Facing Your Fears: One Woman Sails Around the World for Love

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Swept-Cover-Med.jpg "Bloody hell, Ivan," I say, "Why can't we just agree on this?"

"Look," he says. "You're being unreasonable. I don't want to fight, but we're not going to sink in the middle of nowhere and end up in the life raft so let's just drop it."

I close the slats on the boat's companionway -- our version of a front door -- so we don't scare residents of Marina del Rey (seals and seagulls) with our domestic dispute.

The vinyl sofa squeaks as I sit down and it sticks uncomfortably to my sweaty skin. Ivan sits across from me, arms folded over his chest. I stare at him and begin to rip my nails off with my teeth. I can't believe that I'm discovering now, just a month before leaving, that Ivan's idea of 'safety insurance' for a year on the Pacific Ocean is food, water, a bilge full of beer, and 365 condoms.

"Ivan, I don't understand why you're not factoring in the possibility that we might sink. Why not get a ditch kit just in case we do sink?"

"We won't sink," he repeats.

"Argh! Ivan, please stop making that claim."

I give my fingernails a break while I shuffle through a pile of research scattered over the foldout table. I retrieve a book -- a guide to sailboat cruising -- and start flicking pages, looking for information to validate my argument.

Before we began getting Amazing Grace ready for her big trip, I didn't know there were reference guides to crossing oceans. I thought preparing the boat was a matter of stocking supplies and breaking a bottle of champagne over the bow. That was before -- much to Ivan's disgust -- I began to gather every piece of ocean safety information I could get my clammy hands on.

I hold the open book in front of him and stab the page with my index finger. "Look. It says here if the boat sinks, we'll need a kit for the life raft with water, food, an extra EPIRB, a watermaker, a handheld SSB radio with batteries, dry clothes, fishing gear, flares, and medical supplies. You know, stuff to help us survive if something happens and we end up in the life raft."

I want him to make this easy and say: Oh, I see, that sounds reasonable. Instead, he glances down at the book for a microsecond and gives me a look as though I've just asked if I can take a pet elephant along for the ride.

Maybe I am being unreasonable? I've been researching a lot since we moved onto the boat. Advice comes in many forms and there is no shortage of it going around. Finding a voice of reason between the kamikaze-brave and those who are too afraid to leave the dock is the challenge. Conflicting opinions have me agonizing around the clock, trying to decipher which items are imperative and what's a superfluous safety measure, equivalent to, say, wearing kneepads and a helmet while riding public transport.

"We have a life raft, right?" I say. "So what good is a life raft if we don't have basic survival gear while we wait for rescue? Have a look at this book." I fumble through my pile. "This guy sank his boat and spent seventy-six days in his life raft before he was rescued. He had a full ditch kit with--"

"Think about the tiny odds, though," Ivan interrupts. "We're not going to end up in the life raft and, if we do, we have an EPIRB. We'll just push the button on the EPIRB, which will send a signal to the coastguard with our GPS position."

"But what if they can't rescue us straight away? Look at this book, Rescue in the Pacific: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in a Force 12 Storm. A convoy of boats got stuck in a huge weather bomb between New Zealand and Fiji and the rescuers couldn't get to everyone because limited resources meant--"

"I know the story. I've read the book. You found it on my bookshelf, remember? Do you think maybe you're reading too many ocean tragedy books?"

Probably, I think to myself. But I'm feeling far too defensive to agree. "No," I say. "I find reading about tragedies is really helpful. I'm learning what to do if things go wrong."

"But things won't go wrong."

I slide up into third gear, irritated by his lack of acknowledgment that bad things happen sometimes, like it or not. "Ivan. There are a number of things that could go wrong. We could run into something. We could take on water from a broken seacock. Orcas could attack the boat and--"

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Torre DeRoche writes about her travels and misadventures on her blog, Fearful Adventurer, where she hopes to inspire others to face fears and follow dreams.

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