Sailing Into the Abyss: Facing Doubt, Fear, and Humility (Part 1)

Sailing Into the Abyss: Facing Doubt, Fear, and Humility (Part 1)

My darling husband Andrew sure has some funny ideas from time to time. Six years ago he’d said, “Hey honey, what do you think about getting rid of our house, most of our material possessions, buying a pop up tent trailer, and moving to the beaches of Baja?” Being one for adventure, I’d enlisted before he’d even completed the sentence. That experience had turned out to be one of the best of our lives and we wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Then five months ago he’d said, “Hey honey, what do you think about selling our tiny house, downsizing again, buying a sailboat, and moving back down to Baja?” Like a moth to the flame, before the sentence had completed, I’d jumped in, hook-line-and-sinker. 

My grandfather had been a captain for some of the world’s largest tankers for his career.

Learning how to sail had been a goal for as long as I can remember. My maternal grandfather had been a sea captain most of his career, commandeering the world’s largest tankers from continent to continent. Summers in my youth on the west coast of Sweden had always involved adventures on his personal boat and those experiences had sank deeply into my marrow and being. I had learned early on that although mighty, the sea was my ally. 

Through a series of magical events, Andrew and I had found our perfect boat just three weeks into our search: S/V Journey, a 1992 42’ Catalina sloop. You can hop over to this article to read the full details of how that transpired. With the first major obstacle conquered, we’d had one small detail to reconcile: neither Andrew nor I had known how to sail. We had been on a few sailboats in our youth and teenage years, but truly had known zip-zero-zilch about sailing. Being of the cautious variety, we’d decided that sailing instruction was a MUST so when we’d placed our full price offer on Journey, we had requested a 7 day private live-aboard class with the previous owner (who just happened to own the third largest sailing school in the world: Nautilus). 

Departing Marina Palmira in La Paz, I’d felt confident and empowered. Turns out steering a sailboat is the easy part!!

Had I known just how hard this week would be and how overwhelmed and challenged I would feel, I’m certain I wouldn’t have felt quite so euphoric as we left the marina in La Paz, BCS, Mexico on February 3 and headed out into the abyss. Andrew and I had taken turns at the helm that day and the warm breeze kissing our cheeks, the cool touch of the wheel in our hands, and the open horizon of promise before us had roused a sense of true contentment. I had found my place in this world and life. 

Day two had brought continued confidence and an understanding of our lessons had come effortlessly. We had passed our first test with nearly perfect scores and I could now easily name every part on Journey. We had practiced man-over-board drills, anchoring, and had gone through every single mechanical system onboard; the mysteries of our new home and the sea revealed themselves. I had felt empowered, guided, and confident. 

Oscar and I studying hard together onboard

One critical aspect of our curriculum had not yet been taught though: sailing. No winds had come so we had been under power through each nautical mile traversed. It had been easy to feel like a “natural” at the whole “sailing” thing in those conditions. This was all about to change. 

Late into the second night, the winds picked up. The sound of air forcefully breaking and entering our peaceful home through every nook and cranny awoke me with a start. Journey heaved and bucked in the waves and no matter how deeply I wedged my earplugs, I could not escape this violence. My pulse increased and my mind traveled at warp speed towards catastrophe. I envisioned our anchor popping loose from the heaving and saw our battered bodies awash on a rocky shore. I tried every trick in my playbook to ease my mind and go back to sleep but when I felt the anchor chain literally chatter, I knew with certainty that we were loose and skipping. I had to save our ship. 

I crawled over Andrew and out of bed, past the sleeping dogs (how could ANYONE sleep through this??), opened the companionway, walked up the stairs and braced myself. But what was this insanity?! Had the wind come to a screeching halt? I went below and heard the roar and snarl of the hungry wind again. I went back up and suddenly came to grips with reality; clearly I’m an idiot. And a coward. 

Rather than seeing us adrift in gale force winds, I felt only a light wind. Where I’d imagined other boats hanging on for dear life, were only neighbors gently rocking in their slumber. The winds had reached a pathetic 8 knots and those terrible sounds and all that bucking had been the response to this benign breeze. This was the first of many times during the week when I would have the following three thoughts: “I’m an idiot”, “I don’t think I like sailing after all”, and my personal favorite “I think we made a mistake”. 

