am scared to death of consequences.

But I know that tomorrow when I am underway again, the shaky feeling in my gut will go away. I get more nervous anticipating doing something, than actually doing it. Being nervous or afraid is normal and pushing through it is how you can get over it.

Oddly enough, I find it far more comfortable on a boat underway than I do putting my writing out before the public. The what ifs in the world of writing and publishing are far scarier to me than reefs, currents or shoals. What if nobody buys my new book? What if nobody ever reads it? What if they read it and they hate it? Putting your writing out there requires far more courage than sailing a boat single handed in my view.

I’d like to close this blog with this cool video that struck a cord with me today. I’ve been feeling nervous and scared, like the forces of nature were ganging up on me, and I’d like to think that if I am the penguin, my readers are the folks in the dinghy.

Very Lucky Gentoo penguin saved by jumping on the boat, running from by killer Whales - YouTube
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Old 08-01-2012, 21:06   #2
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

Remarkable video. That penguin was probably wondering where he could find himself a nice inflatable!
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Old 08-01-2012, 21:19   #3
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

I felt like the whales were thinking "Look, we don't normally mess with people, but if you're going to come down here and start stealing our lunch...."

I mean, mammals eat birds, right? I'm a mammal, I eat birds.
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Old 08-01-2012, 21:25   #4
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

Your story touched me because now, as I look back on some of my boating travels, I am not only scared about what I've done, but scared about my thought process that put me out there. I'm sure there are many other sailors here who would say the same thing, "If I knew then what I know now, I would never have done that." But we must also say now, "I'm glad I tried to go there, and I'm still alive, maybe I'll do it again."
Sail on.
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Old 08-01-2012, 21:40   #5
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

I think of experienced sailors as “professional pessimists”. Rummaging thru their personal nightmare scenarios for a first responder’s solution on how to react, despite the shock and fear.


Given that we have chosen to constantly take responsibility for our actions with a mantra that the rewards often match the risks…. fear is a useful tool when planning.


What I would fear most, is to ever become fatalistic about my next passage
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Old 08-01-2012, 21:47   #6
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

As a kid I played rugby,then as a teenager was one of the first generation rock climbers. Then emigrated to Canada and climbed in the Rockies. Now on my boat I scare myself most times I am out alone or with someone. Most of it is in the brain. Big reason I do it, to challenge myself, not to be reckless but to enjoy the feeling of being places man (or women) should not be.

HAd a friend who was cruising for 8 weeks. When he returned he said that this time he felt relaxed, with his boat tied to the dock.
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Old 08-01-2012, 21:53   #7
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

The thing about fear, in my experience, is you can't run from it. You gotta turn an face it. Go do that very thing you're afraid of doing... Some might consider that reckless, or adventurous, but its the only way to get past fear. Otherwise we are slaves to it and it will dictate how we live our lives (just look at the people around you).

that penguin didn't jump in the boat because he was afraid, he jumped in the boat because he's smart
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Old 08-01-2012, 22:32   #8
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

I get afraid when I read about all the ways people get injured or boats get lost when sailing. I single hand quite a bit too. I also do ALL my own boat maintenance. Mainly so I know I can do it and have work arounds for a lack of strength, etc.

I use to worry about going aground, but I've done that a few times. OK more then a few. Though only once did I need to wait 12 hours for the next high tide. I just call it cleaning the bottom now a days.

I try to plan my trips so I'm not moving through skinny water right at high tide, Least wise areas I'm not familiar with.

Still when the winds pick up at night, I'll be up multiple times in the night checking the anchor. Yet sailing is safer then driving on the highways and people don't think twice about that.

I guess that after so many years, I've already have plan B and sometimes plan C ready in the back of my head for when things get a little interesting.

BTW Welcome to CF.
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Old 08-01-2012, 22:59   #9
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

Christine,

Thank you for your post. I believe that we all experience some level of fear... the question of what we do with it determines where (or if) we go.

Sending you the best wishes for fair winds on your journey. May the memories you create continue to come from the dreams and not the nightmares.

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Old 08-01-2012, 23:48   #10
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

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Originally Posted by callmecrazy View Post
The thing about fear, in my experience, is you can't run from it. You gotta turn an face it. Go do that very thing you're afraid of doing... Some might consider that reckless, or adventurous, but its the only way to get past fear. Otherwise we are slaves to it and it will dictate how we live our lives (just look at the people around you).
I'm not sure about this. There's different kinds of fear, from the gut tingling mentioned above across the spectrum to outright paralyzing terror. Humans also seem to have built in fears, such as dark, heights, acceleration, speed, flashing lights, and moving in circles (ever wonder why the "scary" carnival rides always seem to be circular motion?).

