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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone.

This is my very first post on this forum. I have a peculiar query.
I am a complete newbie at sailing. Just took an open sea course and plan on getting the beginner's certification as the next step. Step by step I plan to reach my ultimate goal- reach Hawaii from mainland(LA or San Fran) sailing alone. I don't care if it takes me 3 or even 10 years from now, but I want to be fully prepared- for obvious reasons. But there is one problem as of now....I am petrified of the Ocean.

I am a competent enough swimmer in a swimming pool. I thought if I could swim in the pool I could do it in the Ocean too. So while on a trip to Thailand I decided to jump right in. And it was a nightmare.

Even though the sea was calm it was much much harder to swim. I ducked in(the water being crystal clear) and upon seeing the depth my heart stopped beating for a few good seconds.

I felt as though the Ocean was pulling me away from the boat. And we were barely a few meters away from the mainland. I felt out of control. Like how a fish would feel on land. And I can swim in pools very well.

So my query is this: Do I have to be a very good swimmer if I want to learn and sail my own boat someday?

How good can you swim? Like if you fall overboard somewhere between Hawaii and California with 2000 miles of (probably) rough sea on either side, then what?

Should I first master my fear of the Ocean, become a very good swimmer and diver(as opposed to just competent) and then take sailing?
 

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Remember you're a womble
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Like if you fall overboard somewhere between Hawaii and California with 2000 miles of (probably) rough sea on either side, then what?
Then unless you are extremely lucky, you are dead and no amount of swimming ability is going to help you. Sailors traditionally never learnt to swim, there was no point, if you went in the ocean you were dead anyway.
Happy happy :)

No need to be a swimmer to sail, try to stay on the boat is more important.
 

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Most of the British Navy couldn't swim, when they ruled the waves. It was considered to be a very good thing, since it encouraged the men to make sure the ships would stay afloat.

Swimming in the ocean, in salt water, is physically easier than swimming in fresh water because you are more buoyant. Salt water is denser than fresh.

Swimming in waves and against currents is more difficult than swimming in flat water, but that's a matter of learning not to waste your energy against things you can't control. Like you hear every day in coastal areas, folks drown in "rip tides" which are actually "rip currents" and they are perfectly harmless--if you know what to do and don't panic.

Sounds like your problem is one of anxiety and possible panic, and for some people you can work that out with either a good swim coach or a therapist (shrink or hypnotherapist, etc.) while for other people the answer is skip the boat and go to Hawaii in a skinny metal tube made of 100,000 parts each supplied by the lowest bidder and maintained by overworked underpaid begrudging maintenance crews.

The sea doesn't care if you live or die, it has little interest in reaching out to grab you, despite all the horror movies. But getting comfortable in or on the ocean? Some people are, and are fools. Others never will be, and are perhaps equally foolish. The only way to find out is to seek professional help (swim coach, scuba instructor, therapist, whatever) and see which way it goes for you.

Jumping overboard without being prepared or trained, without any help at all? Not such a good way to find out.
 

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Remember you're a womble
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Oh and it's quite common to have a fear of swimming in the ocean, or deep water. I would treat that as good motivation for not doing so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Most of the British Navy couldn't swim, when they ruled the waves. It was considered to be a very good thing, since it encouraged the men to make sure the ships would stay afloat.

Swimming in the ocean, in salt water, is physically easier than swimming in fresh water because you are more buoyant. Salt water is denser than fresh.

Swimming in waves and against currents is more difficult than swimming in flat water, but that's a matter of learning not to waste your energy against things you can't control. Like you hear every day in coastal areas, folks drown in "rip tides" which are actually "rip currents" and they are perfectly harmless--if you know what to do and don't panic.

Sounds like your problem is one of anxiety and possible panic, and for some people you can work that out with either a good swim coach or a therapist (shrink or hypnotherapist, etc.) while for other people the answer is skip the boat and go to Hawaii in a skinny metal tube made of 100,000 parts each supplied by the lowest bidder and maintained by overworked underpaid begrudging maintenance crews.

