5 Hard Truths You Learn About Yourself When Sailing

by Hillary Federico Jan 19, 2016

The Romans once had a saying, “navigare necesse est”, which means “It’s necessary to sail”. What they understood perfectly well: The act of sailing is more than just a fun pastime. It’s on a boat that you learn who you really are.

For me, the lessons start at the pier. Some handshakes and a few stiff introductions later, I’m boarding a Mooring 51.4 with five strangers, all of whom know one another, but not me or my boyfriend. Boarding the boat takes me a minute as I clumsily swing my legs from the dock over the railing closing my hands around anything I can reach (including, unfortunately for them, my boat mates). My legs, wobbly and unsure, will take days to acclimate to the water’s rhythm, so for now, I stumble around like I’m drunk.

“The way you approach sailing is the way you approach life,” our captain says. “Some people will make mistakes and they’ll just give up. Others will keep trying.”

As it turns out, boat life is an epic challenge: You can’t escape because there’s nowhere to go; you’re forced to work as a team although you may prefer, at times, to work alone; you can’t hide from your mistakes (spoiler alert: you WILL make mistakes); and, perhaps most horrifically, you’ll have to come to terms with some hard truths about yourself.

1. You don’t have as much faith in yourself as you thought.

Are you the type of person who waits for the risky things to be taken care of by others so you won’t make a mistake? Or do you jump in with both feet wherever you’re needed, even if you’re not totally sure what you’re doing? Do you follow orders or can you problem-solve for yourself? Agreeing to live aboard a boat is basically agreeing to the unfamiliar. You’ve left behind your one-bedroom apartment and your nice little compact sedan for the prospect of adventure! But when you’re approaching a dock and the time comes to switch the fenders from the starboard to the port and you need to get the lines ready to tie off, or you’re tacking and there’s slack in the jib and you have to pull it taught, it’s nerve-wracking for anyone who hasn’t done it before. But in life, ish happens and you can’t always predict how you’re going to react. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, put on your big girl pants, and channel your inner Beyonce.

2. You rely too much on technology.

Okay, so maybe you’re not one of those people who goes out to brunch, and instead of catching up with friends, you’re texting the entire time, but I’ll bet you woke up this morning and the first thing you did was touch your phone. I do it, too. If you ask me, technology is a necessary evil: it’s gotten us so far but also caused basic skills to deteriorate. The beauty of being on a boat is that it’s essentially a tech detox — a chance for you and your brain to get re-aquainted with nature. For the first few days, your fingers might be itching to check that email or send those SnapChats, but hopefully after a week aboard the boat, you’re enjoying the beauty of Mother Nature instead of checking it out on Instagram.

3. Sometimes, people really hate being around you.

Maybe it’s the lack of space that a boat affords or the fact that you become cranky AF when you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep. Regardless of the reason, there are moments when you just don’t feel like hanging out with your other boat mates, and likewise, when they don’t feel like hanging out with you.

4. You aren’t a clean freak, but you want the option to be.

Living on a sailboat gets GROSS. The smells coming from the cabin, alone, could make a person feel like blowing chunks, but couple that with the seasickness and the knowledge that you’re essentially shitting in your swimming pool and that disgust rises a few notches. Now, I’m the first person to say I’m not OCD about cleaning: my mom steals my car when I’m traveling just so she can take it to the car wash because I never do and my boyfriend continually points out how I need to do a better job of cleaning the stove when I make a mess. But living on a boat does things to a person. For me, the bathrooms were my main concern. You learn to put everything back behind cabinets and barriers or else one morning you might just find the rocking of the boat threw your toothbrush next to the toilet brush currently in a pool of questionable water sitting in a puddle on the ground.

5. You’ve come a long way.

Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of it, it’s really hard to recognize how far you’ve come in life. Whether it’s graduating from college, paying off a mortgage or ditching the cubicle to go follow your travel dreams, it takes balls and a lot of hard work to reach the goals we’ve set in place for ourselves. And for whatever reason — maybe it’s because we don’t want to seem like we’re bragging or because we’re already onto the next goal — we tend to downplay our accomplishments. But being on a sailboat tends to lend itself to thinking — and lots of it. It’s a chance to take a step back, reflect and recognize what it took to get you to where you are now. And to be proud of every second of it.

Disclaimer: This trip was courtesy of LaloFitness. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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