Your mission: Be so busy loving your life that you have no time for hate, regret or fear. – Karen Salmansohn
The answer is YES! Yes I’m scared. Terrified in fact.
Thought I’d get that out of the way right off the bat, since that’s the very first question people tend to ask me. “Aren’t you scared? What about hurricanes? Rogue waves? WHAT ABOUT PIRATES!?“
That last one I’m not too worried about. To be clear, we don’t plan on sailing anywhere near Somalia, or any of the other places in the world where pirate activity is rampant. Oh sure, there’s petty crime where we’re going…but there’s petty crime at the mall down the street from my house in Thousand Oaks, CA, too. Just like you wouldn’t leave your car door unlocked in a crowded mall parking lot, we’re not going to leave our dinghy floating in the water unsecured overnight. We will always bring it up on deck, and secure it.
As for hurricanes – I’m more worried about random squalls, since hurricanes are generally predicted far in advance, whereas a violent squall can whip itself into existence quickly, with little warning.
Rogue waves? Sure, they happen. So do earthquakes. And car accidents. And tornadoes. And heart attacks. And mass shootings. And all of the other random, horrifying things that can change (or end) your life at the drop of a hat.
I don’t consider us to be at any more risk for random horrifying events while out there sailing, then I do while sitting here on my sofa, or worse, driving on the 405 freeway. But hey, look at the bright side: if we get offed by a rogue wave or a pirate, that makes a far better story to tell at the memorial than “slammed into the center divider on the 101.”
But let’s move on from the whole dying thing. I do have other, real things to be afraid of. I think my biggest fear is that it will be much harder than I think it will be. I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself, but I’m told that you just can’t grasp what it’s really like out there until you do it. Not that I don’t think I’m capable of it – I do! Really! But I’m afraid I don’t know enough and will make dumb mistakes.
Fortunately I have 100% confidence in my partner in this crazy journey. I met Charlie on a sailboat in 1981, and he’s been our skipper ever since. He is an expert sailor, a skilled diesel mechanic, and a calm, clear thinker in an emergency. I can’t think of a single other person I would feel comfortable enough to do this with.
(For those of you who know our origin story, please don’t remind me that the very first time I set eyes on Charlie he was right in the middle of ramming his parents’ Catalina 38 into the transom of another sailboat tied up at the guest dock at the Ancient Mariner restaurant. It wasn’t his fault! He wasn’t at the helm. And that was a long time ago. LOL!)
And then there’s those squalls. Charlie and I have taken multiple seminars and workshops on weather forecasting, but honestly it’s all pretty complicated, and I can’t say I’ve mastered it. Fortunately Charlie seems to have a pretty solid grasp on it.
You see, I learn by doing. I’ve never been much of a book, or even classroom, learner. I can read things, hear things, have them repeated, but until I have my hands in the thick of it, it just doesn’t stick. But I CAN learn! This is evidenced by how competent I am at my job. Once I’ve done something once (or twice), it sticks, and I can do it again. I CAN grasp complex concepts and remember multi-step processes – I just need practical context, and to do them myself. And I know from experience that I can be clear-headed in an emergency, which I’ve proven to myself more than once when things went to hell while I was scuba diving. In situations in which others may have panicked, my mind went right back to my training; I blocked out the noise and just walked through it all in my mind until the solution revealed itself, and then I executed it. Oh I fell apart after it was all over and I was safe, but in the heat of it I was calm, even driven.
I just hope I can do that on that one passage that I know we will have, when everything goes kablooey…when that unexpected squall kicks in, and the engine won’t start, and we didn’t get that last reef in fast enough and the mainsail is stuck in its track, and there’s water in the bilge that isn’t being pumped out fast enough…
But let’s stop focusing on all the things that could go wrong, and talk about why we’re doing this.
We’re doing it because we’re crazy. No…no…I’m kidding. Really, we’re doing it because we CAN. Because we have been struck with this incredibly lucky lightning bolt of opportunity, to experience a once-in-a-lifetime wild adventure…something that only a very tiny fraction of humans will ever get to do. We’ve also both been blessed with wanderlust; with a powerful passion for adventure, and a willingness to take risks in order to experience joy.
But that doesn’t really capture it. As much as I love the English language, it turns out that there are few words that clearly define what it is that’s pushing us out there. Wanderlust is too…meh. I considered “ethnosphere,” defined as the trail of dreams, ideas, inspirations, and experiences brought into being by the human imagination. There’s also an interesting Olde English word, “coddiwomple,” which means to travel in a purposeful manner to a vague destination.
But to truly capture the essence of what’s driving us, I had to turn to other languages. For example, the German word “Fernweh,” which translates to an ache for distant places and a longing for travel. But I think the closest match comes from the Japanese: “Yugen,” which I’m told means “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe”.
That’s it, then. It’s yugen that’s behind all this. We’ve simply become aware that the universe is a much bigger place than what we see in our little daily bubble, and we know we need to get out there to places few have ever been, in order to find more of that mysterious beauty — and to satisfy our fernweh.
I wish you all oodles of yugen.