“I figured that was the best reason to do it. Because I was afraid to.”
This was something a very good friend of mine told me years ago. (Sonnie, if you’re reading this, thank you!) She was talking, at first, about starting triathlon training because she was afraid to swim long distances, but she found the principle so inspiring she applied it to many other “obstacles” in her life—becoming a single parent, moving to another state, starting a new job—and she succeeded in all of them. The theory always stuck with me. So simple. So true. If you’re avoiding doing something you want to do because you are afraid, that is the very best reason to do it. Conquer your fears!
That’s what I am doing this summer. As many of you may have seen in the announcement at the end of my most recent YouTube video, I will be joining in the Pensacola a la Habana race this April with SailLibra in order to get more days on the water for a goal I have set for myself this summer. While the big goal is to get my Captain’s License, the bigger accomplishment I seek to achieve is to get over one very big fear I have had for a while. One I have had for too long. It frustrates me, frightens me and makes me want to do just as Sonnie said: Do it because I’m sick of being afraid of it.
What am I afraid of?
Steering the boat. Not so much when we’re out there in the big blue. (There are many, hundreds, of reasons why I love offshore sailing, but one is … there’s not many things to run into out there.) And not so much when we’re on a steady tack and just holding a heading. But I am terrified of steering our boat in and out of the dock, through tight channels and around shoals and other obstacles. I have a huge fear of crashing her into pilings, other boats, rocky bottoms, big concrete sea walls. I’m seeing this all in my mind as I write this, just as I always do when I think about docking our boat. And, that’s awful! I want to travel the world by sailboat. I want to go cruising! While it’s great that Phillip is an excellent helmsman and I’m a pretty kick-ass First Mate, I shouldn’t let that fear get the best of me. Something could happen to Phillip. He could fall overboard. Become incapacitated. Or heck, maybe I will want or need to single-hand at some point. Just to give him a break or because, whatever, life happens. Some of my very best friends are single-handed female sailors because their husbands passed away immediately and unexpectedly and they inspire me to no end because they still get their boats out and go. (Bridgette, Pam, I am so proud of you!) All of that to say, you never know what the future holds and there is no excuse for living in fear. This is the year I conquer my fears.
So, this summer Video Annie is going to sea school! We’re focusing on education, training and, most importantly, sticking Annie behind the wheel. Even when she’s scared. Even when the boat is nearing the bock. Even when it’s a difficult situation and she wants to throw her hands up and have someone else take the wheel. Captains Randy and Ryan with SailLibra have been gracious enough to offer me time on their day charter boats (an Irwin 37 and Beneteau 35) while our Niagara is still down in the Keys. Phillip and I are planning to bring her home in April and I’ll plan to take the helm the majority of that trip and our many trips this summer. I am docking our boat dangit! And then I’m de-docking it (Annie term) and docking it again. I’m sick of getting this nervous knot in my stomach every time I take the wheel. I want to look like this behind the wheel. All kicked back and confident.
“Yeah buddy!” my Dad would say.
While the helm work is the pinnacle for me, Phillip and I also want to increase our training and education. We have signed up for an STCW class (Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) in April and I will also begin Captain’s School in May. After counting my days on the water (I can’t believe I have racked up so many in just over three years!), I only need a few dozen more to be able to apply for my license so I will be gathering Sea Service Forms and all of the other elements necessary to apply. While I am excited and will be so proud to obtain my Captain’s License, it is all part of a bigger goal to become a more educated, knowledgable and a confident sailor. I will be way more proud when I pull our beautiful Niagara into the slip and dock her all by myself. Then de-dock and dock her ten more times in a row not because of luck but because I know how and can do it in all kinds of conditions, comfortably and confidently. That is a day I will be incredibly proud.
So, my time has come. I’m going to push myself and bring guys along for the ride. Watch, learn and grow with us.
Step aside fear! And give me that helm!