I once took a friend spelunking who was claustrophobic, and wanted to "face her fear." As a child her parents had punished her by locking her in a small box, and she developed a near paralyzing fear of enclosed spaces. She successfully faced her fear long enough for us to get a ways in, and then locked up. I can tell you that underground is not a particularly good place to have an attack of the irrationals .

Not being particularly bright, I had a reinforcement of the same lesson. I was dating a charming young lass who was deadly afraid of heights. As I spent the majority of my free time rock climbing back then, she would accompany our little group, but would wait at the bottom and read. One day she decided that it was time to face her fear and try climbing. Being smote, I agreed. She made it about five feet up before turning to look down, and then vomiting copiously all over my laid out gear at the base of the rock. Untying the knot at the bottom was more than metaphorical .

I think there's a big difference between what the OP is describing, which sounds more like nervousness, and true fear. I'm no psychologist, and I don't even play one on TV, but when someone tells me that they're afraid of something now, I believe them...

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Old 08-01-2012, 23:59   #11
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

That makes good sense.

But, if I had to psycho-analyze the OP (and I'm not shrink either), she's obviously done this before, and probably experienced the same fear before. It was probably just a sense of motivation or freedom that kept her going in previous years.... This time, as usual, it's just regular old fear of the unknown... It's not a debilitating phobia. It's just normal, natural, human, fear.

I could be wrong, so don't go skydiving or spelunking or anything just because I said so but, I firmly believe in facing everyday fears.

I was once told to "do something, every day, that scares you". I don't exactly live by that, but it still resounds within me every time I have to something I'm afraid of. Which happens more often than I'd like to admit... We are all afraid. It's part of our nature and also part of our upbringing. We do things, like sailing, inspite of that fear because we understand the rewards are greater than the consequences (for the most part). If we let our fear stop us, we would never progress in our lives, ever.

So yeah, if you're going to start puking and convulsing, wait until you're cooled off a bit. But if its just a matter of doing something thats causing hesitation and second-guessing, it's probably worth doing. IMO
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Old 09-01-2012, 00:41   #12
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

You have to face your nervousness!

I doesn't have the same ring to it does it? Still, there might be something to it; what we often describe as fear might be more aptly called nervousness, fear being the thing that leaps out and grabs you in the moment, shuts down your higher functions and hands control over to automatic responses. With some people this results in paralysis and with others an adrenalin fueled rush of activity; even a hyper clarity.
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Old 09-01-2012, 02:50   #13
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

It's not that she was in a unformilar anchorage in the ICW on a cold January night but out there somewhere some one in playing the theme to Deliverence on a banjo , to some folks that would make them nervis and afraid but if your me I would just pull out my banjo and answer back and have my shot gun handy ( no fear ) just smart.

Think about happy thoughts like my friend Larry is near Green Turtle Cay and he has been averaging 10 lobster a day and yesterday he caught a 55 lb ohwau to eat. He called on Skype this afternoon just to rub it in and invite my wife to join them.

Have a great trip
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Old 09-01-2012, 04:08   #14
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Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

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Originally Posted by christinekling View Post
Putting your writing out there requires far more courage than sailing a boat single handed in my view.
No Fear = No Brain (and "fear" not the same as a blind panic ).

Nice to read a literate post on CF .
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Old 09-01-2012, 04:21   #15
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pirate Re: I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid

Hi.... my two pennies worth.. if I may..
I feel that the word fear is another word thats been devalued like the word hero...
In this day of instant news everyones a hero.. a 3 yr old falls down a hole and gets trapped... he's a brave little hero..
When I was a kid I was a silly little sod who'd likely get a clip round the ear for causing all that trouble accompanied by "How many times have I told you.... Don't Play There....."

Fear to me = Respect... I'm sensible... I deeply respect everything stronger than me... but I'll face it eye to eye..
Real fear is the person walking down the street eyes down, looking up at no one and praying no one will notice them..
or the hyper butch guy in leathers with the pit bull on a leash trying to use reverse psychology and get everyone else more scared than he is...
Don't watch the Psycho movies... it screws up the brains programing when you have to deal with reality...
Take Perfect Storm..
Now everyone thinks storms at sea are like that... and waves are that big...
Its Hollywood.. no one knows how big it was... and that fishing boat was no bigger than the ones that sank near me in a storm in the Biscay...

We create our own fears... and the memories that instigate them..
Choose your memories more selectively... you'll live less fearfully...
And remember.. its human nature to exaggerate.

Wot a loada babble.. ahhh WTH... POST.....



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