Sailing Past Your Fears


“A ship in harbor is safe- but that is not what ships are for.” ~John Shedd 


We all have fear. Fear is the physiological reaction to being catapulted out of our comfort zone. Fear has been ingrained into the human mind since the beginning of our race. The cave dwellers had a fear of large clawed and toothed animals, come to think of it, so do I! Medieval folks were fearful of “unexplained” phenomenon. We, in the 21 century have had most of those phenomenon, and most of the “large clawed and toothed” animals eradicated from our everyday lives. But, we still have fears. Fear for our childrens safety, fear for the health of loved ones, fear of losing our jobs (for those with jobs, but then, we are not talking about me). These are normal fears that are an everyday part of modern society.

“A Fear of Sailing”

For many people sailing a boat is a special activity that helps to bring them closer to nature or cope with everyday stresses.”Sailing is the closest I can get to nature – it’s adrenaline, fear, a constant challenge and learning experience, an adventure into the unknown. And of course there is nothing better than wearing the same T-shirt for days and not brushing my hair for weeks.Daria Werbowy

 But for many sailing is something that causes fear, the pulse can race just imagining stepping onto a sailboat let alone going out and putting up the sails. And then there is that “tilting” thing. What is that all about?

And for many couples (and parents with sailing offspring) there is a strain if one of the partners has a passion for sailing and the other has some fears. Many spouses are willing to “go along” with the sailing but never get comfortable on the boat. Some are unable to overcome their discomfort meaning their spouse/partner must make the choice to indulge in the sport without or forgo sailing altogether.

There is a better way!

Do you remember when you learned to drive a car. At first it all seemed overwhelming but after some lessons, with an instructor you trusted, it all became second nature. You no longer “think” about steering the car and shifting the gears you just do. Learning to sail and becoming comfortable on a boat is the same. You can overcome your fears, or at least learn to channel the benefits of your fear and enjoy the natural beauty and learn from sailing. As George Adams said; “Sailing a boat calls for quick action, a blending of feeling with the wind and water as well as with the very heart and soul of the boat itself. Sailing teaches alertness and courage, and gives in return a joyousness and peace that but few sports afford.


One of the best ways to move forward is to get acquainted with sailing and a sailing boat. What is (slightly) humorous is the way sailing is usually taught today. Most new sailors start in small boats that have a tendency to be less stable, they “tip” more, and they require fast reactions and of course the new sailor can be overwhelmed. If you start sailing in a large boat the vessel is much more stable and needed reaction times are much slower. Plus, a larger boat is much more forgiving when it comes to mistakes, Make an incorrect decision on a dingy and you may go swimming, on a larger boat you may come to a stop but that is just fine. Also, when on a larger sailboat you bring your accommodations with. The creature comforts must be seen and experienced to truly appreciate. With a little forethought from the Skipper a new sailor can learn the basics of boat handling in a few hours. In a weeks’ time a newcomer will be able to handle a large sailboat in most situations. This is not to say a beginner can take the boat into a dock but most other situations are easily mastered. Also, to learn basic sail handling skills takes a few days; to become a “sailor” takes a lifetime! And at some point in the road to becoming a sailor one must master the rudiments of small boats.

I treat all the newcomers (and a lot of “experienced” sailors) who are on the boat and want to learn to sail in the same way. Whether you are fearless (not necessarily conducive to good learning), have a skeptical appreciation, or are downright “Scared!” my approach is the same. I do the following when you come aboard;

  • Spend some time getting acquainted with the interior of the boat including the accommodations, the kitchen (Galley), and the bathrooms (Head)
  • Spend a short time explaining the working of the exterior (deck) of the boat
  • Spend a very short time explaining how the rig and sails work, you don’t need to know “what do all those ropes do” that is my job
  • Give a safety briefing so that you will know what not to do to stay safe
  • Talk about what is to be accomplished and where we might go
  • Spend time getting to know each other in this “new” environment, usually over food and drink


Then you can relax (remember that is what you are here for) and I will take the boat out of the harbor. Then we spend a few hours together learning how to steer the boat under motor in open water;

  • I will show you how to maneuver and then it is your turn (don’t worry, I will sit by you the whole time, helping)
  • You will practice bringing the boat to a buoy under motor (a very soft buoy)


Then we will go sailing, you can watch, or participate, depending on your comfort zone. I am very capable and willing to sail the boat by myself. After a few hours, or days, depending on you, you will be able to comfortably sail the boat.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” ― Maya Angelou


  1. Ulrike · October 20, 2014

    About my first sailing experience on Julia II, Ulli Wende

    August/September 2014, for the first time in my life I spent several days on a sailboat. Since my so far personal relation to big waters was to be described as very “respectful” the time before the actual cruise was dominated by skepticism, in the event absolutely unsubstantiated.

    Actually, my sailing with Bob turned out as a fantastic experience. Even though we had strong winds (according to my judgment) and some swell I always felt safe due to skipper Bob´s composure and professionalism. After a detailed briefing about the boat, it´s emergency equipment and basic terms as well as commands Bob did some hands on training with the new crew members. So I ended up myself steering the boat towards a buoy. This was real fun, right from the beginning. The entire introduction provided me confidence in the boat, the skipper and the crew including myself. Because the entire sailing trip followed this scheme of professional seamanship, combined with relaxed confidence, passion and understandable explanations prior to the action I never felt unsafe, never. Hence, this for sure has not been my last sailing trip, preferably on board of the Julia II with Bob as skipper.

    Finally, I would like to express: The acupressure bands against sea sickness worked perfect 😉

    • wannathermal1 · October 20, 2014

      Thanks Ulli, and the week was very fun for me also, after I was mobile again!

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