The first month onboard Ondular, fear was a faithful companion. The first few days on the bow of the boat, either anchoring or having to catch a mooring, my legs would shake like noodles, my hands sweat and my heart wouldn’t stop racing. I was scared and I didn’t like feeling that way at all.
Then, the many times we were sailing and the wind was stronger than what I would like it to be or the waves a bit bigger, that feeling would come back, the stress levels will rise and I wouldn’t feel comfortable again.
Then there were all the different scenarios that would haunt me every now and then; like Mick and I falling overboard, things breaking or not working well and any emergency situation that I wouldn’t know how to react to.
There were also the scary overnight crossings; having to picture myself alone doing watches, being alert for any boats approaching, or the scary ghost containers that could be floating in the middle of the ocean and sink us…well the list can go on forever, but the conclusion was that I was scared, so every time Mick will bring up that we would soon had to sail 80 NM to Sint Maarten, I would just change the subject and try to forget about it.
One of the best solutions to lose fear is to do the things that most frighten you. So I did. On Thursday 8 January, we left Virgin Gorda in the BVI at 2pm. I decided that I wasn’t scared anymore and instead of thinking of all the bad things that could happen, I focused on the good things and to see it all as an adventure. I kept repeating to myself: I can do this, it’ll be fine. And thankfully it was.
Although this crossing is not really that long for an experienced sailor, the conditions aren’t the best. The wind always comes straight from where you want to go to, straight on the nose and it’s usually with high seas. The wind was supposed to move a bit overnight and come more from the north east instead of straight from the east, but it didn’t. So the most part of our trip we had to motor sail. We took turns being at the helm. We had the main and the jib out and for a couple of hours it was actually really pleasant. There were some waves but they weren’t too scary and I must say I really enjoyed being at the helm, learning how to work with the boat with each passing wave.
The sun started to set and I thought to myself, alright, here it’s the time you’re really scared of, night time with all those scary things..but come on Isabel, nothing to fear. We put the lifejackets on, the wet water gear and the harnesses; we were ready. If I felt any feelings of discomfort, I started repeating my affirmations “It’s all going to be ok, we are protected.” I didn’t get sick and I have to say I kind of enjoyed it. We had a beautiful full moon and a bit of traffic from other boats but other than that it was a quiet passage.
Being our first overnight crossing, we didn’t’ even discuss taking turns. Mick knew how scared I was of being alone on watch, so we kind of let the subject go and saw how we went on the night. Around 12 o’clock I lay down on the cockpit and had a little nap. One hour later, Mick did the same. We had two short naps each and in no time, the sun started rising and everything became light.
The sun reinvigorated us, we had some breakfast and started approaching Sint Maarten slowly. Mick caught a fish but had to let it go because we didn’t know what kind of fish it was and we have to be careful not to get any fish because of sigatera. We turned on the local radio, french came out of the speakers; we were definitely on a different island. We arrived at Simpson Bay at 9:30am. We had a quick shower, ate a bit more and had a two hour sleep.
When we woke up we rode the dinghy into the dock to do the check up and went exploring the Dutch side of St Maarten. First stop was budget marine and a patisserie for some nice pastries. We ended up at the Yacht Club were we ran into a South African couple that we had met checking out of Virgin Gorda. They had also done the crossing so we exchange stories and shared a few laughs.
We are finally in a new and different island and I no longer have to worry about the “Sint Maarten crossing”. I know this is just the beginning and there will be plenty of crossings and scary things to come, but one thing at a time is all I need to worry about. With experience comes knowledge and with knowledge fear decreases, so hopefully by the time we have to cross the Pacific I will be experienced enough to not have any fear and enjoy the adventure.