The sea doesn't care if you live or die, it has little interest in reaching out to grab you, despite all the horror movies. But getting comfortable in or on the ocean? Some people are, and are fools. Others never will be, and are perhaps equally foolish. The only way to find out is to seek professional help (swim coach, scuba instructor, therapist, whatever) and see which way it goes for you.

Jumping overboard without being prepared or trained, without any help at all? Not such a good way to find out.
Yes, I do suffer from social anxiety and a few mental disorders. I can't even drive!!! But I am working on it, seeing a therapist currently.

I don't want to just take a cruise or whatever. The way I see it, maybe sailing will help me get rid of anxiety, make me feel more in control. And there is a philosophical romantic element to it as well. Crossing a sea would make me feel like I have accomplished something real in this existence.

I will take baby steps. Couldn't swim a few months back but now I am a pretty decent pool swimmer. I'll do it. Live like Sonny Crocket on my own boat;) someday
 

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In that case, the therapist is the one to ask. If they're not familiar with sailing, they may have to do some homework before they can answer you.

Most of us would say that a day on the water (good day or bad, either way) is better than a whole day in therapy. Of course, Captain Nemo had his own views about the therapeutic value of "sailing", too. (G)
 

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Get a comfortable type v inflatable pfd with a built in harness. You'll never need to swim. Though if you want to have more fun in the caribbean it helps to know how.
 

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Being a good swimmer in the scenario you pose probably means if you go overboard, you'll just die tired.
Live like Sonny Crockett? Afraid of the ocean? How about alligators? ;-)
The trip could be very therapeutic, or you'll have a breakdown (you wouldn't be the first). Either way, if you survive, you'll be a different person on the other side.
 

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Sailing is a great way to build confidence. Several people have written books about how they were more than a little timid as but after some significant sailing experience it changed how they viewed life and they become more courageous in everything.

Only you can decide if you can be comfortable on a boat but I sailed for years before I learned how to swim so you could certainly work on the swimming and sailing seperatly.

Also their are coastal areas where the water is no deeper than a pool but get deeper as you go further out so you could get used to the deeper water gradually.

Also a stand up paddle board even if you only sit on it is a good way to have something to hang onto when in deeper water.

Even a sit-a-top kayak my help you. Learn how to get in it an out of it in shallow water then try it in deeper water.

I am very impressed that you are not letting your fears diminish you life but are working on them in an intelligent manor.

Keep up the good work and welcome to sailing.
Where are you from?
Maybe some sailnetter will be willing to take you out sailing just so you can see if you like it?
 

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I couldn't imagine not being a good swimmer and owning a boat, though there are many out there who are not.
You would miss the snorkeling in the warm tropical waters of Hawaii, the SoPac or the Caribbean, swimming from the boat to a deserted beach on some tropical island. Checking the bottom of the boat, clearing a line wrapped around a prop or a problem with the rudder would all be facilitated by being comfortable in the water. Even the California coast offers interesting diving and snorkeling, though it's not nearly as pleasant as warm tropical water, wet suit or not.
Sure, anyone can sail without being a good swimmer, but why would you want to miss all the great fun that being a good swimmer offers?
 

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Wearing some sort of PFD may help you feel more comfortable aboard, especially if you can try the life preserver out in a pool and learn how it really works. There are also lots of things you can do to make darn sure you do stay on board ... harnesses with crotch/leg straps and tethers to attach to pad eyes, jack lines for going forward, having someone else on deck or on the helm when doing sail changes, etc.

If you take a small-boat dinghy sailing class, these generally do require a capsize recovery drill and basic swimming and floating ability -- this might be tested in the deeper part of a pool or in moderate depth water near shore. Some classes also have a drill where you swim/float, then put on a life preserver/PFD.

If you fall overboard at sea, you'd best hope others on the boat see you and get the boat back to you rapidly. Even good swimmers often lose the ability to swim very shortly after falling in if the water is at all cold, but a PFD/life preserver will give you much more survival time/time to be rescued, and even more for something like a float coat. Couple a good life preserver with a portable transponder/alarm that can be read by crew using special equipment on the boat, or with a personal locator beacon (PLB), and with a strobe light or similar, and you'd have a decent shot at rescue.
 

