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Hey gang,

I was going to hijack my own thread in another message, but now that I'm really thinking about this subject, it deserves it's own message thread, so here goes.

I'll start off by admitting I'm really embarrassed to admit this, but deep breath upwind sailing with a healthy heel on the boat scares the crap out of me.

As a lot of you know, I have a Columbia 39 which has a really nice high freeboard (one of the reasons I purchased her) and when I'm in the cockpit, it's feels pretty reassuring to know that I'm pretty far away from the water.

However, in a good blow, she heels right the hell over, and again I feel stupid for admitting this (because aren't we all supposed to be fearless in this pursuit of passion) but it's a white knuckle experience for me every-time.

I try a lot of those self-help relaxation techniques when I'm in this situation, (reminding myself I can always head up, let out the main, I know how to f**king swim if I do something stupid and we actually rolled, etc etc)...but it doesn't really help. The fear of [insert whatever irrational fear I think might happen] sometimes can almost be crippling, so I usually cave instead of just keeping to the course and I'll head up to reduce the heel which helps calm my anxiety a bit (if not necessary being an optimal sail course).

I'm not sure if it's just my inexperience as a sailor commanding my own boat, or if I just don't have the "right stuff" (nerves of steel maybe) to really pursue this sport... perhaps a certain personality type can handle "fear" better than others, but at times, it's led me to doubt if I've made the right choice.. (maybe I should have just gotten a powerboat instead)...

So what I'm wondering is, do the more experienced sailors here ever experience "fear" or doubt about the decision to do this? I'm not looking for a reason to "give up or quit" I suppose I'm just looking to see how other, more experienced folks might have dealt with rational / irrational fear of certain aspects of the sport...(if they ever had to).

I'll cross a few off the list right now. I'm highly allergic to MJ, so I can't use "medical MJ" as a calming agent. I also already drink "like a fish" so that's my main go to nerve calmer for sailing upwind. Good for my liver, absolutely not. Helpful when I'm white knuckling it upwind? A bit, but not always enough. :)

Thanks gang!
 

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Fear is a good thing. It's there for a reason. It heightens your senses and helps give you the ability to deal with extraordinary circumstances. There is nothing wrong with fear unless you let it override you're reasoning ability. You're reasoning should be telling you to take action if you are over powered. Slack the mainsheet, Fall Off or as a last resort head up till the sail stalls. Maybe if you try sailing upwind with a reefed main with less heel till you get more comfortable with heeling, it would help. If I were going to take up rock climbing I wouldn't start with trying to reach the summit of El Capitan !
 

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Old soul
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Can you reduce sail area? I mostly sail boats with pretty powerful sail plans relative to their weight. If I am getting stressed I just reef, or pinch for gusts.
What Arcb says. Just reduce sail. That will reduce your heel angle. You may not be as efficient, but you won't heel as much.

Deep heeling is rarely a good idea anyway. Macho sailors like to "bury the rail", but heel angles much past 12º-15º are usually inefficient. At these angles you're starting to make more leeway than forward way. It might feel exhilarating and fast, but in most cases it's slower than flattening the boat by reducing sail.

Another thing to consider ... I don't know your boat, but a higher freeboard might actually be working against you. A higher freeboard likely means your cockpit is higher off the water. This will magnify the effects of even a small angle of heel. So you might do better with a boat with small freeboard.
 

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Hey gang,

I was going to hijack my own thread in another message, but now that I'm really thinking about this subject, it deserves it's own message thread, so here goes.

I'll start off by admitting I'm really embarrassed to admit this, but deep breath upwind sailing with a healthy heel on the boat scares the crap out of me.

As a lot of you know, I have a Columbia 39 which has a really nice high freeboard (one of the reasons I purchased her) and when I'm in the cockpit, it's feels pretty reassuring to know that I'm pretty far away from the water.

However, in a good blow, she heels right the hell over, and again I feel stupid for admitting this (because aren't we all supposed to be fearless in this pursuit of passion) but it's a white knuckle experience for me every-time.

I try a lot of those self-help relaxation techniques when I'm in this situation, (reminding myself I can always head up, let out the main, I know how to f**king swim if I do something stupid and we actually rolled, etc etc)...but it doesn't really help. The fear of [insert whatever irrational fear I think might happen] sometimes can almost be crippling, so I usually cave instead of just keeping to the course and I'll head up to reduce the heel which helps calm my anxiety a bit (if not necessary being an optimal sail course).

I'm not sure if it's just my inexperience as a sailor commanding my own boat, or if I just don't have the "right stuff" (nerves of steel maybe) to really pursue this sport... perhaps a certain personality type can handle "fear" better than others, but at times, it's led me to doubt if I've made the right choice.. (maybe I should have just gotten a powerboat instead)...

