I have never thought of myself as adventuresome or brave. I don’t like gales offshore and I raise worry to an art form. So when a friend exclaimed, “John, I didn’t think you were afraid of anything,” as I admitted to being a white-knuckle flier, I was stunned.
My friend’s misconception, brought on by the number of voyages that I have made as skipper of a sailboat to the high latitudes, was about as far from my own perception of myself as it’s possible to get.
This startling revelation got me wondering: Do other high latitude sailors have the same fears I do? Did my heroes Tilman, Smith and Brown (H.W. Bill Tilman, yachts Mischief, Sea Breeze and Baroque; Newbold Smith, yacht Reindeer; Warren Brown, yacht War Baby) feel the same sense of dread when they saw the black-sided, ice-capped mountains of Greenland for the first time? Did they lie awake in their bunks, hove-to in a gale, systematically worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong? Did they experience the same feeling of anxiety the first night of every ocean passage?
If I am not the only wimp hiding behind an air of projected indifference to the risks of offshore sailing, maybe my coping strategies learned while accumulating 100,000 miles of ocean cruising and racing experience, much of it in the less hospitable parts of the world, can help others to achieve their cruising dreams.