As cruising sailors, we must be self-sufficient. Several miles off shore is no place for surprises. If something breaks or goes wrong, no one is going to make a service call. You are on your own. If that realization makes you anxious at times, you’re not alone. It’s natural to worry about what might happen, but it’s easy to calm your nerves and sail confidently.
Whenever you experience that uneasiness, it’s almost always related to the uncertainty of the unknown. As a responsible skipper, gather as much information as you can about your boat, crew, and the water before setting sail. The best way to combat anxiety is to be prepared.
When it comes to my boat, I have less anxiety when I know how best to sail it. I am confident when my boat is safe and seaworthy. I also teach my crew about the boat, including how to handle emergencies. Reviewing all checklists lends to my safety and that of my crew and boat. A little education and practice can easy everyone’s minds.
It also helps to consider the what-ifs: What if the bilge pump stops working? What if the engine needs oil? What if the frayed halyard snaps? Don’t worry about these things, double check them. Know how many life jackets and fire extinguishers you have on board. Listen to the weather forecasts. Consider the what-ifs and prepare for them.
When you have learned to solve problems that can occur at sea, have confidence in your sailing and seamanship skills, and confidence in your boat and equipment, you are ready to really enjoy sailing.
Be smart, but beware of overconfidence, for it can lead to carelessness. Don’t always expect the worst, but never assume that things will be fine. A little anxiety now and makes us cautious, and that makes us good skippers.
Captain Jack Klang
About the Author: Jack Klang is a Cruising Consultant for Quantum Sail Design Group. He has shared his vast experience with thousands of sailors through his seminars, a syndicated newspaper column, magazine feature articles, television and movie appearances. He is the author of “Cruising with Quantum” a series of how-to articles covering all aspects of sailboat cruising as well as an instructional video. Jack is recognized as one of the country’s five best sailing speakers, appearing at boat shows across the country. For the past five decades, Jack has sailed the Great Lakes, Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. He earned his first Coast Guard captain’s license at age 18 and has logged over 30,000 miles under sail as a cruiser, ASA instructor, charter captain and delivery skipper. Contact Jack at captjack1(at)charter.net.