The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site


Discomfort is a bad word in our society. Our houses, our cars and our public buildings shelter us so totally from the environment that we rarely feel cold or hot or wet or windblown and, unless it’s a hurricane or tsunami, the weather very seldom stops us from doing what we want when we want.

However, when sailing offshore, especially in the high latitudes, weather determines where we go and when; it affects our comfort and even our safety.

During our years of cruising, John and I have very occasionally been threatened by what would be considered heavy though not necessarily severe weather on land. Though I find this vulnerability somewhat frightening, I also find that it makes me feel part of the world around me instead of an observer just driving through.

Even though our margin of safety has only been threatened once or twice, our comfort level has been challenged quite often! At the beginning of every ocean passage John and I doubt our ability to cope with tough conditions, we crave a full night’s sleep and we wish we could just give up cruising and settle down somewhere dry and steady.

However, after this initial time of adjustment, we start to get into the routine of being at sea. Because we’ve coped with these initial negative feelings before, we have learned that they will pass and we will soon start to enjoy being out there again.

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A wise way to overcome the moment and to see the big picture, sailing must be a passion at heart, the most beautiful things in life are hard to get!

Mitchell Allen

Beautifully said. And inspirational for me.
I find all too often that I would put off something because of the initial discomfort. It takes a lot of effort and desire to do more, to see more, to take the initial steps.
Thank you

Dick Stevenson

Hi Phyllis,
Discomfort is an interesting topic: I would probably contend that the ability to tolerate discomfort is fundamental to most human accomplishments. There is physical discomfort (banging one’s way close hauled in wind and seas) and there is emotional discomfort (tolerating and learning from mistakes, being scared, etc.).
Fortunately, tolerating discomfort is a skill that can be learned and improved upon. We, as parents and grandparents, to my mind, have the opportunity to help those around us to recognize the importance of tolerating discomfort and find ways to practice and notice choices where shying away from discomfort diminishes opportunities.
Unfortunately, there is a prevailing belief that if you experience discomfort, you have done something wrong: that if only you lived your life right, you would not have to feel discomfort.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy  

John Harries

Hi Dick,

I agree completely. Most all the worth while experiences I have had in my life included discomfort, often both physical and mental (anxiety). On the latter: