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What I Learned From Sailing

Written by: Bernice Fabi, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


My vision for our 25th wedding anniversary had always been a romantic vacation on an elegant safe cruise ship. My husband had another idea. I finally gave in from exasperation, and although reluctant, the slightest curiosity for a new adventure. Quicker than I could set the dinner table, our credit card had a deposit on it and our vacation was booked. We were going to give a toast to our marriage on a 30-foot sailboat barefoot instead. I could already imagine sending out an SOS.

Man sailing and fishing during summer.

My husband spent a better part of his later youth testing fish in Northern British Columbia, Canada. I’ve heard memories of remote area adventures, breathtaking lakes and scenery. He loves anything that involves water including fishing, boating and recently, had developed a keen interest in sailing. Frankly, I love the water but am intimidated beyond any body of water bigger than the local swimming pool. Adding rolling waves is just another scary dimension. I had three months yet to live before I imagined being capsized in the middle of a glacial lake.

On the 9-hour car drive, well actually 16 hours if you count the overnight stay in the car because we couldn’t find a hotel vacancy, I diligently studied an illustration of the sailboat sent with our introductory package. I planned to put labels around the boat and packed bright pink sticky notes and a thick felt tip marker. The instructor must have anticipated what newbie sailors might be up to as he already had the job done in professional white and black labels.

I do admit the light wind on our first and exceptionally hot day was a feeling that made me take a deep breath in, hold it and let it out real slow. As I stood before the gray weathered dock, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the moored boats, sails furled, masts reaching high, majestic against the clear deep blue sky. It still looked intimidating. “This is home for the next four days.” My husband paused and continued, “Well, three actually plus an optional day on our own''. He said the last part rather quickly and quietly, but I caught it. Under my breath, I whispered, “Yes, three days!”

And this is where my summer lessons started, not only in sailing, but in life.

The days on the water taught me to unlearn that time is attached to the hands of a clock. Instead, I learned to follow the setting sun to sleep and the rising sun to wake. You guessed it, no power to read or write, only enough to enjoy the moonlight. I woke to glass like water that would turn into mid morning waves signaling time to sail. I focused on the rhythm of the waves rather than the urgency of “to do” alarms.

The days on the water taught me to feel a sense of oneness with the water, with the wind, with the sky, with the boat. Nothing else mattered in certain moments of captivation. The experience was meditative, reflective and all consuming. There was no such thing as time, only experiencing the moment.

The days on the water taught me that nature is powerful and you can neither defeat or conquer it but you can be in harmony with it and that is peace. I learned to read the direction of the wind and patterns of the water rather than restlessness driven by the busyness and expectations of society. On the water there was no expectation of where we would get to and when, only freedom.

The days on the water taught me to manage risk. As a beginner sailor, I was taught to mitigate challenges and bite off what I felt comfortable with. I was taught to anticipate the unexpected. When I did I felt exhilarated and empowered to face the next challenge. I learned that I cannot control the environment around me but I can remain in calm self-control.

The days on the water taught me the importance of communication and teamwork. This is especially important with a spouse despite the fact that you’re wearing life vests. I learned to rely on aids and intuition to maneuver and reposition sails, track our path and maximize the wind to get the best efficiency. So it is with the zig zag pattern of life at times.

I learned the value of connecting to other humans rather than being tied to technology. At the beginning and end of each day we met other sailors or casually conversed with campers gathered by a steaming kettle plugged into a power pole. The power of connection through a quiet conversation took priority over the news or social media. I felt at ease with the simplicity of life that lifted me rather than data and demands that normally drowned me.

At the end of the third day we were asked by the skipper what our plans were for the fourth day. After a sleepless night of hesitation, only on my part, I was encouraged to make the decision. “We’ll take it out.”

The fourth day taught me to face fear

Bareboat meant no instructor. No one to rely on. No one to guide us. I still hadn’t lost that image of capsizing the boat. Alone and a bit nerve wracked to start, myself anyway, we ventured that day cautiously but gradually with more comfort. We caught the wind and gained speed. It was an exhilarating experience to maneuver and heel with the wind, to challenge ourselves and gain more confidence.

Only independence could have enabled this liberation from fear. This was freedom! I felt the wind still teasing and testing as we neared the dock and lowered the sails. There was a bit of a longing already developing within me, like something I would be missing. This adventure, and specifically the last several hours I decided at that moment, was certainly a highlight of my summer. These were the kind of experiences that taught life lessons in the most unexpected ways. As we motored the last few minutes into the marina unscathed, the wind encouraged us onward, enticing us to raise a toast and the sails again, for our 26th anniversary.

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Bernice Fabi, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Bernice Fabi is a certified Life and Empowerment Coach for women. She also applies mental fitness into her programs for a truly life changing experience. Always an eager life student, Bernice brings an array of experience to her coaching practice including a lengthy financial career and as an entrepreneur in real estate investment and management.

Bernice helps women overcome limiting beliefs and realize their potential. In doing so, they make choices to live an extraordinary and purposeful life.



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