Fears and Worries

All dressed up and too afraid to go: Rediscovering the courage to set out alone

ANNIE LAURIE on the Miami River

As I prepare for a brief 4-day jaunt to Biscayne Bay with my ketch Annie Laurie, a trip I’ve been planning for weeks, I realize it’s been close to 3 years since I’ve taken the boat out sailing on my own.  I’ve decided it’s high time to try again, to remind myself that as much as I love sailing with others, there’s something to be said for the feeling of accomplishment that comes with doing it on your own.

I’ve always been one to be overly prepared when setting out alone, and this time has been no different. I’ve double and triple checked all the engine essentials and spares. I’ve carefully stowed everything below, checked the entire rig, top to bottom; shackles, blocks, lines… I have everything set and ready to go, so upon arriving at the bottom of the Miami River, I should be prepared to quickly and easily set sail on my own.

So, it’s 10:30 AM, and I’m finally ready to set out.

Wait, just let me put those books away.  Oh, and the anchor that’s lying loose on the deck. And the A/C unit. No use in carting that out to sea, without having the power to run it while I’m out there.

Ok, now I’m ready.  Oh wait, the boat on the outside dock is spidered-in for hurricane season. I’ll have to move a few of his lines if I want out. Hmmm.

Just a little bit of uncertainty is a powerful thing, especially when you’re already harboring a few doubts, even if they’re only minor.

Severe thunderstorm over Miami

It’s windy. Gusting to 25 knots at times, from the direction I need to go. Fifty percent chance of severe thunderstorms in the area, though I’m not seeing any indication on the current radar.  I’ve planned this for so long… am I just making excuses now? Or is my intuition rightly guiding me, ensuring my safety, until a more pleasurable weather window opens up?

I cant help but be hard on myself for the increased anxiety I feel building, to sail a mere 5 miles to No Name Harbor, a place I’ve been a dozen of times before.  It’s child’s play compared to the places I’ve taken Annie Laurie in the past.

It was just 4 years ago that I was thoroughly enjoying sailing throughout the Bahamas alone, aside from my cat Effie.  Sure, there were a few hairy moments, but in general, I didn’t think twice before hauling my anchor and getting underway to another new anchorage.  It was just what I did, it was a way of being, and while uncertainty was inherent with sailing to new places, it was rarely something I feared.

ANNIE LAURIE at anchor, No Name Harbor

Is it just a matter of pushing through the fear I feel today? Will I feel any less anxious on another sunny, 10-knot day? Is it the wind, the tight navigation getting out of the marina, the thunderstorms, and my never-ending engine concerns (rational or not) that is the root of my fear? Or have I simply softened, and am fearful of being out there alone again, with only myself to rely on?

As the clock approaches 4:00 PM, I realize that those questions likely won’t be answered today.  So I decide my plan of action (or inaction) must be patience. Another day, another set of weather circumstances, and perhaps words of encouragement from an as-of-yet unknown source, and maybe I’ll find that place inside myself, that I know couldn’t have disappeared completely in the last 3 years, that will have me leaving the dock full of excitement, and not trepidation.

To be continued.

About Laura McCrossin

Laura McCrossinLaura was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and began her sailing career on tall ships in 2001.

For the last 7 years, she has been the proud owner of Annie Laurie, and has sailed her from Canada to Cuba, Mexico, the Bahamas, and many ports in between.

She is the author of Written in Water: An Uncharted Life Aboard a Wooden Boat, available through visiting her website www.scotiansailor.com

More on this website
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    In this series experienced cruising women expose common fears that have nagged them and share ways they’ve found to keep fears from getting in their way.
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4 comments to All dressed up and too afraid to go: Rediscovering the courage to set out alone

  • Adele

    When I first sailed alone I was fearless. Then experience showed me that there are indeed things to fear. It’s not surprising that it becomes harder to leave. But it’s also this experience that brings your strengths.

    my own mental exercise before leaving is to ask what is the worst thing likely to happen? No engine? sail or anchor. Storm that trashes rig? motor or anchor. Aground or on the rocks? Call for help. Accept these possibilities and know that you can deal with them.

    Yes, things can go wrong. But with a conservative sailing style and precautions the bad outcomes are likely survivable. So I would not give up the lifestyle for security. Go! And rejoice in every wonderful good day! Those are really the norm. (We just remember the scary stuff so vividly!)

    Of course, you know that. You’ve lived the life.

  • Adele

    just saw my own reply and was embarrassed! sounds so preachy. Personally, I’m scared every time I leave the dock for a voyage! But once underway it’s so totally awesome again.

  • Capt. Tate

    Like your article and I believe when I sail, you can never be to prepared” and making sure you have a good weather window is also very important” it is not to much fun sailing in storms;Capt.Tate Tetreault

  • Guy G. Lemieux

    I like this posting. I’ve always have a concerned shadow in the back of my mind when I leave the dock, on windy days, or sail on small lakes. Clearing the boats in the docking area when it’s windy is more than tricky at times. Night time anchoring can be hard on the nerves as well when there are many other boats around you. To overcome your fear or worries, is to do it immediately and get it done.
    I don’t know if this helps.
    I always think of this little phrase, A coward dies a thousand times , the brave die but once.


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