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Look at learning how to swim as one of the basic competencies of seamanship. You'd be surely remiss in not being able to do so. Usually the YMCA or your local AAU swim clubs have programs for beginners. maybe mix it in with your USCG class, ASA sailing school etc. Next time your in Thailand take the PADI discover scuba or openwater class, you will need to know how to swim for this.
 

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Overcoming ones fears is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment. Congratulations for taking it on. Sure sounds like some professional guidance is in order, so I hope you have access to some.

For most, the more time you spend immersed (pun intended) in whatever causes anxiety, the easier it gets. But you don't jump in like you did. You slightly push your comfort level a bit at a time.

Good luck.
 

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Not if you are one hundred per cent sure you will never fall into water deeper than your head without a life jacket on.
 

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My SO was in the USCG and spent his entire time on two cutters, one in Alaska and one in the Caribbean. When we first met and he putzed around in my pool I commented that he couldn't swim and yet he was in the CG on the cutters. His response:

"We didn't have to know how to swim. We just had to know how not to drown. Besides, I can do a mean doggie paddle."
 

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My SO was in the USCG and spent his entire time on two cutters, one in Alaska and one in the Caribbean. When we first met and he putzed around in my pool I commented that he couldn't swim and yet he was in the CG on the cutters. His response:

"We didn't have to know how to swim. We just had to know how not to drown. Besides, I can do a mean doggie paddle."
good to know he met his life saver...wooof wooof!
 

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I don't want to perform CPR on anyone (non swimmers) ever again, 3 times is enough. Learn to swim, for your loved ones at least. I still get a note on July 23rd every year from the one that survived......
 

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I used to do a lot of diving with a great group of people. One of the group had a pathological fear of diving, being submerged etc. She took the diving course in order to overcome her fear. We were all so proud of her as she joined us on some memorable trips and made attempts at each of our dives.

She never did overcome her fear but continued diving regardless.

As time went on she would spoil the dives of her buddies by panicking and racing to the surface. This not only put herself in jeopardy, but also put her buddy - who was obliged to stay with her - at risk. It soon came a time when only either the most generous amongst us, or one who believed her 'tall tales' and thought she was a competent diver, would buddy up with her. Being her buddy guaranteed a short, panic-ridden dive.

One would think that someone with this level of anxiety over an activity would realize that it was time to take up another sport. Not so with this 'brave' soul. In fact she progressed through the PADI training to get qualified as a Rescue Diver.

One of the skills required of a rescue diver is that you are comfortable breathing through your regulator without wearing a mask. To demonstrate this the instructor approaches you under water and signals for you to remove your mask. You are to do so immediately and demonstrate your comfort until you are given the signal to replace your mask. This is a great skill to have as, when rescuing a panicked diver it is very likely that your mask will be knocked off.

When it came time for our 'heroine' to demonstrate this skill, it took ten minutes of the instructor's convincing before she removed her mask, at which point she surfaced and raced to shore in deep distress. Once convinced that this was a required skill she eventually was able to demonstrate it to the minimum standard.

I don't know if this person is still involved in diving. I certainly hope that she is not as she poses an extreme hazard to herself and those around her.
She had made a valiant effort to overcome her fear, but it got to a point where she was at best spoiling the experience of those around her, or, at worst: endangering people.

With regards to your ability to swim, as others have said: it is not a requirement of sailing. Your inability might be an asset as it will give you the incentive to stay aboard.

With floatation equipment (PFD's) etc. that are available today you should feel confident that going overboard in benign conditions will give you an excellent chance of being rescued.

But if your fear and anxiety may put you or your rescuers in jeopardy take up another pass-time.
 

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One of the skills required of a rescue diver is that you are comfortable breathing through your regulator without wearing a mask. To demonstrate this the instructor approaches you under water and signals for you to remove your mask. You are to do so immediately and demonstrate your comfort until you are given the signal to replace your mask. This is a great skill to have as, when rescuing a panicked diver it is very likely that your mask will be knocked off.

Wrong. That is a basic skill taught in the open water class. Are they dumbing down the PADI courses now?
 
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