When I set off on our sailing adventure over seven years ago I asked myself, ‘who will you become once you’re a sailor?’ I wondered what kind of person I would have to become to live the sailing life. Knowing it was going to change me, I was hoping that the journey would help me to grow. I wanted to become a better version of myself in every possible way.
Do you wonder who you will become once you’re a sailor?
I’m not sure if I realized the important part patience would play.
The definition of patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
I was never a patient person. If I wanted something I’d take action until I got what I wanted even if it was to my detriment. I was one of those ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ people. When a problem presented itself I went into work, or busy, mode and did everything in my power to solve it (or at least look like I was doing something to solve it).
Often I made matters worse but it didn’t matter – at least I was making a move. I was taking action. If you want anything in this world, I thought that you have to get up and go get it.
As a kid, I once attempted to speed up the bread-making process.
It was taking too long so I took the bread out of the oven, plopped it onto a plate, and microwaved it. Why wait if you don’t have to?
No – it did not turn out well. My parents used it as a doorstop to hold open our front inner door. To this day they still laugh at me about it!
During university I didn’t go to my classes – I just read the textbooks and took the exams. Why spend time in a lecture when the books provided all the information AND you could be doing something more productive like going to work to make money?
What a moron I was.
My grandfather, who was very wise and almost always gave me valuable advice, told me never to take up golf. He said that I wasn’t born with the patience to tolerate that game. He was right.
Failing to follow grandpa’s advice, I took a year’s worth of lessons and never did very well. The relationship I had with the golf ball was one of anger. I would build up so much rage that all I wanted to do was hurt the ball. I’d swing so hard and try so forcefully to hit the damn white pitted orb only to completely miss it.
It was only during those freak moments when I forgot what I was actually doing that things went okay.
When I felt light and free and didn’t care about the golf ball, that’s when I’d hit it. Did I notice the glaringly obvious lesson in letting go? NO…of course not.
My level of patience was so low. I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it now. If I couldn’t get it now I’d do some activity that I thought would bring me closer to my goal.
The concept of peace was not in my heart and I had no acceptance of the present moment. I was always striving, moving, working, producing – I had to do more and more and more. Some might go as far as to say that that’s the American way. We’re brought up to get good grades, work hard, produce more, make a difference, add value, strive for the best, never give up and go, go, go.
Well, it’s a good thing that grandpa didn’t warn me about becoming a sailor.
I might have listened to him never had the chance to answer my question of ‘who will you become once you’re a sailor?’
If there’s one thing that will force someone to accept the concept of patience, it’s the sailing life. Everything I write next might just put you off your desire to become a sailor but don’t be deterred by it. It’s all good and you’ll see why.
A boat is naturally in a state of perpetual decay.
There’s always something that needs to be fixed now but you either can’t get the part, don’t know how to fix it, or might not be able to afford the solution. There are also several instances when you have to choose between a variety of things that need fixing choosing the one that makes the most sense.
At first, you think that your list of things to fix/replace will eventually get shorter but the longer you sail the longer the list gets. I’m reminded of that character in Dante’s Inferno that has to roll a massive rock up to the top of a hill but as he approaches the hill the rock breaks and the character has to start again at the bottom.
As soon as you take a few steps forward you’re often set back by five!
When you want to go somewhere you sometimes have to wait days and even weeks before you can make your move. Oh – the luxury of having a car! You get in, turn it on (it turns on!) and you just go to wherever you want.
With a sailing passage, when you finally set sail to take advantage of what’s called a ‘weather window,’ the forecast is often nothing like reality. When heading out into calm seas, wind from the northeast and 15-knot winds it’s often big swells, wind from the southwest, and gusting over 40 knots.
I’m sure you think I’m joking, but I’m not.
And it’s not uncommon to have plans to head to a particular island or country only to end up somewhere totally different due to a variety of issues – breakdowns, stormy seas, complications, change of priorities, just to name a few.
More times than not you’ll head out to sail somewhere and the wind is pointing right on your nose forcing you to decide whether you turn the engine on and motor or spend a couple of days tacking back and forth getting nowhere (which eventually leads to turning your engine on and thinking, ‘we should have done this sooner!’)
It’s not just the sailing and sailboat aspect that can be frustrating.
The lifestyle flat out requires massive patience.
When you go to the grocery store in the tropics it’s almost a certainty that the ingredients you want will not be in stock. Things like tomatoes, lettuce, milk, or a piece of ham won’t be available. The one spice you need to make your special meal won’t be on the shelf and the store clerk will tell you that she’s never heard of the said spice. And even if you do find something amazing, like beautiful fresh red strawberries – by the time you get back to the boat they’ll be mushy and full of mold.
