Don’t Give Up the Ship

Don’t Give Up the Ship

Take Responsibility Like Never Before

Some thrive on uncertainty; others would turn the tide to avoid it. But like it or not, the only thing you can be sure of in life is you never know what will happen next. No one saw COVID-19 coming, and no one knows the lasting impact it will have on our lives. But more and more these days I rely on and find comfort in lessons I learned while sailing around the world, and here is the biggest: take total responsibility for the safety of yourself and family.


I’d been dreaming of sailing off into the sunset my whole life. For over 20 years I had toughed out hard jobs and long deployments in the Army, knowing that it would all lead to a lifelong pension while my husband and I were still up to the rigors of crossing oceans and inevitable storms. Despite 20 years of visualizing and dreaming and working toward that goal, when the time came to sell everything and move on the boat I was filled with anxiety. A wreck of nerves, I became addicted to worst-case scenarios. What if I make a stupid mistake that gets us hurt? What if we get attacked by pirates? What if I’m not strong enough to handle the physical tasks? Dread was constantly with me, until the first bad thing happened, and I handled it. Then the next bad thing, and the next, and so on. Eventually, the more experience my husband and I gained, the less frequently those bad things happened.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. During our eight years on the boat a lot of bad things happened; most in the mishap range but a few serious things including medical emergencies and a pirate attack. Again and again we learned to handle the first bad thing immediately, before a cascade of worse things ended in tragedy.

Skip the Blame Game

All sailors know that when something goes wrong, no one asks who was at fault. Blame is a time waster and urgent action is needed. Most importantly, we are all on the same boat.

Though my husband and I no longer share 300 not-so-square feet of living space on a boat, the Venn diagram of our lives still overlap sweetly. We live in a mountain cabin where we are still close to nature, but of a different kind. Instead of watching dolphins we watch elk grazing, instead of snorkeling we go for walks in the woods, instead of spearing fish for dinner we fly-fish in streams. Isolated as we are for the COVID-19 pandemic, in a sense we are back on the boat. The complexity of our lives is gone, and we are able to appreciate the moment, reading, writing, enjoying nature, cooking food the slow way and hunkering down until this storm passes. If you work as a team with the goal of getting through dangerous situation, even the roughest storms eventually pass, and you come out on the other end stronger and wiser. Let’s get through this and make safe landfall in a kinder, gentler world.