Conquering My Fear of Sailing in Greece


yacht-in-ithaca

I didn’t develop a fear of sailing until I actually tried sailing.

Back in 2012, Dave and I and a bunch of his friends chartered a yacht for two weeks in Turkey, and it was one of my least enjoyable experiences ever.

Oh god, the seasickness.

I felt nauseated for two weeks straight (while battling an inner ear disorder that had left me with vertigo, because of course). None of the motion sickness tablets I tried worked on my stomach, and we’d had several paramedics with hefty first aid kits on board. Oh, and whenever I resorted to pills, I ended up sleeping my days away.

I was the only person on the yacht who had zero sailing experience, so I had no idea what was going on most of the time. Everything seemed terrifying and out of my control. I didn’t know what any of the ropes did, or what a jib was, or how to tie knots, or to look out for cleats.

The ocean was cold; the food and mooring fees were overpriced; there weren’t any beaches.

Rather than island hopping from secluded bay to deserted cove, we instead spent our time raging against the rough waters that ran along the jagged coastline.

There was no real wind either, so we didn’t even get to actually sail.

Sailing in Turkey
“Oh god, stop dancing and get me off this boat, Dave.”

And throughout that trip, everyone on the yacht couldn’t stop talking about how Turkey had nothing on Greece.

In Greece, I was repeatedly told, the ocean was as calm as a swimming pool. The water was warm. You didn’t get ripped off by taverna owners. The food was inexpensive and delicious. There were beaches and bays and it was so much prettier.

I bought what they were selling, so when Dave invited me aboard a 47ft yacht in Greece earlier this year, I leapt at the chance.

It was only when our departure date loomed closer that I thought about backing out.

Because, well, how had I managed to forget I get seasick in swimming pools?

I was practically guaranteed to spend my week in the Ionian feeding the fishes my feta cheese lunches.

sunsets in greece

So what made me get on the boat despite my fears?

Well, if there’s one thing that travel has taught me over the past five years, it’s that you’re not growing as a person unless you’re at least on the outskirts of your comfort zone. And with my anxiety no longer wreaking havoc on my life, thanks to a change in diet, I could now turn my attention to all the other work I wanted to do on myself.

I saw sailing in Greece as an opportunity to challenge myself, to make myself proud, to pick up a new skill, or maybe even to prove that I can still have fun while feeling terrible. I’m far stronger than I was in 2012. And plus: we were there for Dave’s birthday. I’d have felt like a terrible girlfriend if I’d skipped out on those celebrations.

After receiving confirmation that if I felt truly seasick, I’d be able to get off the yacht and ferry my way back to the mainland, I decided to face my fears.

It was time to take the plunge.

sailing in the ionian

In Turkey, it had taken mere minutes for the nausea to hit. I remember being moored up in the marina in Gocek, barely moving, but feeling so, so unwell. I remember finding Dave in our cabin and squeaking out that I didn’t think I could do this, but not knowing how I could possibly get off the yacht in front of all of his friends, having only been on it for all of five minutes. I remember counting down the hours I had left on the water from the moment I’d left solid ground.

In Greece, I took a pessimistic step on to the boat and held my breath.

Nothing.

I didn’t feel anything.

And that was really unexpected, because, y’know, I’ve experienced motion sickness in the bath before.

But I felt normal.

I felt fine.

moored in Greece

And I have some theories about how, suddenly, I seem to have overcome my severe motion sickness.

This year, I finally found the time to do the Whole30 and it was the single best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Hands down. And it was through doing the Whole30 and studying how my body reacts to certain foods that I learned I have an intolerance to histamine. On a low histamine diet, my anxiety dropped from around an 8 to a 1, my hayfever, which often leads to my face swelling up like this, completely disappeared, and you know what else is linked to histamine? Motion sickness. A doctor friend of mine in Lisbon had suggested my seasickness might improve on my new diet, so maybe that’s what it was.

It could have been that, or maybe it was because I tried a new type of motion sickness pill I’d never tried before.

