Sailors write their plans in sand

Sailors write their plans in sand. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? I see a pretty beach, nice sunset, sandcastles, candles and maybe a cocktail if I hear this saying. This saying is very true, but for me, the mental picture I have with it, is not at all how reality feels for me. I like structure, I like order (although Miguel will disagree with that one, seeing how messy I can be sometimes). If I have a plan, I like to follow that plan. I can manage changes, but preferably not too much. It is funny, how my work-me and private-me are very different in this regard. At work, I deal very well with cancelled meetings, no shows, pop up meetings and a change of my day. But at home, I can struggle. On Instagram, I have used the worlds emotional roller coaster a couple of times, and that is exactly how it sometimes feels. Our passages are always depending on the weather forecast, the weather forecast isn’t always very reliable. So quite often we plan to leave at a certain date and time, but we don’t. The last couple of times, this had all to do with our engine problems: just before we wanted to departure from Lanzarote to Gran Canaria, we found water in the engine oil. So we could not depart. We planned to leave from Gran Canaria to Tenerife, but we heard a weird noise coming from the engine.
And the biggest of all: we wanted to set off for our Atlantic crossing together with some other boats, but just before departure, after a last weather check, we decided not too. That one was hard for me: it felt like everyone left and we were bailing out. And no, not everyone left. Plenty of boats stayed longer, but the guys we knew and used to hang out with, they did leave. And although we knew we made the right decision, every now and then doubt crept upon us: why didn’t we go? If they can do it, we can do it. Was the forecast really that bad? The days after us bailing out, we spoke to quite some people about our decision and most of them said: ‘We completely get it! One woman even said: I spoke with other people about you guys leaving and after checking the weather we did not understand it. The weather wasn’t great and there will be better weather windows!’ We really needed to hear those words although even if everybody else says “you can go”, it doesn’t mean you have to go. I realize more and more, we are on our own trip, and we need to make decisions which are right for us.
But that does mean plans keep on changing, more than I like. So how do I deal with it? I need time, some distraction, keep busy and let the first emotions pass. This isn’t always pretty: I can close myself off because I know that if I start talking straight away, I might not say very nice things. But I will come around and then we usually get off the boat to go out for a coffee or explore the place we are at. Keeping busy and not just hanging around works. Doing some physical exercise works as well. In Las Palmas I went for a run, just to clear my head. And then we can talk. Which is not always easy, since Miguel is going through similar processes as I, and he feels very responsible, especially when I feel sad. But we do share our pains, worries, frustrations and it is good to talk. And after that, we try to make a new plan, but not too much in advance, because it might change, again.

Do we stay or do we go?

Before every passage, we have the discussion: is this the right weather window for us? We find this very tricky because so many times the weather wasn’t as it was predicted. We usually add a force to the wind just to be at the safe side. Funny enough, we do this more when there are strong winds predicted. When there is barely any wind, you don’t hear us saying: there will probably more!
For winds we are looking for wind force 4 or 5, depending on the direction of the wind and where we want to sail. But what we are more aware of, are the waves. Because the sea state can make a trip very comfortable, or very uncomfortable. We love to see a forecast with waves lower than 1.5 meters but the wave period and where they are coming from also make a massive difference. So it is hard to pinpoint on what we base our decision. I do know we usually err at the side of caution.
Miguel can get very anxious before departure, which means we check the weather a lot before leaving. Sometimes I need to give him a little push because he can be too cautious. But because of this, I do know that we won’t be leaving in unsafe circumstances. Like I said before: it is our trip, we need to make decisions right for us. Which means sometimes getting out of our comfort zone, but also means, not leaving if we are too uncomfortable. We love discussing our good times and bad times, our worries, our frustrations with other sailors. It can give a good idea about what a good weather window is. At the same time, we do realize everybody experiences things differently. We met a delivery skipper on our trip, who said: I only start reefing the sails after 25 knots. Which for us is way too late. But it is great to share ideas and experiences with other people and we love being part of the sailing community!
We realize that for us, being anxious and nervous at the beginning of a passage is part of it. It doesn’t sound cool, but we are very open about this. We have accepted this and we agreed that as long as the amazing parts are bigger than being anxious, we still keep on going. In the last couple of weeks, we have talked a lot about this. Is it still worth it? Do we still want to do this? Is it cold feet that we are having, or are we coming to the realization that this trip is not what we want to do?
Miguel more and more realizes that his initial plan of going around the world is not what he wants to do. Crossing the Pacific doesn’t sound like an adventure anymore but as a massive uncomfortable challenge. But crossing the Atlantic is smaller, and although we go back and forth between staying and going, so far we still plan to go. And after that? Well, that plan is written in sand, so who knows?! We certainly don’t!