Are you totally 100% up to live the sailing dream or do you have some niggles or fears that are causing you concern? Do you lay awake worried wondering how you’re going to make your plans a reality? Are you more specifically worried about health matters or what will happen if you get sick/injured – perhaps speculating worst case scenarios? Maybe you are thinking, ‘it’s a great idea to set sail but it won’t work for me because of ________’. It’s amazing how fears can cause us to put our life on hold or make it very uncomfortable.
Recently I had what seemed to be a serious medical scare. I appeared to be having a heart attack while anchored off a deserted island in the middle of nowhere. After a series of events (dinghy ride, ambulance, hospital stay, private plane ride, another ambulance, another hospital, another plane ride, another hospital), I discovered that my issue was minor and there were easy solutions to ensure good health. I’m now back on the boat and feel great.
But the question I want to explore is whether or not the experience has caused me to become more or less fearful about sailing around the world.
And what lesson might you learn based on my experience? Read on…
Through social media, emails and even phone calls, I had loads of caring and concerned people that watch our YouTube channel and read our articles get in touch.
The lovely people that contacted me, interestingly, fell into two different categories of mindset. Both categories sympathized with me but thereafter there was a major split in the mindset of each group.
(Before I go further, please know that I changed the names of all the people who are mentioned in this article. If you ever write to me I will never share your name unless you let me know it’s okay to do so).
The first group of people that contacted me made their health condition an excuse not to go cruising or to cruise with limits.
For example, Jess from Ontario, Canada explained to me, ‘Due to my heart condition I’ve been too afraid to sail long passages. And even when we do sail I always have in the back of my mind that something might happen…’
And John from Fort Lauderdale, Florida wrote, ‘Kim, I can’t imagine living through your medical emergency – how frightening! Your experience is the exact reason why my wife and I don’t want to leave sight of the coast.’
The people in this category operate from a fear base.
They are afraid of what might happen if they were to be on a boat and a medical emergency struck. Until my recent emergency, I have to admit that this is the group that I most frequently operated from. I wasn’t afraid of a medical emergency due to the fact that I’ve never been ill before however, I was simply afraid of life in general.
I’ve lived in fear of everything…but that’s changed a bit now though. Read on.
The other category of people that contacted me used their health condition as a testament that shit happens but we’re still alive so let’s live to the fullest and get out sailing more.
Joan from London, UK wrote, ‘The reason I decided to start sailing was actually due to the fact that I experienced heart problems! I realized that my lifestyle on land was too hectic and stressful. Since I’ve been sailing (over three years now) I’ve never had a reoccurrence.’
And one of our readers that we met up with in the UK recently told me an amazing story. I haven’t contacted him to ask his permission to retell the tale so let me use a fake name. Let’s call him Ed.
Ed went out for a solo sail.
His heart started to race, similar to my situation, and after a while, he realized it wasn’t going to stop. Thinking he was having a heart attack, he radioed the Coast Guard with a Pan Pan and said he’ll turn the boat around and set a course back to England.
The boat was rocking and rolling and he felt his energy dissipate. The next thing he remembers is that he woke up because the boat stopped rocking and rolling. When he looked up there was a huge tanker next to the boat blocking the weather.
A few employees on the tanker lifted him out with a crane, a helicopter came to take him to the mainland and the Coast Guard came out to sail the boat back to England. Amazingly the CG followed the plotter track and put the boat back in Ed’s slip for him!
In the end, Ed had a similar thing to me (racing heartbeat) and he was fine. But what’s amazing about this story is that even though Ed was alone and passed out, everyone around him worked together to help him. I love the humanity of stories like this – despite all the negative news we get told, people are good.
People are out to help…and not just in the cruising community – everywhere.
Ed is still sailing and currently in the process of buying a larger boat to start a cruising lifestyle with his wife a child. His experience strengthened his mindset that the universe (or God or whatever he believes in) will support him on his adventures.
After I wrote the article, Medical Emergency On A Deserted Island, and during the updates that we provided over YouTube and the website, I received 347 emails from the two different mindsets that can be simply explained as:
Group 1 Mindset: Your experience is the exact reason why we shouldn’t cruise
Group 2 Mindset: Your experience is the exact reason why we should cruise
When the emails started coming in, the first few I got where from Group 1. The writer told me about having a similar issue, complications that ensued and why they’ve called an end to ‘living the dream.’ My heart sunk when I read them and I initially started thinking that perhaps it’s time to move back to land.
And as time went by I started getting more and more emails from people in Group 2. These people all told a similar story – they had an issue like mine (or far worse – one guy eventually had to have a triple bypass!), they got it sorted and it gave them a reason to go out and live more.
One group decided to play it safe, conveyed regret but concluded it was out of their hands. Another group decided that they are safe, conveyed excitement about the opportunities available and went sailing.
After seeing doctors in the UK and agreeing on solutions to my health issue it was time to go back to the boat. When we returned to the Caribbean I was slightly wary. I definitely wanted to return but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about being on the boat.
Before we left the boat I was exhausted, scared and a bit gun shy.
We spent a few days on the boat waiting for the next available flight to the UK. Every noise scared me. Hearing the anchor pull up made me nervous. I felt as if I couldn’t take any kind of stress. At this point, I had spent four days in a Grenada hospital and was told I had a serious heart condition! Lucky for me we had our guest onboard Britican, Andrew, so I didn’t have to do anything. I went to bed and just tried to relax knowing that I had to fly to the UK to get my heart sorted.
