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New Sailor Anxieties

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

I have written/said a few things here on Sail Junky that when I re-read them or listen back I wonder.. is this guy just an anxious basket case? That's my inner negative self-talk. My therapist has suggested that, when my inner dialog / negative self-talk surfaces, to put it out there in the light.. say it out loud. So there you go.

The truth is that when I look at it from a different perspective, anxieties I have about sailing, learning seamanship, or dealing with my new-to-me 1972 Pearson 36' are a gift. These are simply areas of focus and goals for me to challenge and achieve.

That certainly sounds a lot better than "I'm scared of docking single-handed, I'm going to break my boat and look stupid in front of a lot of people doing it."

I recently asked the following question in the Facebook group "New To Sailing":

Currently there are over 87 comments to the post and a myriad of anxieties.

The very non-scientific list I have from that thread is as follows:

  • Docking / Mooring (By far the most mentioned)

  • Sinking - I get this totally.. Included was a response about thru-hull failure

  • Drowning / Man Over Board

  • Getting lost

  • Rigging Failures

  • Fear of the unexpected

  • Crashing the boat

  • Flying the Spinnaker

  • Solo sailing tasks (anchoring / docking / sail handling) and I totally relate to this one.

  • Failing to achieve my dream - This is a big one for me that someone responded with.

  • And of course dealing with other sailors and dockhands that don't remember what it's like to learn or be a noob sailor. I recently wrote about that issue here.

But docking is hands-down the biggest fear. I think a lot about my recent interview with captain Paul Foer and his coaching mantra for docking. "Look cool, and don't get hurt."

I will be working with Captain Paul and others this spring to attack my sailing anxiety battles and I'm starting to REALLY look forward to it. I have stopped visualizing the challenges I worry about as dark items. I am working hard to see them as opportunities for me to shine, to challenge, and win.

But this idea of attacking these sailing anxieties reaches farther than sailing. Sailing anxieties are only a subset of the anxieties we feel in our daily lives.

I know that the more I challenge myself the better I will feel because I can do this! And I really believe that I'm approaching it the right way. With diligent research, growing my tribe in the sailing community of people that are caring, knowledgable, and basically cool and laid back. And with professional coaching.

The anxieties we feel need to be cherished. They are the flashing lights our brains are alerting us to that we need to recognize, address, and put behind us. We do that by not being paralyzed by them, but rather thanking our anxieties for raising our awareness of them so that we can formulate a pragmatic approach to conquering them. Through research, help from others within our tribe, and even professional coaching. (and yes.. even therapy. My therapist is pivotal in helping me understand and attack my personal and sailing journey.)

Once these anxieties are recognized and addressed, we will enjoy this amazing adventure even more. And that is truly the best gift we can give ourselves.

Sail on tribe. We can do this!


Mike D. is the founder of Sail Junky Magazine. Striving to find more purpose in life, Mike writes and shares about his journey to rediscover his passion for living a fulfilled life, especially through the medium of sailing.

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