Or maybe it was just that the ocean in Greece really is that freaking flat.

greece waters

A few months before doing the Whole30, Dave and I had checked out the Tall Ships Race in Lisbon — I remember stepping aboard a 150ft boat that was tied up on the river and instantly feeling like I was going to throw up. It was barely moving!

But for some reason, in Greece, I was immune to that sickness. For our entire week in the Ionian, I felt fantastic.

That has never happened before.

So with one less thing to worry about, all I had to face now was my fear of breaking the boat. And with four other people on board to help with the mooring and the sailing, I could thankfully take a backseat for anything that intimidated me.

Yacht moored up in Greece

Until I couldn’t.

But before I get into that, let me tell you how much I fell in love with sailing.

Guys, it’s so much fun.

It’s the ultimate form of freedom.

You get to wake up whenever you feel like it, then sit and have breakfast in the warm morning sun. You’ll untie yourself from wherever you moored for the night and set sail in search of a tiny bay with a beautiful beach and nobody else around, because it’s only accessible by boat.

When you find one of these magical spots — which aren’t hard to find at all — you’ll anchor there for the day and spend your afternoon sunbathing on the yacht, jumping in the warm waters, snorkelling with hundreds of fish, drinking Vodka North, and swimming out to your own private beach.

As the sun starts to set, you’ll either decide to spend the night on the anchor in that secluded bay or motor over to a nearby village to moor and eat dinner and chat with other people who were also sailing the Ionian.

It was bliss.

I started talking about how I was going to get my Competent Crew qualification. Asking Dave how viable it would be for us to buy a yacht and spend the rest of our life sailing around the world. Attempting to get everyone to commit to a yacht trip for 2017.

What I loved most was feeling so disconnected from the online world. I wasn’t worried about answering emails or putting up photos on Instagram. I didn’t care about what was happening in the world, because look at where I was.

Even though I had data for our entire trip, I didn’t spend more than five minutes online each day.

I only wanted to be in the moment.

yacht-in-ithaca

And then two members of our crew left the yacht for reasons I won’t get into here.

Suddenly, it was just me, Dave, and Dave’s best friend left on board, and that meant that I could take a backseat no more.

I was going to have to play an active role in the sailing and mooring of this yacht, and I had no idea what I was doing.

I was terrified.

I was either going to have to learn how to work the anchor or I was going to have to learn how to use the ropes. Both of which looked like things I would most likely fail at.

And that was so scary because if I screwed up something important while we were trying to moor, it wouldn’t just be a cute story about my stupidity on this site. It would be me damaging something that was probably worth a quarter of a million dollars.

lauren in greece

Yikes.

The old me would have considered pretending to be unwell to try to get out of my duties, or so that I could have had a valid excuse if I’d managed to screw things up. The old me would have spent our final few days panicking about how we’d moor that night and picturing all the ways it would inevitably go wrong.

And don’t get me wrong: I definitely did a little of that to start with.

But I also knew that the things I worry about almost never actually happen. And if they do happen, they’re never as bad as I’d expected.

So I sat in my cabin listening to my beloved Headspace app for ten minutes or so. I took a swig of vodka. I shook my fears off, and I plunged into the sea.

Literally and figuratively.

And just as I’d predicted, nothing bad happened. Nothing scary happened. Nothing I did put us in any danger. I just had to stand on the back of the boat and do some stuff with the lines that wasn’t all that complicated, and then it was over within minutes.

dave in the ionian

So how did I overcome my fear of sailing?

By being forced to jump head first into the deep end of my ocean of fears.

I should have learned by now that that’s the best way to do it.

How I overcame my fear of sailing in Greece!

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26 Comments

  1. October 2, 2016
    Reply

    Fun! I’ve never been scared of sea adventures, until went aboard a catamaran and sailed to Klein Curacao in the Caribbean. I’ve never been so nauseous in my life! Judging by your pictures, I should just get back on the boat though! Greece looks beautiful!