This was part 1 of a multi part series…stay tuned for more!


15 Responses to Sailing Into the Abyss: Facing Doubt, Fear, and Humility (Part 1)

  1. Lissa Buzzelli February 16, 2018 at 11:48 am #

    I love reading your post. You are so amazing. Living out your dreams. What an inspiration you are to so many.

    Found a couple of quotes, I thought you would enjoy.

    I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. —Jimmy Dean

    Believe you can and you’re halfway there. —Theodore Roosevelt

    All my best to you and Andrew

    • Gabriella February 18, 2018 at 9:43 am #

      Thank you for reading the post Lissa!! And thank you for the quotes <3

  2. Fred February 16, 2018 at 12:03 pm #

    Gabriella and Andrew,

    great post. i can’t tell you how long i have longed to do what you are doing. last year i even bought a ticket to fly back east to look at a sailboat. though she wasn’t quite as large as i wanted, she was the right price. even went so far as to put a down payment on her. but then i got home and my love decided she didn’t want to go. so now i’m still stuck in the high desert longing for the big blue. dolphins off my bow, headed for warmer climes….

    anyway, i am very happy for you guys.

    can’t wait to read the rest of your article.

    • Gabriella February 18, 2018 at 9:43 am #

      Hi Fred! Well, you’re a loyal partner…we just met someone down here who bought a boat, the wife went out in it for their week long solo journey and decided she didn’t like it so much. But he was hooked and so they split up and he’s been sailing every since (and she’s been back at her 9-5 life!). Hang in there with the dream! I truly never thought that Andrew would want to “do” the whole boat “thing” and look at us now!

  3. Margareta Arvidsson Cederroth February 16, 2018 at 12:28 pm #

    Gosh reading that sure brought up a lot❣️
    First I love your writing – Fint kort på Pappa “Cool Guy”. – I see now the Yotish reading that said :you will excel in everything you apply yourself to.
    You two are building quite the business and getting to do what you love while doing it
    Your website is flowing so well that even I can understand it with-out getting irateYou deserve roses for that. it’s interesting that I’m stranded,because of rv problems,in Baltimore,where we visited Morfar on his when you were barely standing. Do you remember the cute pictures from then? One of you as if steering,holding on to that huge wheel. -Did you tell me that it was actually your idea and desire to sail since forever, but Andrew wasn’t drawn to sailing,but then recently changed his mind? -I’m looking forward to reading the next chapter.

    • Margareta Arvidsson Cederroth February 16, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

      Gabriella the emojis don’t show up in the writing,so when it doesn’t make sense, that’s why and I’m sure you’ll get what I’m saying,since you’re my clever girl.

    • Gabriella February 18, 2018 at 9:39 am #

      Lol…well thank you mother!! And yes, Andrew used to be very afraid of sailing and the water so I had kind of just figured we would never “do” the boat thing. So when he shared his idea to get a boat, I of course jumped at the chance in case it was going to be a very small window. The funny thing is that he’s been doing in some aspects much better than me! <3

  4. rachel February 16, 2018 at 4:11 pm #

    Interesting–reminds me of THE WYNNS a couple who have youtube video’s. They started living in an RV for years, then about 1 1/2 years or so ago decided to sell it, BOUGHT a sailboat to live on, learned to sail (a large sailboat), and youtube about their experiences….rachel

    • Gabriella February 18, 2018 at 9:37 am #

      Hi Rachel! Yup, we are aware of the Wynns. Best wishes!

  5. John McCart February 16, 2018 at 10:17 pm #

    Great story there Gabriella. I am looking forward to upcoming additions to it. Give my regards to Andrew too.

    • Gabriella February 18, 2018 at 9:36 am #

      Thanks John and will do!

      • mark dondlinger February 18, 2018 at 8:17 pm #

        Great story. ! ! ! !You guys are an inspiration. “When you think you have come to the end of your rope,… Tie a knot in it and Hang on” Ben Franklin I have discovered a few others doing this sailing on you tube and really enjoy following the videos. Gabriella you are a gifted writer. Fair winds to you two. Mark

        • Gabriella February 27, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

          Thank you Mark! <3

  6. Alek Lisefski February 19, 2018 at 12:28 am #

    Can’t wait for part 2! Love you guys!

    • Gabriella February 27, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

      Love you and Lee Alek!

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