So what I'm wondering is, do the more experienced sailors here ever experience "fear" or doubt about the decision to do this? I'm not looking for a reason to "give up or quit" I suppose I'm just looking to see how other, more experienced folks might have dealt with rational / irrational fear of certain aspects of the sport...(if they ever had to).

I'll cross a few off the list right now. I'm highly allergic to MJ, so I can't use "medical MJ" as a calming agent. I also already drink "like a fish" so that's my main go to nerve calmer for sailing upwind. Good for my liver, absolutely not. Helpful when I'm white knuckling it upwind? A bit, but not always enough. :)

Thanks gang!
Where my wife and I sail (Colorado), the wind is highly variable. Gusts seem to come fast and furious sometimes. What we do to keep an even keel is to keep a sharp eye on the water to spot the craziness. When necessary, we turn into gusts as much as necessary to keep control. Of course we reef if time permits, but the main self-defense is turning in. Not so much as to lose steerage, and it is inelegant sometimes, but we control the boat. Not the wind.
 

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What @contrarian said +1. Fear is a survival mechanism. Fear is rational, panic is irrational. You're not going to shake fear, it will always be there. But you can learn to be afraid and do what you need to do anyway. Being scared sh!tless is often quite appropriate, panicking is not.

It's not a 'right stuff' question. It's a problem of knowledge and experience.

Developing confidence in your equipment is a big component (knowledge and experience). Understanding the limits of the machine you are sailing, and how it is supposed to function. When heeled, are you concerned about the rig failing, capsizing, or falling out?

You've found the edge and know where your limits currently reside. Reflect on what it is about that place that scares you, study on the physics of the situation. Ask yourself if the perceived danger is real or imagined. Then go back to that place in a deliberate, controlled manner and make it familiar.

You've got this.
 

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Hey Lox man, no issue. Fear is part of the "fun." If it ain't scaring you a bit, you aren't advancing your "craft."

Recommend the following therapeutic steps.
1. Increase your exposure gradually. Reef that sucker down for the day, deeply. Even if you don't need to and the wind is light. Then when that gets boring, shake a reef out. Then when that gets boring, shake out another.
2. Repeat step 1.
3. Keep doing this till your sitting on the high side and your feet are getting wet but you still have a smile on your face.

Once you are giggling and thinking clearly, start noticing speed and heading differences at different
wind velocities and reef points, and you'll figure out how to maximize performance....but don't do that until therapy is complete. It probably sails faster when not on its ear, but right now, better to work on your head than the boat. You can do it. Your head needs to be convinced you can't roll it until you get to cape horn :).

Have fun! Been at this too many years, don't get that healthy fear feeling very often these days, I envy you!
 

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bell ringer
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Hey gang,

I was going to hijack my own thread in another message, but now that I'm really thinking about this subject, it deserves it's own message thread, so here goes.

I'll start off by admitting I'm really embarrassed to admit this, but deep breath upwind sailing with a healthy heel on the boat scares the crap out of me.

However, in a good blow, she heels right the hell over, and again I feel stupid for admitting this (because aren't we all supposed to be fearless in this pursuit of passion) but it's a white knuckle experience for me every-time.

So what I'm wondering is, do the more experienced sailors here ever experience "fear" or doubt about the decision to do this?

I'll cross a few off the list right now. I'm highly allergic to MJ, so I can't use "medical MJ" as a calming agent. I also already drink "like a fish" so that's my main go to nerve calmer for sailing upwind. Good for my liver, absolutely not. Helpful when I'm white knuckling it upwind? A bit, but not always enough. :)

Thanks gang!
After 13 years my wife and I still experience fear sometimes even on a "nice" day. It isn't really a rational thing, some days you feel it somedays you don't. And it was worst in the days I had a heeling boat like the OP.

All you can do is take action to reduce the boat speed and heeling (reef, spill air, adjust traveler, change course etc.) and on our boat we have a take the most conservation action rule. Meaning if one of us is uncomfortable and the other isn't we adjust for the uncomfortable person. Sometimes it is her, sometimes it is me.

One thing I wouldn't consider is replacing my fear with stupid, by taking medication to chanhe it!
 

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So what I'm wondering is, do the more experienced sailors here ever experience "fear" or doubt about the decision to do this? I'm not looking for a reason to "give up or quit" I suppose I'm just looking to see how other, more experienced folks might have dealt with rational / irrational fear of certain aspects of the sport...(if they ever had to).
For a start the fear is not irrational. We were never genetically made to live life at 30 or 45 degrees :)

The fear is that you don't know if your boat is going to fall over, sink, break up.

The best ways to fix this is to go racing. Either on someone elses boat, or take your own boat in a club cruising race.
In a race boats are pushed to their limits. all of a sudden you will be in a boat being pushed much harder than you've ever pushed yours, It will heel more, tack quicker, appear to collide with every other boat in the race. There will be yelling and screaming, shouting of rules, rushing about, total confusion and then it will rain but everyone will carry on.

