Sailors have the best stories. I mean, they have all the factors that could turn a mundane sailing tale into one of epic proportion if you throw in the wind, and the waves, and taking on water, and the boat problems, and so on and so on. Or you hear the opposite romantic ones where the ocean was like glass and they floated across it for hours on end while watching the beautiful moon up above and the lights on the islands dancing around. Either way, I think we all have to be very cautious of the tales we tell, even if it is with good intentions.
It may sound funny comparing sailing stories to childbirth stories, but when we were pregnant with our first daughter our midwives wisely told us, “Do not let ANYONE tell you about their birthing experience”. Why? Because, in sailing like in birthing, we are all going to have our own unique experiences, good or bad, and the stories that other people tells us (whether good or bad) do affect our subconscious and thus give us preconceived notions and emotions.
Example: The Mona Passage. Everyone says it’s shit to cross. No fun. Well I had heard these horror stories before our first crossing of the Mona, and what happened? I got stressed the heck out. “All the other sailors said its going to be crap, so it’s going to be crap!” We have now done that crossing three times and have had different experiences every one of them. Or, the opposite, where everyone says the BVIs are a breeze. Yeah they are, until you are getting hit with unexpected squall after squall with no time to breathe in between them. Then the romance is yanked from under your feet. And don’t forget that with sailing you can somehow manage to feel both of these extremes in one single passage!
If you are anything like me, it is not the beautifully romantic stories that I seem to remember. Oh no, my brain grabs hold of those horrors stories, and blows them to extreme proportions where there is no hope for me to recover after hearing a “bad review” of a certain crossing or passage. So like they teach in sales, speak to positivity. If I (try to) imagine only good things happening then I am mentally setting myself up for better odds rather than thinking “this is going to be horrific” and only seeing the bad in it all.
Where is this all coming from?! We are about to leave the Virgin Islands, where we have been bouncing around for the past 7 months, to head south to Grenada. The stories I had heard from when we were in the Bahamas years ago were mainly, “From here to the VIs it will all be on the nose, pounding into it. But once you reach the Virgin Islands its a cakewalk all the way to Grenada”. Then we reach the VIs and now the stories have become, “You still have to do the horrible Anegada passage, on the nose again, and then its a cakewalk”. And today I heard, “Once you have reached Guadeloupe then you can start sailing, but until then you will be motor sailing and beating into it”.
Well let me tell you, that may very well end up being the case, BUT I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT!!! I already have enough on my plate to stress me out, like the fact that I am supposed to be prepping the boat while my husband is away in Tanzania and I am alone with our two daughters. And I have to wonder how our girls will react throwing them back into longer passages (sea sickness, boredom, etc). I have to stay on top of the weather and keep an eye out for weather windows. The last thing I need is someone else’s story of what their experience was like to cloud my own perspective. Believe me I have the power to create enough of a scary sailing beast or a romantic cruise with my own imagination. If your sail was good I am SOOOOOO happy for you; if it was bad I am SOOOOOO sorry for you. But our sailing experiences will never be the same, we have different sailboats, different weather, different sailing skills, that it is nearly impossible that I will ever experience fully what you did. So in this prep time for an unknown sailing destination, consider my easily-influenced thoughts and spare me your horrific experience, or your romantic cruise south, we will have to experience it ourselves so better do it with a “clean” state of mind.
All of this to say, just be mindful of the stories we tell because our words can have a huge amount of influence on someone else’s thoughts and experiences. I also have to keep this in mind when writing on this blog, because yes, wind, waves, and horror make for far more entertaining sailing story, but some of those moments may have just been amplified by my personal emotions, and totally not what the next sailor is going to experience.