Fear of Sailing – Part One: The First Lessons

When I first stepped on board a sailboat, I became frozen with fear.

The Burrard Street Bridge at the entrance to False Creek where our sailing school, Sunwing, was based.
“Let’s go sailing!” “Why?”

The first time I stepped onto a sailboat, the day was warm and sunny, but I was ice-cold—frozen with fear. Sailing lessons had been my husband’s idea, not mine.

“It’ll be fun,” Frank said.

“For who?” I asked

For him, obviously. Not for me. As soon as the boat began rocking in the waves, I was terrified, but I couldn’t explain why. On a rational level, I knew we weren’t in danger; on an emotional level, I was sure death by drowning was imminent.

But although I may have been a wimp, I wasn’t a quitter. I would see the lessons through, but that was all. When they were done, so was I—with small boats, that is.

I’m trying to put a brave face on things, but I’m not happy. You can see by the glassy water that there’s no wind – my kind of sailing weather!

Somehow, miserable and seasick, I persevered. I even aced the written exam. But when the time came for me to take the practical exam that would give me my Basic Cruising certificate, my instructor advised against it.

“I don’t think you’re ready to captain a boat,” he said. I laughed. Not only did I have no desire to captain a sailboat, I had no plans to ever step into one again.

Frank passed his exam with flying colours, of course. And although he vowed at the time that he would never suggest that we buy a boat of our own, it was a promise he didn’t keep. Five years later we bought the Zephyr. But before I could agree to that purchase, I had to make a start at understanding my fear and coming to terms with it.

Frank loved every minute of those lessons!

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Next post: Fear of Sailing – Part Two: A Cage of Fear

Author: Mary Anne Hajer

My husband, Frank, and I are both retired teachers. We were in our fifties when we first set foot on a sailboat. Five years later we bought our Fraser 30, the Zephyr, and began spending our summers sailing the Salish Sea. Doing so has enriched our lives beyond measure.

2 thoughts on “Fear of Sailing – Part One: The First Lessons”

  1. Nice description of the way our coastal Mountain winds teach us. Just an evening to night sailing in June from my dock at Burrard, up to Cortes Island , on my Fraser 30, were educational. At each of the mountain valleys we flew along on a Beam Reach. In front of the big mountains we idled along- to finally motor, then laid flat by the next valley flow of katabatic wind.
    Later, wanting to explain it to the Cortesians, I looked up the information on Wikipedia:
    anabatic / katabatic
    A katabatic wind, from the Greek word κατάβᾰσις katabasis meaning “descending”, is the technical name for a drainage wind, a wind that carries high density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity. Such winds are sometimes also called fall winds.

    An anabatic wind, from the Greek anabatos, verbal of anabainein meaning moving upward, is a warm wind which blows up a steep slope or mountain side, driven by heating of the slope through insolation. It is also known as an upslope flow.

    Mary Anne & Frank-
    see you out there.
    SV Blue Rose

    1. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Williwaw.php
      Thanks for your comments, Ken. The above link will take you to an article I wrote for Nauticapedia about our experience with katabatic winds, sometimes called williwaws, in Kwatsi Bay in the Broughtons.
      Do you have a picture of your boat you could send me? Because all the Frasers were individually finished and no two are the same, we find it interesting to see what has been done to other Fraser 30’s.
      Mary Anne

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