John’s Thoughts & Photos, February 2011

From time to time our readers point us toward, or we stumble upon, something published on the internet that we learn from and that makes us better offshore sailors.

imageA Fellow Simpleton

My recent rant on the the beauty of simplicity was inspired by a long chat I had with Bill Sissons, editor at Soundings Magazine. Here is his take on the subject and our chat.

Bill is a smart guy and his thoughts are well worth reading.

Full Text of Soundings Article Available

imageThe full text of the article that Soundings Magazine published on Phyllis and I, and this web site, is now available on the Soundings site. However, I still recommend that you pick up a copy of the February issue at your local newsstand since my photos are a lot larger in print than on the web site. (How’s that for a shameless plug of a good magazine written by nice people and our stuff in one sentence?)

A Fellow Wimp

Ben Tucker of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, who has done some really serious seafaring, posted a comment to our Taming The Wimp Within Piece that really resonated with us. I think that Ben’s points are so important that I’m going to republish them below:

“…I can be one of the wimpiest sailors I know, fretting and worrying over small and big things.

But then I have also managed to safely sail a small engineless 26 footer singlehanded across the Tasman in winter (Nelson to Sydney), sail my 34 footer from Hobart to Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, and run a 60 foot charter boat in the Antarctic peninsula, plus manage numerous dodgy deliveries.

Still the wimp within remains with me, nagging at me and keeping me up to scratch, and, so far, safe (touch wood)…

…It does make me wonder if maybe some of the great sailors of the past may also have a similar degree of wimpiness, and if in fact the very presence of Mr Wimp is what somehow drives us to test ourselves.

When I first got my ticket and became third mate on a 40,000 tonne container ship I started having nightmares about running aground (the real wake up sweating type). When I mentioned this to the chief mate he just laughed and said they were normal “mates mares” and would soon pass as I got used to the responsibility.

By building up my skills and comfort level slowly I have gained an understanding and ability to analyse some of my feelings and know which ones are normal jitters and reactions and can be ignored and which ones signify some subconscious and important concerns that need to be actively dealt with.

However I still envy those happy go lucky sailors that seem to get by with not a care in the world.

Maybe there are 4 stages:

  1. Ignorance is bliss, not even being aware of the dangers.
  2. Knowing the dangers and fearing them, or fear of the unknown.
  3. Confidence that you can deal with the dangers as they arise and any unknowns.
  4. Overconfidence. (Fright can kick you back to stage 2.)

And those fearless sailors are at either at 1 or 4…maybe they just lack any imagination.”

Ben has also started publishing a blog, which we recommend.

John Vigor’s Black Box Theory

In the original of his comment quoted above, Ben recommends John Vigor’s Black Box Theory. I have long suspected this effect, but John has clarified this very important ingredient of safe passage making. Once again, a great read.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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