People often seem surprised when they hear about our proposed sailing adventure, and then hear that I have had a lifelong fear of water. David has asked that I write about my perspective on that.
I think the basic point is that Iíve always loved to travel, see new and beautiful places, and experience different cultures. This is true even if there is a bit of discomfort or challenge involved. In fact, maybe that makes it more special. So the prospect of visiting exotic places like the South Pacific islands on a sailboat is undoubtedly going to outweigh the challenge of being in an environment that includes an element of fear.
This has already been true on our long sea kayak trips along the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. I was quite apprehensive before leaving on those trips and on the first few days, I would have to struggle to repress thinking about all that water beneath us. As those trips progressed though, fear gradually moved more into the background, and the memories of those trips are mostly of the beauty and joy that we experienced. Although, as is usually the case before big adventures, I'm apprehensive about this sailing trip for a variety of reasons, I'm also confident that it will be filled with really being alive to the world around me.
That said, as I was thinking about being in the tropics, in areas with coral reefs, good snorkeling, etc, I decided that it was time to do something proactive to be able to experience the water as part of the fun and the joy of where weíre going. So my big job of summer 2016 was getting comfortable in water over my head.
In discussing this with a friend who is an aquatic therapist, she referred me to a specialist in an innovative method for teaching adults afraid of water to gain the confidence and control needed to overcome that fear. She recommended the book, Conquer Your Fear of Water, by Melon Dash, and as I prepared to travel to Oregon for the summer I began reading and preparing to follow the recommended steps.
The day after we arrived in Corvallis last spring (2016), I went to the very well-appointed pool complex there and purchased a membership, which allowed me to go to the pool as much as I wanted for 3 months. This included the warm therapy pool, which is where I started. Throughout June and July I would go to the pool 5 days a week, spending an hour in the water each time. At first I stayed close to the wall even in the shallow water, and endlessly practiced putting my face in the water and floating. And it really worked! By the time my membership expired I was comfortable going into the 6-ft end of the larger pool and could propel myself around.
By August I signed up for an adult swimming class. I explained to the instructors what our plans are, what I had learned on my own, and what I still wanted, which was basically to get around a little more efficiently, and to be able to dive off the boat. My instructors were great about focusing on what I needed. They taught me the basic breast stroke, which Iím still not very good at it, but that will come with practice. Diving was more of a mental challenge, and I endured a lot of belly flops, BUT the important thing for me was that I was DOING it. I could jump or dive off the side of the pool and even off the low diving board into 13 feet of water and have confidence that I would come back up.
When my 60th birthday rolled around in September, David asked me what I wanted to do. The first thing I said is that I wanted to go to the pool. It wasnít that Iíve come to just love being in water the way some people do, but going to the pool as part of my birthday celebration was symbolic of what this effort meant for me. After 60 years of panicking in water over my head, I was celebrating the freedom of knowing that I can be comfortable in deep water. This was my gift to myself.
Iím actually looking FORWARD to the day that we jump off the boat into the warm waters of the South Pacific.
Back to Sailing home page