Top of mast still


This is a hard post to write. The fear of self exposure, the fear of saying that I am afraid has been a big motivator in my life. I have said for years that ‘fear is not a reason’. I believe it too: fear is something to acknowledge, to manage, may even be a rational response. On its own, though I don’t think fear should be a reason to do or not do something that’s in front of you, is given to you to do.

Sounds great! Until my flat went through a minor visitation by some spiders. I am nervous of spiders. Let me be precise: I am very frightened of them. I don’t mind a daddy-long-legs. I don’t like rats but they don’t make me panic. But spiders! They way they move their legs, the scuttling, the feeling that maybe this one will be the invasive species that will kill me. All that nonsense overwhelms the knowledge that they are useful killers of other, nastier insects, that (in the UK) they are extremely unlikely to be harmful, that hurting other living beings unnecessarily is not usually something I do. Present me a spider in my home and I will scream, run away and then work out a way to destroy it.

This Autumn, there has been a lot of coverage of ‘giant house-spiders’; my flat has rarely been so clean as I vacuum, polish, move stuff around and generally work at scaring them away. Fear may not be a reason, but in that case why am I suddenly in love with housework?

Sailtrip SS Europa from Cape Horn to Cape of Good hope

Sailtrip SS Europa from Cape Horn to Cape of Good hope

I’m not expecting to see many spiders on Europa. (There’s a plus, but there are spiders on the islands we will visit.) I am nervous of the weather: that’s only sane in the Southern Ocean, but I know I will be on a large, well-found ship with experienced skipper and crew. That’s a lot less frightening than sailing a smaller boat in waters I don’t know and when I’m the captain, responsible for every person on board. I am apprehensive that seasickness will lay me out for too long, but I am rehearsing my medications and strategies for dealing with that. On a tall ship though, going up the rigging is fundamental to handling the sails, and that’s what I’m worried about.

When I examine this fear I find that I think my body will let me down. I will simply not be strong enough to haul myself upwards, to contort myself in the rigging, to hold on against the rolling waves. That fear gets me to the gym, so it has its uses. I fear I will conquer the seasickness only for it to return half way up and I will shower vomit all over those on deck. I fear I will freeze with panic, have to be ignominiously rescued and refused consent to try again.

I’ll be returning to the subject of fear, possibly by lying on the cabin floor and whimpering. In the meantime, I’m working out and practising for humility in the face of not making it to the top.



Top picture is a still from a vimeo by Tim Kirkpatrick, showing the view from the top of mainmast

Second picture is by Roland Gockel from the Classic Sailing site.

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  1. Pingback: Feeling seasick: throw up and carry on - Sailing to Antarctica

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