On Wednesday, March 7, I am teaching a class called “I’mpossible” at Davidson Parks and Recreation. It’s about helping people find their dream and then put that dream into action. It’s something I am very passionate about.
A reporter was interviewing me for a story about the class, and she asked me why, with the economy being the way it is, would someone want to take a risk now and try something new? It was a valid question. If things seem bad now, wouldn’t it be safer to stay where you are rather than risk something new?
It reminded me of a time on our sailboat. Early in our trip, neither Dan nor I were really comfortable sailing long passages. If the option was to island hop, and not have to spend several days in unpredictable seas and weather and limited visibility, that was what we preferred. Sometimes we had that option and sometimes we didn’t.
The North Coast of Dominican Republic is hard to sail. Sailors refer to it as part of the “thorny path” you must take to get further down the easier sailing, Caribbean island chain. It has earned this title because heading east, on the North coast, everything is against you: the wind, the waves, the current.
During the day time, the wind can blow 20 to 30 knots or more and you are headed directly into it. The ocean is very deep here, and shallows rapidly as it nears the coast, adding to the height of the waves, already driven high by the wind. We were heading from Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. Most people sail directly from Samana DR to Boqueron PR, through the notorious Mona Passage, known for it’s dangerous storms. If we sailed this way, it would be about 36 hours of continous sailing, with questionable weather, and no place to pull into if anything went wrong. Dan, my husband, preferred to err on what he perceived to be the side of safety. Instead of doing one 36 hour sail, we would harbor hop down the Domincan Republic coast and overnight at Mona Island, basically right in the middle of the Mona Passage.
The crossing that day, from the coast of the Dominican Republic was great. The seas and the wind were low and it was enjoyable. When we came to our stopping point at Mona Island, we still had some daylight left. We thought for a moment, since the weather was still good, why not just continue on, sail overnight and arrive in Puerto Rico early the next morning? We decided no, we’d rather play it safe. Mona Island was supposed to be an amazing wildlife island, worth a stop, and it would allow us to be “safe” and not travel overnight.
Boats are safe in protected harbors. There was no protected harbor on Mona Island. In fact there was no harbor, only large waves breaking onto a very rough shoreline. The anchorage was actually one mooring ball, (instead of dropping your anchor you tie your boat to a mooring ball that’s anchored to the sea bed). To access this mooring ball, which was dangerously close to shore, we had to maneuver our 22 foot wide sailboat through an opening in the reef that seemed to be only about 30 feet wide. Eight feet may seem like a lot of room, but when you have a huge wave that will be pushing you in, you have no control over your boat, and a mistake is a certain hole in your boat.
The waves were coming in strong behind us, and as they moved forward, they briefly covered the rocks lining our entry: not enough to give us room to cross over them, but enough to hide them from our view. Dan and I looked at each other. This didn’t feel right. The kids didn’t like the situation, we didn’t like the situation. It was extremely dangerous. The smart thing would be to keep on going through the night to Puerto Rico. But we couldn’t. We were so tied into the belief that this was the safer route, that we were determined to see it through, even though clearly we could feel it felt disasterous.
We lined our boat up, best as we could. Tristan was yelling “Stop! Stop!”, but there was no way we could. I said a prayer and I know we all held our breath as the wave rushed in behind us, fast, hurling us blindly through the reef. Luckily, we emerged on the other side without a physical scratch, but emotionally we were drained. As we went to attach a line to the mooring ball, we had another unexpected surprise. The line on the mooring ball had become frayed and worn. It looked as if it could snap at anytime. With the waves constantly tossing our boat, we knew we didn’t feel confident that line would last the night. Now we couldn’t deny that this was a really bad idea.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have an option. The same waves that pushed us through the reef, were too high for us to risk going against them to get out. We wouldn’t be able to get out until the waves died down. Our best chance of that was early the next morning. We grabbed our own lines and attached them to the mooring ball, hoping that would hold us through the night.
As we sat in the cockpit that evening, reviewing the days events, it was glaringly obvious that we had made the wrong choice. Making matters worse was the fact that on our VHF radio, we could hear boats that we knew, talking to each other. They were sailing through the night and were having a easy, safe sail, while our “safe” plan threatened every moment to crash us onto the shore.
How did that happen? What in our minds looked like less risk, had been the most risky of all. What was worse, we had become so indebted to the idea that this was safer, we refused to see any other option.
This happens all the time in life. We chain ourselves to an idea, a work, a way of life, that we are sure is better for us, less risky, safer; when if we just took some time to look at everything in a new light, feel our way through life, instead of over think, we may find that the “safer” path is not so safe.
This is what my class, “I’mpossible” is about. In this class you will learn about opening yourself to looking at ideas you once thought were risky or impossible. You will learn to feel your way through life, relying on your heart, more than your brain, learning to go with the flow of life, instead of fighting the current. You will start to live a life a passion. Please join me.
A new edition to the blog will be examples of people who are living a life without borders. This week, Abby Sunderland truly exemplifies what a “Life Without Borders” means, as she was harassed by Dutch officials who tried to stop her from pursuing her dream.
Scotland on Sunday16-year-old Dutch sailor ends globe-circling solo voyage in St. MaartenWashington PostDekker launched her trip two months after Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old US sailor, was rescued in the middle of the Indian Ocean during a similar …