Taking control on the high seas (Aimee Nance)
Blog Words : Aimee Nance | 01 November

How to deal with an anxious sailor

The sea can be an unnerving place. Aimee Nance reveals her useful tips to calm anxious sailors

My daughter Jessica has always had anxiety. As soon as she was old enough to be subject to state testing at school, she'd be the only kid walking into class with a huge mouth sore from relentlessly worrying and losing sleep over the test.

One doesn't need anxiety to feel a little uneasy living on a boat. Squalls can pop up out of nowhere and suddenly you're running around pulling everything off the rails, battening down the hatches and hoping your anchor doesn't drag.  When we're actually sailing and the boat begins to heel is when Jess starts to white knuckle it and begs that we ease the sails. When anchoring, Jess is the first to worry about our depth and outgoing tides. The worrying is never ending. 

As someone who grew up with anxiety, I get it. There are times that I look at Jess when she's nothing but a ball of anxiety and I see myself as a little 12-year-old girl. Trying to console a child with anxiety isn't easy unless you've been in their situation. Repeatedly uttering "It's okay" or "We'll be fine" doesn't register with someone who has anxiety. Anxiety doesn't like reason. 

So what do we do? We've shown Jess some ways of being able to help control the situation she's in, which helps with her anxiety. Jess has learned to read weather files with Phil each morning. Together, they discuss what we're expecting for the day in terms of wind speed and direction. Jess has also learned how to adjust sails and is able to help create comfort if we're heeling "too much". 

We have an agreement on the boat that if our depth reaches 8.5 feet we'll re-anchor. Believe me, Jess is watchful of the depth meter and will let us know when it's time to move. When the anemometer reads close to 20 knots, Jess knows we'll reef a sail. We've established boundaries in advance so she doesn't have to worry about when things will happen to ensure we stay safe.

Her sister, Emma, is completely different, the yin to our yangs. She is the type of person who would be looking at how beautiful the eye of hurricane looks over the boat while the rest of us are kissing our butts goodbye!

Aimee Nance is currently 'cruising' around the world with her young family. You can follow their adventures on Sailing with Terrapin.