Conquering Fear

This thread by author and sailboat captain extraordinaire Hugh Howey is a fascinating look at his own fears, how he conquers them and the questions he asks himself. It’s a great read. The bit about the rope made my heart skip a beat.

⛵️ My GREATEST FEAR as a sailor is falling overboard and watching my boat sail over the horizon on autopilot ⛵️

Just typing those words fills my chest with dread. I can imagine it so clearly, like it's something that's happened to me in the past. A scary THREAD...

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

I'm currently sailing between New Caledonia and Fiji. Right now I'm about 400 miles from the closest spot of land in any direction. My boat is sailing along at 8 knots, which is a LOT faster than I can swim. It's also on autopilot. It's sailing with or without me.

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

My boat is 50 feet long and 26 feet wide. Think of a skyscraper with a roof about a third the size of a basketball court. I live on a towering roof about that size. If I fall off any edge, I plummet to my doom. That plummet will take anywhere from hours to days.

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

You see, every side of my boat leads to certain death. One slip as a wave lurches the boat the wrong direction, and over the rails I go. It happens too frequently to sailors. If you're alone, or your crew isn't on deck to witness it, you're probably dead.

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

I'm often in warm tropical waters, and I can tread water for a very long time, so I'd probably have hours to watch my boat disappear over the horizon. I'd be alone. Cussing myself. In disbelief that it's ending like this, in a way that I foresaw so many times. I'd probably cry.

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

Even knowing this, and thinking about it on every long passage, I still spend time right there on the edge. I put out lures and haul fish up on the transom. I pee off the back of the boat, just one hand on the rail. I live miles off the ground. The fall would take hours. A day.

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

One of my sailing heroes, Robin Knox Johnston, used to do something even crazier. Robin won the first single-handed nonstop sailboat race around the world. For daily exercise he used to JUMP OFF the bow of his boat while sailing alone at sea!!!!

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

Trailing behind his boat was a rope in case he fell overboard. Robin would dive off the bow, let the boat sail over him, then burst up in time to grab the rope and haul himself aboard. If he missed, he'd die. He did this every morning to "wake himself up."

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

We all take risks. Something could get us every day, and something eventually will. Do you ever imagine how you might go? Is it in a hospital bed, surrounded by loved ones? Or is it a fear you harbor? Is it a bad dream you keep having?

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

Living no more than 20 feet from certain death in every direction does something to you after a while. Every second is one in which you AREN'T falling. I sit on the bow, watching the waves, thrilled to be alive. Every second is a gift.

What are you gonna do with your time?

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) May 28, 2019

May 28, 2019


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