Today we are discussing Fear and how to face your fear head on.
If you’d like to listen to this story, click here.
In this episode, I’d like to take you on a journey by writer and Author Jane Jarratt. Jane’s story, Facing Your Fears, is published in our book Facing Fear Head On with 46 other incredible stories.
Jane started sailing in 2007 when she and her partner Andy moved from the UK to Australia. Since then they bought a boat in St Maarten in the Caribbean, sailed it back to Sydney in 2009, and have spent the last five Northern Hemisphere summers sailing in the Med. To avoid any winters at all, they live in Scarborough in Queensland during the Southern Hemisphere summer. Jane runs the Women Who Sail the Med Facebook group and her blog can be found here.
As well as Jane’s story, we also spoke to other Authors’ who feature in the book, about their Fear – so stay tuned (or keep reading) after Jane’s story to hear a bit more about conquering Fear.
Facing Fear Head On was published last year has been extremely popular for anyone facing their fear.
It is a collection of inspirational and practical stories from women on the water.
You will Gasp, cry, and laugh out loud as forty-six women from around the globe reveal their deepest fears and coping strategies while voyaging on (and in) the world’s waterways.
Experience a unique journey and witness the emotional turmoil that fear can create as dreams, and loved ones, are threatened.
These true tales of raw emotion and courage will help you tackle fear, cast off the lines, and take heart in knowing you are not alone.
Not just for women, men should read this too. If you want to take your partner sailing these stories are a remarkable insight into the minds of women as they unfold the secrets to help you – help them – love life at sea.
So, here’s Jane’s story
Facing Your Fears
by Jane Jarratt
Fears? When I first started sailing I had no fears, mainly because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and lacked any imagination. I thought we’d be just going around the bay, maybe do a bit of anchoring for lunch, perhaps go alongside the odd jetty to visit an interesting town. Nothing scary about that. We were planning a ‘big trip’ sometime in the future but that was way off. I had plenty of time to learn how to sail before then.
Then a few of our friends became ill and died way too young. You know, in their 40s or 50s when they should have had at least 30 more years! A heart attack, a rare cancer of something, a ridiculous blood clot that never should have happened. We sat on a train one day and said, ‘What if it’s one of us next time? What if we hadn’t done the things we want to do? What if all our dreams end up for nothing?’ Six months later we were boarding our own yacht in St Maarten in the Caribbean with a year off work to sail her back to Australia.
It was all very easy at first. A short sail out around the bay, day hops from one beautiful island to the next beautiful island, anchoring overnight in glorious bays in clear, green water. Our first overnight sail was from St Maarten to Antigua and I was too occupied being seasick to worry about anything else. I just wanted to either die immediately or Get Off This Boat!
Then we attended a radio course. The instructor was a jolly fellow. He told us an allegedly true story about a couple sailing together and the man having to go up the mast to mend the radio aerial. He clipped himself on at the top, unfortunately he had a heart attack and died. His wife couldn’t get him down and had to sail back to port with him still up there! That’s when the fears started kicking in.
We were planning to sail this boat home to Australia and I had only just done the ‘anchoring for lunch’ bit. What if we were hit by a whale? What if we hit a container? What if we sank in a storm? What if we got knocked down (whatever that was)? What if we were boarded by pirates, taken for ransom and held in a cage and our country wouldn’t pay? What if we were swimming off the back and the boat sailed away (thank you Open Water 2). What if we ate reef fish, got ciguatera and died all alone and were found weeks later? What if the boat caught fire and we had to leap overboard and watch her burn to the waterline? I could go on. There wasn’t a fear I didn’t take out, worry to death, and file in my brain for future reference!
Our first long trip was from the Caribbean down to Panama but, as we had two friends with us, it was an easy passage with others to share the load. We had some rough seas but nothing that I was concerned about. They left when we had transited the Canal and finally the day came for the two of us to set off on our first long passage together from Panama to the Galapagos. Just the two of us. Alone. With nobody else. I took the first watch at 9 pm and all went well. In fact, I even enjoyed it. It was a lovely calm, warm night. The sky was black, the stars were amazing, the boat was gliding through a flat, dark sea and I saw my first bio-luminescence off the stern. This was everything I could have wished for! Andy came up to relieve me at midnight and I went down to sleep. That was when a fear I hadn’t even considered raised its ugly head. ‘What if I go to sleep and, when I wake up and go up to the cockpit, he isn’t there?’ I suddenly remembered a news story about this happening on a boat sailing up past Coffs Harbour (Australia) before we left home. And that happened during the day! Well that was it. No sleep for me. Every ten minutes I popped back up to check on him until he eventually crossly ordered me back down to bed. Then I secretly checked on him through the hatch. I could only see his feet but, if the feet were there, all was good. Then the feet vanished. I was up and out there in a flash praying to whoever might be up there watching over us ‘Please let him be there! Please let him be there! Please don’t let me be on my own miles from anywhere?’
