Dealing With Uncertainty

By Suellen Tomkins

Living the dream? I’m worried

So, you’ve said “yes” to the wonderful adventure that is cruising life, but there’s a nagging voice in your head that whispers “what if”:

  • I can’t cope?
  • I don’t like it?
  • I get lost at sea?

It can be scary, right? You’re not alone.

Sailing things that keep me on edge

Unlike these young sailors in their Optimist dinghies, sailing came to me later in life when I met my husband. I had a lot to learn but quickly discovered I loved the challenge of sailing and excitement of being on the water.

Young Optimist sailors training in La Rochelle, France

Since then we have owned two monohull yachts; enjoyed several charter sailing holidays overseas and spent a season sailing our own boat in the Whitsundays.

That said, being a sailor later in life means I tend to worry over the unpredictable aspects of sailing like;

  • Changing weather conditions
  • Uncomfortable sea states
  • Unfamiliar destinations, including marinas and berthing
  • Seasickness
  • Overnight passages and the associated sleep deprivation
  • Personal conflicts on board with partner or crew

However the lure of adventure overcomes fear, and we took our most exciting leap into the unknown, buying a Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 catamaran called “Wild Heart”. We have just completed a 4000 nautical miles journey from La Rochelle, France to Croatia during our first Mediterranean season.

My tips for dealing with uncertainty

“Worry is a waste of the imagination” Dan Zadra
Wild Heart anchored on her own in Solta, Croatia

As it’s impossible to control the outcome of every situation, here are my tips to help you prepare for the adventure ahead.

Be curious

Know where you are going and plan for your destination. In preparing for a passage, I make the anchorage selection and plot the course using a variety of resources, from destination relevant websites, pilot guides, and paper charts to weather routing software. Sometimes I check Google Earth for a bird’s eye view and Navily for anchorages reviews from other cruisers (some of which are hilarious thanks to Google translate).

Pick something and make it yours

This can be an activity that you’re interested in or one where you use your strengths and skills. There are loads of jobs on a boat, so you have lots of choice from things like canvas work, budget management, provisioning, managing customs and immigration clearance, the boat technology, berthing or anchoring to name a few.

Become a valued crew member, not a passenger

Take an interest and participate in all aspects of boat management. Developing a solid all round knowledge of your boat will enable you to participate in the decisions and choices of cruising life. Your viewpoint will be heard and considered, and many of your concerns will be alleviated through active involvement.

Safety is a critical component on any boat. Work to implement and understand systems, procedures, equipment and safety gear that can be used in emergencies. Knowing you have contingencies for potential critical situations is also reassuring.

My takeaways plus 3 things you can do now

While uncertainties are a part of sailing life, the best possible way to manage the discomfort is to be well informed and prepared.

  • Stay flexible
  • Be part of the crew; not just a passenger
  • Play to your strengths and use this knowledge to help minimise any risk

So here are three actions you can take now to improve your sailing comfort:

  • Enrol in a competent crew course (if you haven’t done so already)
  • Learn 2 essential knots that are useful on a boat
  • Join twilight sailing for sail handling practice

Actively contributing as a crewmember increases your sailing knowledge and gives you the best opportunity to enjoy all the adventures and new experiences that cruising brings.

Moments like these are where the journey leads to and what makes the adventure worthwhile

You can read more about our experience of buying a catamaran and sailing in the Mediterranean, here. Leave a comment if you have any questions or connect with me via the web at or on Instagram: @wildheartgypsyspirit and Facebook: Travel Sail Explore with SV Wild Heart

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