Fears and Worries, How We Learn

Ruth Allen's secret weapon against fear: the theme song from Gilligan's Island

Ruth Allen , sailing P.E. Bay, September 2009 My first sail was on May 24th 1999, I was 41 years old.

My husband had sailed from the time he was a young boy, starting off in dinghies. We had purchased Thetis, a Halcyon 23, restored her and were now ready to sail.

There was one small problem: her engine was not functioning. A long time sailor and racer told us shove her off the dock and go sailing.

That first day was uneventful, the sailing was nice, and sailing to the dock went well.

Sailing to the dock was something we continued to do even after we had a motor, to keep in practice and because that little boat was so easy to handle.

Our second sail was a different matter.

The winter before we launched Thetis, we had taken courses.

I knew all the correct names for things and some basic navigation skills but really had no practical experience. One sail does not count.

On that second day we ran down the reach under the genoa. It was a nice little run. As usually happens in that area the wind picked up, and when we turned to head back I felt the boat was over pressed.

An unsuccessful tack put us too close to a point, at least that is how it seemed to me.

At this point I began being frightened, which was heightened when my husband said we need to raise the main.

I thought (not understanding the balance of the sails) that if we were hard pressed with one sail, two would be entirely too much.

That was of course wrong…but since I was already scared I did not really process what was being explained to me.

The wind was picking up, white appearing on the water. We were heeled hard over, sailing on her ear as the saying goes. Very dramatic, at least to me, the wanna be sailor.

The main went up, the boat behaved better, until the genoa began to tear. Mark wanted me to steer while he changed head sails, I wanted to do the sail change.

The reach had become quite lumpy with the bow going up and down, all I could think was if it goes wrong and he goes off the boat, I don’t know enough to be able to get him out of the water!

It was May and the waters in Lake Ontario are very cold at that time of the year.

I knew where I would run out of water, but that would not help a man overboard. This was a terrifying thought to me.

gilligans-island-show As I followed the calm concise instructions of Mark I began to hum the theme from the old TV show Gilligan’s Island. (If you are unfamiliar with this song or show, see end of post.)

Sail changed down to a working jib, we made our way to our dock and sailed up to it quite nicely once again.

I decided on that day, that I had to learn more about sail handling and boat handling. It was clearly unsafe to do anything else.

I still hummed that tune whenever I got nervous, and I kept on sailing.

Ruth at the helm, Dismal Swamp CanalI also became the wind watcher…scanning the horizon for signs of wind changes, mostly looking for the signs of increasing wind, so we could change down sails, before becoming hard pressed.

The same conditions we encountered on my second sail would not be frightening to me today, which is not to say that I never get nervous.

Sailing more and learning more each time helps me feel more competent and less nervous.

Gilligan’s Island

Quite a few of us grew up watching the TV show Gilligan’s Island.

(In case you are unfamiliar with this 1960′s sitcom, five passengers and two crew set sail on the charter boat Minnow on a three-hour cruise. They shipwreck in a storm and take refuge on an uninhabited tropical island where they remain stranded throughout the series.)

And perhaps it has affected our view of cruising. Here is the theme for Gilligan’s Island, thanks to YouTube.

About Ruth Allen

Ruth, ready to drop down in the lock I have been living aboard Witchcraft, my Tom Colvin designed ketch for the last six years. As soon as my four children were launched my husband (Mark) and I emptied the house, and left the land behind.

We are not full time cruisers since we are not retired. I work at West Marine Canada which gives me the opportunity to combine work and pleasure.

I live in Canada and sail every chance I get. I came to sailing later in life and found a new passion.

Visit Ruth’s blog: www.mytb.org/svwitchcraft

Related articles
More info

What helps when you feel afraid? What challenged you to learn to become a good sailor?

Leave a comment below or email us: kathy@forcruisers.com

Pin It

Leave a Comment




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>