In your own boat you will at sometime think "OMG I have to reef! How do I do this, its so windy now. Its scary!" In a race reefing is done in about 10 seconds during a tack and no one notices it. Reef in. Reef out. reef in... all race. Same with every other big scary sail manoeuvre, Kite up, down 6 times in one 3 hour race. Crazy!

Go racing for just one Saturday afternoon and afterwards your boat will feel tame, sedate, gentlemanly... un-scary :) because you know your boat is not going to fall over and sink.


Mark
 

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I have anxious personality and a love of activities that aggravate it. I love to climb mountains but I'm terrified of heights, I love to go backpacking but afraid of getting injured alone and dying of exposure, I love to sail but everything about it makes me anxious, including heeling.

You either experience anxiety or you don't and I've met plenty of more adventurous people than me who have tried everything. A good friend is a rock climber who hates heights, is physically sick with vertigo every time. She took up rock climbing hoping it would help the fear but just made it worse, still she fell in love with the sport. So you could take up racing and it helps, or it could just make things worse. Unfortunately there's no 'getting over it' for many of us.

So what to do if exposure won't cure your anxiety and it can't be rationalized with? One way is to understand that anxiety is rational on some level, and that you might just end up being a more cautious sailor (hiker, rock climber) to manage it. With respect to heeling, just sail flatter and reef sooner. Fortunately most boats prefer to sail flatter, and so do many passengers.
 

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In answer to your question of whether more experienced sailors feel fear when heeling...it doesn't scare me one bit. My first few times on a sailboat were a little scary when we heeled, but that fear dissipated quickly.

Normal heeling is nothing to be afraid of, so fearing it is irrational. So, IMO, we're not talking about overcoming valid fear, but overcoming an irrational response. You're not going to die because your boat rolled over. You can look at the published figures to see how you're likely to die. You will NOT see inverted sailboat syndrome on that list.

Long ago, I overcame any discomfort I may have felt by understanding how a sailboat hull works. Look at a sailboat hull sitting in it's cradle. The part covered with the anti-fouling paint is only one part of the hull that's supposed to be used. The rest of that curvature, going up the topsides, is part of the working hull.

If I have someone on the boat who is nervous about heeling, I'll have them stand by the helm and brace themselves with their feet so they're vertical and secure while we heel. I instruct them to look at the entire boat, and just imagine it as just a big surfboard doing it's natural thing bashing through the waves. Keep looking forward. I think the problem they're having is looking at the big heeling boat as a big house that could roll over on them at any second. I'll catch them sitting on the boat, looking down at the water and imagining that big piece of fiberglass rolling over on them. Basically stoking their fears. If I can get them to imagine the big surfboard, and feel the natural movement of the boat through their legs, and react to it's movement, there's a good chance of overcoming their irrational fear.

My wife started sailing with me when she was forty, and was afraid of heeling and big (to her) waves on Lake Michigan. One day, we were out in the fresh six footers (reasonably big on Lake Michigan...fun and exciting). We were close hauled and heeling appropriately, and I put her on the helm, standing, and had her brace herself properly as we continually hammered into the oncoming steep waves. It was a sunny day, warm, steady wind, the sort of day a sailor lives for. She realized she had control of the boat, and after a couple minutes, she said "THIS IS AWSOME!". She didn't give up the helm until we had to come about, and she's been just fine in the big stuff ever since.

Now, I'm not being a braggart about feeling no fear while heeling. I experience irrational fear about heights and spiders. Other than that, all my fears are rational, and I'm not giving them up.

Oh, and drinking at the helm? Not good. Knock it off.
 

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My advice would be to do some sailing in a small dinghy, or small catamaran, where tipping over is no big deal. With a boat like that you can sail it right up to, and then over, the edge. You will get to understand what it feels like when a sailboat is about to go over on its side -- and there very definitely is a "feel" to it that you will quickly recognize.

Once you are able to recognize that feel, you will also realize that you are nowhere near that point in any sort of normal heeling situation.

Whatever you do, good luck.
 

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Brian Tracey said “do the thing you fear and the death of fear will follow”.

When we first bought our 28’ boat on Lake Ontario we I remember at least one white knuckle sail back into the safety of the harbor because the wind had spiked to like 12 knots! We were heeling and waves were hitting the bows and spray was coming over the cockpit - we were sure we were in mortal danger.

But we kept at it and by the end of that summer I realized that 12 knots was about when that boat came alive and started to get fun.

It’s all about experience- just be judicious in how you get the experience. Let the sail out or reef to where you’re almost comfortable but not quite. Ride that edge and you’ll find the edge recedes as you do.

Also, if sailing in high winds and waves really isn’t for you, then just don’t. Sailing is supposed to be fun. Do it in a way that is fun for you and your crew. No one should think the less of you for it.