After a month in the UK, and a solution to my heart issues, I was definitely ready to return to Grenada and the boat. When we landed in the warm tropical lush island, I felt amazing. I thought…’Gosh, I love the tropics. Yes, England is great and I love it there too, but nothing beats the warm weather, seeing the sun and smelling that salty sea air.’ When I got on the boat, I felt in my heart, ‘You are home. You are safe.’
Thinking I was doing well, I relaxed back into the Caribbean way of life instantly.
On day three of being back on the boat, we decided to move the boat from our anchorage to a marina where Simon’s dad is staying. Simon’s dad, Keith, flew out with us for a week’s vacation in the sun. Keith is not very mobile so staying on the boat is not possible. We booked him into a small boutique marina/resort near our anchorage.
Having issues with our freshwater system and needing to repaint our anchor chain markings (to know how much is let out), we decided to put the boat in the marina for a couple of days. That way we’d be closer to Keith and we could also get some jobs done.
Due to the fact that we were going to film, we had Andrew leave the boat and stand on the dock. It was just Simon and I. Sienna, our daughter, was on land with Keith.
It was the first time I had to take responsibly on the boat since the medical emergency – how did I feel?
I’d love to say that I slipped into Group 2 mentality and it didn’t phase me at all but that wasn’t true. As soon as I realized that Andrew wasn’t going to be on board, for me to hide behind, I started to shake with nerves.
I wasn’t shaking due to the fact that I had a medical scare. My shaking came from nerves because I always shake with nerves when we move the boat. I especially shake when the engine is on. We’ve had a few engine failures (in really bad places) and they’ve caused me great anxiety (most recently in Trinidad our engine failed in a shipping lane between two very close islands with a ship approaching quickly and no possibility of anchoring – make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel as that video is coming soon).
For some reason, my fear was exacerbated because I was watching myself to see how I was going to react. I was more aware of my fear than usual.
Please read this clearly… I have been a Group 1 person forever.
I’ve been sailing with a great deal of fear forever. For some reason, for the past five years, I’ve pushed myself to continue but it hasn’t always been necessarily enjoyable.
My fear is present when we move in tight spaces under engine power and at times fear creeps up during night sails – I lay awake thinking, ‘What if we hit a wale? What if a wave washes Simon off the boat? What if…’
However, a moment of clarity came over me as if I was splashed with a bucket of refreshing water.
But let me step back a few minutes previous to my clarity…I ran through the things I needed to do. Take the snubber off the anchor, pull the anchor up, put the fenders on and sort out the warps, or ropes, for the jetty.
I looked out at the Atlantic Ocean seeing huge waves, knowing we had to head out to sea and come around an island to enter the marina channel. Knowing the boat was going to drastically flit from side to side, the waters were particular tumultuous in this particular area. I also knew there would be reef all around us with waves crashing on the surface.
And of course, the wind was blowing 35 knots! It’s always the case when you enter a marina – there’s either high wind or a squall hits. Murphy’s law is what I think they call that?!
Anyway…my moment of clarity.
As I slowly walked towards the anchor shaking with nerves I thought, ‘Kim, you have a choice. You don’t have to choose to be in Group 1. You can choose to be in Group 2′. I then had this bizarre realization that the fear I was holding wasn’t a part of me. It was a thing attached to me. I saw myself enclosed in a dark gray taco shell and then I saw it unwrap and fall off of me onto the deck.
Talk about a crazy visualization.
I then thought I don’t need to be Kim with fear. I can be Kim without the fear… As I started my walk from cockpit going forward I was fearful. By the time I got to the mast the fear was gone and I felt perfectly calm. I suddenly stood taller and thought, ‘I can do this.’
It’s as if I didn’t ‘own’ my experience before. I let fear own me.
For the first time, as long as I can remember, I had a very long moment of calmness. I felt what it felt like to not be afraid. It was pure bliss. I dawned on me that this is how Simon must feel…this is how loads of people must feel. You don’t freaking know what you don’t know. I didn’t know what it felt like to be calm while moving and preparing our boat to enter a marina.
Of course, I then sat in the cockpit wondering how long it was going to last. I watched my mind: ‘Is there fear here – no? Where is it? I don’t know where it went. It feels amazing! This is how ‘normal’ people must feel. I assumed I had to push through my fear and do it anyway…but it felt far better to simply drop my fear altogether.’
As my mind was racing, in a good way, Simon jarred me away from my moment of enlightenment. It was time to enter the marina.
Everything went seamlessly.
Now I’m wondering if I can make that fear disappear again and again and again? I’ll have to let you know as time goes on. I’m hoping to make sure that I recognize if and when I’m wearing my taco shell AND to know how to let it fall off.
I often tell our daughter, Sienna, ‘Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.’ That saying comes from a self-help book by Louise Hay that I read when I was 18-years-old. For years I’ve felt the fear and kept going. But it’s hard, uncomfortable, and contrary to common belief, the fear doesn’t disappear the more often you feel it. If anything, I think that it might just grow.
From now on I think I’m going to explain to Sienna my realization and just tell her, ‘take the taco shell off!’
What are your thoughts on this topic? What scares you? Where do you hold fear? Are you willing to make a different choice and to drop it? What about medical reasons causing you not to get out sailing? Are any fears causing you not to live the sailing dream?
Fear is a taught thing – it’s not part of our make-up or our character. We do have the choice to drop it. THIS IS NOW KNOW.
Hey – if you like my writing style and want to help make more articles possible, please support Britican by purchasing one of our Sailing Guides or get my book, ‘Changing Lifestyles- Trading the Rat Race In For a Sail Around The World.’ All proceeds go to making these articles and our YouTube channel possible.