The one reoccurring frustration that took me the longest to accept was when Simon, my husband, would say, ‘Kim – we have a problem.’
At times the boat was filling with water, a part of the boat fell off or there was smoke coming from somewhere where smoke shouldn’t come from. Every time Simon announced a serious issue I would go into panic mode and instigated some epic drama on how we needed to fix this issue immediately – even though we often didn’t know what was actually broken.
Each issue or breakage would push a button sending me into a program where I thought, ‘I can’t take this anymore. This sucks.’ I’d get annoyed, throw a hissy fit and think, ‘why does this happen to us? Woe is me!’
When living the sailing life not much happens quickly.
Problems take a while to solve, almost everything is always delayed and a struggle can go on for what feels like forever.
Doesn’t sound like fun, does it?
The sailing lifestyles saving grace is what’s woven in between the sucky parts of sailing. And the sucky parts aren’t really that bad at all when you find a way to make peace with them.
Your living room is an ever-changing arena of beauty and freshness. New and old boating friends are energizing, supportive, and incredibly helpful. The food that you can find tastes full of vibrancy and nutrition. When the good sailing days present themselves your entire body smiles with awe and gratitude.
And when you fix that issue that’s been driving you insane for a good few days the feeling of elation washes over you with a sense of newfound confidence, gratitude, and healthy pride.
Boat life forces you into defeat, but that’s not a bad thing.
Eventually, you give up. You realize that you can’t control breakages, the weather, the distribution of tomatoes, or your jobs list. It just is what it is.
Eventually, sailors enter a zen-like moment where life becomes more peaceful. You end up accepting things as they are and at the same time wanting more.
You come to a point where you make a plan feeling utter excitement in your decision on where to go next. Your stomach gets butterflies, your mind starts to speculate about the adventures to come, and energy propels you to take the steps in the direction of your plans.
And if your plans change, you instantly realize it’s okay – something better is in store for you.
When something breaks, the button is no longer pushed sending you into a spiral of doom. Instead, something breaks and you enjoy the tension of not knowing what to do next. You’ve been through it 100 times before. There’s an issue, you investigate and eventually, you find the solution and everything works out.
The best part of accepting the sailor’s life is when you can easily straddle between feeling gratitude for where you are at this very moment and where you want to be in the future. There’s no anxiousness. You’re happy right now with what you have and you’re happy right now with the knowledge that what you want is on its way.
My old life was very driven by instant gratification. I was never satisfied and always chasing after something.
My newer life on the sea is one where I’m already satisfied. It didn’t happen instantly and sure, there was struggle along the way, but sailing has taught me a profound lesson on the value of patience.
No longer do I rush my bread making process or need to solve a problem immediately. More often than not, I take more time to do tasks and you’ll often find me removing myself from active life by doing daily meditations. Ironically, just like when I managed to hit the golf ball, when I slow down and just BE (not DO) life tends to work out just fine.
After all these years of living and traveling on a boat, I still look around and pinch myself.
Is this really my reality I ask? Am I really looking out at the beautiful white sand of Anguilla to my port and the vibrant blues, greens, and whites of St Martin to my starboard? Did that gorgeous stingray just leap out of the deep blue sea to wave hello to me? Are those sounds of sea birds and the lapping waves there to last? Is this really my life?!
I didn’t know who I was going to become by heading out to sea. I’m happy with my progress. I’ve grown in ways I couldn’t even comprehend. With a happy and calm heart I sit here in awe of my wonderful life and I also patiently await the next seven years to discover just what else the sailing life will teach me.
Who will you become once you’re a sailor?
Join Us On Britican
If you’re just starting on your pursuit to become a sailing cruiser and want to get a jump start into the life, consider joining us on Britican for a 7 to 12-day liveaboard-sailing-cruiser experience. Learn how to sail, what it’s like to plan passages, the low down on provisioning and cooking in addition to servicing engines, running the water maker, and enjoying a beer while managing the BBQ. Full details here: Britican Experience.
|THE BRITICAN EXPERIENCE - A WEEK-LONG BLUEWATER CRUISING EXPERIENCE
|Julia joined us for a week with her two beautiful children. She had no set of objectives. Her aim was to get an experience. And boy did she! Never having sailed before she took to the helm on day one and never looked back. Julia experience the thrill of sailing, the peacefulness of a quiet anchor, and the deliciousness of a lobster BBQ on the beach. If you'd like to experience what it's truly like to live and cruise on a bluewater sailboat, come join us for a week. Check out our availability here: Click here for more information.
Photo Credits: Eneka Stewart Photography