He was there, of course, on the side deck fiddling with a bit of rope or something. ‘What are you doing? You know the rules… You never go up on deck when the other one is sleeping!’ (I’m not sure we’d made this rule, but you don’t let the truth get in the way of a good argument).
‘Yes, but I was only… ‘
‘It doesn’t matter what you were only…!’
‘I just needed to…’
‘No, you didn’t! You could have waited for me to come up or called me if it was important. If I think you’re going to go up there on your own, I’ll never sleep again!’
Of course, he never did it again (probably) but it was some time before I ever managed to get any good sleep when off watch. Eventually sheer exhaustion took over and we fell into a pattern. This fear gradually left as did all the others. Over time, we didn’t hit a container or get boarded by pirates and we learnt to watch the weather and take all the right precautions. We became more confident and the fear slowly abated leaving behind healthy minor anxiety and respect for what the sea could do.
And Andy is banned from ever going up the mast!
That was Jane Jarratt’s story on Fear.
Now let’s hear from Melissa Rout who has a beautifully vivid story published in Facing Fear Head On, where she questions her sanity, I caught up with Melissa to see if there was more she’d like to add now she has more cruising miles under her belt.
If you faced up to a fear and come out of the other side of it alive, you survived it, then you’ve got some really valuable lessons that you can reflect on and use in other parts of your life – or even if you have to face the same fear again, as it is with sailing, sometimes it’s one thing that gets you every time. But if you can build on the knowledge that you did survive it and it was okay and what did you do really well what could you have done better.
Then you’ve got this little reservoir of knowledge and a little bag of tools from the lessons. So, you can face these situations in life, not just in sailing, but you can use these lessons across all parts of your life to handle things maybe a little bit better and or just to be able to reassure yourself that it will be okay and that you can handle that fear and maybe the fear goes away.
That’s great advice, we all need that bag of tools!
Bio: Melissa Rout is fairly new to liveaboard cruising but has been quick to adopt the laidback lifestyle it affords. Currently cruising the East Coast of Queensland, Australia with her DH (Dear Heart) on their Catalina 380 Surfer Rosa, her favourite aspect of the cruising scene is the incredibly friendly and supportive fellow sailors she has met along the way. Melissa is, ‘Making no plans, and sticking to them!’
Next, I chatted with Elizabeth Tyler, known for her sailing, painting and writing, Elizabeth has an incredibly inspirational story in Facing Fear Head On – it gives me goose bumps every time I read it. When I asked Elizabeth if there was something she’d like to add, the advice she gave was not just for sailing but for all challenges in life,
Elizabeth’s additional stories are brilliant, thought-provoking and carry great advice we can all use. Have a listen here:
Elizabeth starts at around 12 mins 30 seconds.
Bio: Elizabeth Tyler was born in 1946 in the UK but has lived most of her life in the Nordic countries. In recent years, she has spent several months each summer in the Mediterranean, sailing, painting, writing books and producing educational videos about her painting techniques. Her boat is a 31 ft. Hallberg Rassy Monsun from 1976 which she now sails alone. Her paintings have been exhibited in galleries and art museums in many countries around the world and she has held workshops and inspirational talks in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. She is master member of the International Watercolour Society Global and member of the International Guild of Realism.
For her Blog click here.
Thanks Elizabeth, for more amazing advice. Meeting fears head on and focussing on a positive outcome is a great way to work through all challenge, as Elizabeth has just demonstrated.
Lastly, I caught up with Renee Smith, now if you don’t know Renee, I urge you to look her up.
As an incomplete paraplegic, MS patient and adaptive sailor, she is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
Renee’s’ open-hearted story “Curiosity Killed the Fear” gives such depth and insight to fears, which made so much sense to me, I asked Renee how her fear conquering quest was going… and if she had anything to add to her story.