Remember “there are old sailors and there are bold sailors but there are no old, bold sailors”.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Patient: "Doctor, Doctor... it hurts when I do this!"
Doctor: "Well... don't do it."

Seriously, if deep heeling causes anxiety, then don't deeply heel. As I said, it's rarely needed and mostly counter-productive anyway. Great for a thrill, but deep heeling beyond ~15º is usually a slower option, and one that puts far greater strain on your boat.

Everyone is correct that there is no rational reason to fear heeling. It's almost impossible for a well-found keel boat (of which yours is one) to be knocked down by wind alone. But fear, and especially extreme anxiety, is not always rational. Cognitive behaviour therapy is a proven way to change these irrational fears or beliefs, and the methods described by others (slow, building exposure) is part of the CBT approach. But CBT takes times. It's not a quick fix to deeply ingrained (irrational) fears.
 

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Everyone is correct that there is no rational reason to fear heeling. It's almost impossible for a well-found keel boat (of which yours is one) to be knocked down by wind alone. But fear, and especially extreme anxiety, is not always rational. Cognitive behaviour therapy is a proven way to change these irrational fears or beliefs, and the methods described by others (slow, building exposure) is part of the CBT approach. But CBT takes times. It's not a quick fix to deeply ingrained (irrational) fears.
I like the way Mike puts this. I was a big hiker before I was a sailor and I've been lectured at length on exposed hikes about how irrational fear of heights is and how I just need to get over it. Honestly, those lectures just made me more anxious and unhappy and were unhelpful.

It wasn't until I started hiking with other hikers who were afraid of heights that I understood that those other hikers had actually never had any real fear to conquer, not that they had overcome something I seemed unable to overcome. My new hiking friends with a fear of heights taught me some effective ways to work through it, mostly through calming breaths and a buddhist chant (not a buddhist but there are no atheists in foxholes or mountaintops) which was way more effective.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I would like to thank everyone for the great feedback. Yes, reefing tends to one of my go to strats when my nerves start to get away from me, and yes, I'm sure a lot of it is still my lack of experience working against me, since as previously stated, I know I can swim (and quite well) so if I did roll the boat, well, provided I wasn't incapacitated, I've got options.

Spent more time thinking about it, and I think the fear comes more from just perhaps "making the wrong call" about what to do in that situation when things move from the "whoa this is awesome" zone to the "whoa, sh*t is about hit the fan" zone, as can happen pretty quickly.

And it has to do with the aforementioned knowledge and experience (or lack thereof)...

So I will continue to keep skill building. :)
 

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My new hiking friends with a fear of heights taught me some effective ways to work through it, mostly through calming breaths and a buddhist chant
Awesome, this reminds me of something I learned on a use of force course. Our instructor was a Systema Master. He taught that the key to controlling yourself in a fight was to control your breathing. Before we hit the mats each morning and afternoon he lead a square breathing exercise 5 seconds in, 5 seconds hold, 5 seconds out, 5 seconds hold. It's amazing how quickly you can calm down and get back to business in a tense situation using this technique. Wouldn't be surprised if the Bhuddist chants are a variation of the same technique.
 

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Re "Calming Breaths" Vs "Get Over It"

I am not a Calming Breaths kinda dude.

The Army studies fear. Kinda weird, until I thought about it :) Until recently (30 years or so) they were the only workplace to instruct Leadership.
Anyway I was in the part time army (in Australia) in officer training. They needed to asses how you deal with fear. The easiest and cheapest way to give the fear of death was to take us up in an old clunker plane and tell us to get out. Those that parachuted passed. They didnt care what method you used. Interesting was the different ways people reacted when we go to the ground: It was a water jump ie into water. I was first out and first into the recovery boat, and, obviously helped everyone else into the boat. Funnily enough, no one else helped. Other interesting bit was half the group were all 'man, what a buzzzzz'.... the other half were quiet. I was certainly one of the quiet half. I did it but didn't like it.

I don't think this post has helped the discussion! :LOL: :ROFLMAO: :LOL:

Mark
 

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Lots of good advice.

I would also suggest leaning her WAY over a few times, when you have good crew. Learn where the edge of the envelope is. She'll sail faster and better with a reef in, but it's good to not just understand, but KNOW from expereince that a good bit of heel is not that dangerous, not by itself. This ties back to the catamaran and dinghy suggestions; those are only relaxing once you learn the shape of the envelope.

(With multihulls you tickle this tiger more gently, but still, the sailor should learn where the edge of the envelope is, under controlled conditions.)
 

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Oh, BTW didn't the OP say he has a Columbia 39 ? Isnt this a 1960's deign? Weren't they designed to sail upwind at a 30 degree heel? Thats double the angle of modern monohulls.


Mark
 
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