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Learn Fast - Our lives depend upon it!

Easter 2017 and the dream of sailing oceans was becoming our reality but did we have the necessary knowledge, skills and attitude to make the humongous leap into being full-time cruisers? Quite simply the answer to that was NO.  However, the date to commence the life-changing journey had been set to June 2020 and so with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation, we started to build our knowledge and skills.

Both Gary and I had and still do have a huge appetite for learning, mine quite simply based on the fact that learning & development has been my career for the last 30 years and to be frank for this adventure to be successful, my life depended on me knowing and experiencing a whole lot more before slipping the lines for good. Whilst Gary’s life depended on it too, his appetite comes from his incurable curiosity to understand everything inside and out, in detail and with depth. I kid you not, some would say as deep as the ocean!

Hours on the water was key and so we decided to join the local sailing club. At first, I hesitated, as the voice in my head loudly blared,

 ‘’Why on earth would you join a Sailing Club? You will show yourself up and you don’t know enough to sail out of the lock gates, never mind race!’’

 I speak for myself here as Gary had no such gremlin in his head. He was ready for the racing challenge and welcomed the camaraderie that a sailing community could bring.

I searched my mind for the positive reasons to join a sailing club and I told myself that like-minded people liked to talk about their own experiences, therefore engage in all things sailing, remain curious and wisdom and conversation will follow. I was worthy of being part of any sailing conversation and as for the bit about me lacking in sailing experience, well I know how to fail with grace.  If I make mistakes or don’t get it right the first time those become experiences which I can recall and use to my advantage in the future. Let’s just choose to see fail as an acronym - First Attempt Is Learning.
 
With my head more engaged we paid a few pounds and joined our local sailing club. Over time we joined in the odd social event, mingled with the members and listened to the salty stories and the varied opinions of how best to sail the Irish Sea. The Irish sea, after all, does have the challenges of being quite shallow along with the convergence of the tides coming around the north and south tips of Ireland from the Atlantic creating short steep waves not to mention the Lakeland fells wind impact. The list of projects onboard Sandpiper were long but the club racing calendar enhanced our boating experience and gave us a reason and an excuse to make time for being out on the open sea. Our home waters were challenging and whilst racing, the additional crew were always welcomed aboard, although Gary and I soon realised that choosing crew was an art and more about personality than skill set.  We did ok in the racing but most importantly we learned a lot about Sandpipers sailing capability, she was our teacher on many occasions, coaxing us to push on and slapping us wildly if we got complacent.  The racing certainly accelerated our learning in the company of others which was undoubtedly our aim and something we needed to achieve quickly.
 
Sailing at the club
 
Joining the club was something that captured my attention and drew me in so much that I accepted the offer to become the club secretary. A position which I enjoyed but I soon came to realise that the role consumed an awful lot of time and effort, which detracted from our overall goal of preparing Sandpiper and ourselves for a life at sea. A stark reminder to me that time is the most precious commodity we have and where you spend it should be very carefully considered, as once it is spent it is gone forever.
 
Certified education was also high on our agenda and we sharpened our knowledge by participating in First Aid, VHF Radio and Yacht Masters Theory courses. Our tutor for the Yacht Master came highly recommended, many told us to contact Keith at Nicholas George Associates and so we did. Navigation and weather systems made so much more sense with Keith, an extraordinary man who taught us many things over above this course. We often page through books he recommended, spellbound by Admiralty publications and other treasures of navigational information, tips and secrets.
 
Charts map on the chart table
 
Feeling more knowledgeable and skilled, my ‘can do’ attitude was building, until the night Gary and I were debating a sailing something…. the exact detail escapes me but Gary’s look of disbelief at my stupidity, made time stand still, this time he did not stay silent but followed it with,
 
‘Have you not learned anything in the last 7 years?’
 
Confidence dented I booked a week-long RYA Day Skippers Practical Assessment, not so much to prove Gary wrong but to prove to myself I can do this. I passed and was welcomed home from the course by Gary and 2 of our very dear friends, hugs, laughter and champagne flowed, but the bit which will never leave me is Gary’s voice toasting my achievement when he said, 
 
‘Never doubted it, I am so proud of you.’
 
The challenges of the assessment week were more than the RYA criteria, I had to join a skipper and a crew of four other people not to mention having to live 24/7 in close quarters with them. Something I did not relish as in my own time I am a private and introverted soul who gets their energy from being alone in a quiet space with time to reflect, consider options and focus deeply on the issues at hand. I am not shy, far from it, I am just different to those who compete to be heard, small talk is not something I enjoy but obviously, this week required me to man up and engage in lots of it. Yuk! I don’t see myself as competitive, well not outwardly, and early observations of this group of individuals hinted that there was a lot of testosterone and some precious egos to be massaged. To perform at our best we needed to become a team and fast, as a Leadership Coach much of this was familiar territory to me but on this occasion, my ticket as Day Skipper depended on it.
 
The team all had their own reasons for being on the boat, two of us were there to gain our Day Skippers qualification, one to build miles and the other two, complete sailing novices, were there to learn how to be competent crew members. It was interesting to observe how each crew member was initially operating as a lone ranger, this approach was never going to work and it was certainly not an environment I was comfortable in. I somehow found myself back in work mode, helping us all understand and appreciate each other’s goals and how collectively we could achieve greatness if we could just work in collaboration with each other. After the first day, we began to trust each other more,  we started to give each other feedback, in fact, no one was really shy about making their point and on occasions, it lacked any positivity. Soon the art of giving a spoonful of sugar became more palatable and words of encouragement started to flow more freely, essential as we were all out of our comfort zone during this week.
 
After stormy cold days at sea, the evening mealtime became a welcome distraction from the 24/7 assessment. We all took our turns as chef, dishwasher and boat cleaner albeit some were better at cooking than others and I was in the category of could do better, it never has been my forte but I did my bit. Quickly it was realised that we all had to pull our weight and do what was expected of us, get up on time, listen to each other and make decisions in a timely and safe manner.
 
Undertaking this assessment channelled my thinking in a new way, living on a boat 24/7 with only my husband for company was going to be amazing and challenging. We would have to work as a team and shockingly I had never seriously considered this before. Of course, I knew we would have to work as a team, marriage is a team game but the adventures ahead would add a whole new dynamic – a changing environment where anxiety, self-doubt and an element of risk-taking could be at play almost daily. 
 
I doubt we will always see eye to eye but appreciating our differing skills and needs will be essential. We all communicate differently and with this difference brings frustration but we both work hard at accommodating each other’s core preferences. Thank goodness that I have practised Discovery Insights for the last 10 years as this has certainly helped us understand each other and adapt our communication style to achieve harmony.  I appreciate that Gary needs detail, fact and justification and I know he asks many questions of himself and others. He is a great problem solver and the solution is meticulously planned and executed with precision. Where I am a feelings orientated person and have to talk them through, I don’t need a solution just someone to listen and that’s hard as feelings are subjective and slippery little suckers at the best of times –  feelings change where facts do not.  
 
Oh gosh this will be interesting and to be honest, we have made it this far and everything worth having takes a degree of effort! In the end, our commitment to each other is about winning – not in the sports sense of beating the opponent but about seeing us as a team succeed and knowing we both contributed to that success. 
 
Gary and I know the day we stop learning is the day we die and we shall never know enough about sailing but we continue to seek knowledge and experience and keep our can-do attitude.
 
We hope by sharing this article we give you some insight into the learning journey we have taken so far and that it supports you in yours.

 

Tanya Moxon
Contributor
Published on 2020-12-10