So yes, curiosity killed the fear allowing me to get on a yacht for the first time and immediately fall in love with sailing. But my next hurdle to overcome was more physical, delving into sailing books at the beginning was teaching me the theory but it wasn’t teaching my how to be a sailor with a physical disability, how do I get on and off for starters, how do I slide myself around on the deck, how do I get from one side to the other fast enough when we tack without support and strength from my legs? How do I get to a place where I can use my hands to sail the boat rather than holding on to prevent me from slip sliding out of control all around the place? I could get pieces of advice from my fellow mates at Sailors with disABILITIES but largely I had to work it out for myself. Practice, practice, practice – plenty of feeling unsure about myself. And bruises! Even in an outing in the lightest of breezes – bruises! The more involved I became, the more problems I can across. Joining the race team really began pushing my boundaries and opened up a whole new array of new challenges. As well as a faster, flightier race yacht that definitely wasn’t as disability user friendly as our other yacht and can test the most experienced, able-bodied sailor. Yet, time and time again, I let my skipper pick me up out of my wheelchair and put me down on the transom of Whatever, a first-generation TP52 high-performance race yacht. She’s fast, she likes nothing more than to get up and go, if you give her the reins she will take them and not give them back without a fight. She isn’t the slightest bit forgiving if you make a mistake and she has a wide-open deck with very few places to secure yourself into. But despite the long list of valid reasons why the combination of my medically complex disabled body and a race yacht like Whatever should spark some level of fear, I have never been afraid. Of course, I’ve had my sailing moments when the only thing I feel sure of is that the half a knot drop in boat speed probably has something to do with me. But no, I am not afraid. I love sharing parts of my sailing journey with Sailors with disABILITIES on my Instagram account @renee_heels.and.wheels. Look me up and I’d love to follow back and watch your sailing adventures too. I also take care of our social media and Facebook page, just search for Sailors with disABILITIES. The most common comments and questions I get on racing or offshore videos are around the idea of fear. “Aren’t you ever afraid because that big heeling race yacht looks a little scary?” The person asking me about this says they would be too afraid to even try.
What is my no-fear secret?
It is TRUST! Just simply trust.
I wholeheartedly, one hundred percent trust my skipper. His skills, his experience, his thought process, that he will always do everything in his power to keep his boat safe. It doesn’t mean he’ll never make a mistake but he does everything within his power. And I trust the group of sailors that he trusts to look after me.
A number of years back now, after my spinal cord injury and before MS, I was a para-equestrian. That’s a horse rider with some kind of disability or impairment. One of my para-equestrian friends made it all the way to the Paralympics. In an interview, I’ll never forget she was asked what a para-equestrian had that an able-bodied equestrian didn’t have.
A greater level of trust in your horse, she replied, because we are already half-broken before we even get on.
But without being ruled by fear I’m learning how to manage my risks. I’m growing my understanding of running the backstay on the racing yacht and I am becoming a useful part of the race team. I’m hiking out on the rail and bruises! Still bruises! My post sail collection of bruises now are even more amazing than before.
Recently we were out on Sydney Harbour, spinnaker training on Whatever, we were shorthanded on the experience level and the next thing I knew we had laid the boat down in the middle of the sound, sails in the water, our 20-metre mast in the water – me with my arms wrapped around a stanchion on the starboard side, and my legs jammed between the backstay and the hole, looking down four metres below me to my skipper who was standing in the water calling out instructions to people.
Not a moment of fear!
That was an amazing thrill, I can be quoted to say that later on.
No fear in that moment.
Because I trust my skipper even when I have zero idea and zero control. And no fear because I have a growing trust in my experience of just being on the boat aka the knowhow of keeping my ability impaired body actually on the boat! Because other than wrapping my arms around the stanchion as I felt us begin to go over securing myself into the boat with my leg between the backstay and the hole is something I am always self-consciously doing anyway.
And even though my skipper had a lot going on in that moment, later on back in the bar he can be seen doing a funny impression of what I looked like hugging a stanchion four metres above his head. So that just goes to show me that even though we had a whole lot going on, he still turned around to see that I am okay.
I can trust my skipper.
So, if there is one piece of advice I can give you from my own experience it would be to attack fears with trust. What do you need to have trust in, in order for you to not be so afraid? And then, what things can you do to build up that trust?
Trying to break down fears can be daunting and overwhelming, so forget about that for a while. Just ask yourself this: What would make me be more trusting?
Bio: Renee is an incomplete paraplegic, MS patient, and adaptive sailor from Sydney, Australia. She had her first experience on a yacht, and was shown the freedom sailing could offer, through the not-for-profit organisation Sailors with disABILITIES (SWD) in mid-2017. Since that first addictive exposure, her weekly routine now involves fitting as much sailing as possible around her research career in plant physiology. As a crew volunteer with SWD’s programs, Renee trades her wheelchair in for a 54-foot racing yacht and takes groups of kids and adults who have a disability or disadvantage out on Sydney Harbour for a sailing experience that focuses on ability, optimism, confidence and achievement. Renee is also a member of SWD’s racing team, crewing weekly in harbour race series and regattas, and is working towards offshore racing. Outside of this weekly routine, she enjoys supporting her friends in their dinghy or yacht racing careers, and photographing regattas and offshore races.
Well, the advice today has been outstanding and heartfelt. A huge thank you to all my guests for opening your hearts and sharing with us – and to Jane for allowing me to read her Fear story.
Please do check out Jane, Melissa, Elizabeth and Renee on social media.
I hope you enjoyed Jane’s story and the subsequent chat – it is reassuring to know we are not alone in our fears. For another 45 great stories all about fear, and different perspectives and ways of coping click here the book is available in paperback or as an ebook. If you are in Australia – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a paperback copy.
Do you have a fear story you’d like to share?