    • October 2, 2016
      Reply

      Ugh, isn’t seasickness one of the worst feelings ever? Hopefully you can get back on a boat in somewhere with much calmer waters. Greece is a good option :-)

  2. October 2, 2016
    Reply

    I took basic sailing and advanced sailing classes in my teens and I’m still fearful of sailing. Kudos to you for overcoming your fear (and motion sickness)!

  3. October 2, 2016
    Reply

    Yay!! So glad you got over your fears of sailing, because it sounds AWESOME. Did you guys just hire the boat privately? No captain? Just you and Dave and his friend? I wish I had friends to do this with! Also, your pictures are ACE.

    • October 3, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you! And yeah. Dave’s best friend worked for Sunsail in Greece for years and knows how to sail, and Dave sort of knows how to sail. So no need for a captain, which is amazing!

  4. October 2, 2016
    Reply

    I get seasick and am terrified of staying over night on a boat.
    I would probably panic if suddenly I had to help out on the boat because I would be so worried of ruining something.

    Good job to you for doing an awesome job!

    • October 3, 2016
      Reply

      Right? I was certain I was going to cause us to crash into someone else’s yacht or something!

  5. October 3, 2016
    Reply

    Good for you! Conquering one of your worst fears really helps you grow as a person. I love the pictures you had taken during the trip, wow the coastline is so beautiful, it’s like Nova Scotia during the summer!

    • October 5, 2016
      Reply

      Agree! I spent so long doing everything I could to avoid anything that scared me, and it just resulted in a crappy quality of life.

  6. James
    October 3, 2016
    Reply

    Nice! It is good to know that you have conquered your fear. Actually, I also have such fear and I’m planning to book a yacht and face it. Thanks for posting and keep sharing such awesome posts.

    • October 5, 2016
      Reply

      Oh, wow! I hope it goes just as well for you as it did for me :-)

  7. Lela
    October 4, 2016
    Reply

    Amazing article! Well done on conquering your fears.

  8. October 4, 2016
    Reply

    I am very happy to hear how your diet has helped you conquer your anxiety and motion sickness! I know it’s a cliché but being and feeling healthy really is one of the most important things in life:-)

    • October 5, 2016
      Reply

      So true! I’ll be writing a post about all of the positive effects I’ve experienced, because it’s blown my mind to learn just how much my diet was contributing to my quality of life.

      • October 5, 2016
        Reply

        I’m looking forward to reading it, perhaps I’ll even be brave enough to try it myself:-)

  9. October 5, 2016
    Reply

    Awesome! What an amazing experience. :) I had never been on a sailboat either and then some friends in Argentina invited me sailing. We got stuck in a freak flash storm with rain, wind, thunder, and lightning, and couldn’t control the boat. The boat was keeling so far sideways at one point I was convinced it was going to capsize so I thought, “Abandon ship!” and I literally jumped into the water. Then they couldn’t even save me so I just bobbed around in the ocean for a while until a motorboat came to rescue me and tow the sailboat back in to harbor. I (obviously) had major anxiety around sailboats after that but forced myself to take a sailing class so I could get more comfortable and now I love it! I still get super nervous, but it’s all about facing your fears and forcing yourself to do the things that scare you. :)

  10. IrinaKler
    October 7, 2016
    Reply

    Oh, your trip is awesome! And the sea in Greece like in fairy tail, so dreamy and marvelous that you can’t take one’s eyes off this picturesque scenery. You’re very successful person, thank you for sharing with us)

    • October 19, 2016
      Reply

      Oh, thank you so much! :-) That means a lot.

  11. October 11, 2016
    Reply

    So glad to hear that you’re feeling better – and that you had a great time!

    Kate | http://www.petiteadventures.org/

    • October 12, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Kate! :-)

  12. November 22, 2016
    Reply

    I absolutely loved sailing in Greece. I am so glad you got over the fear and the seasickness. I got landsickness though! I was on for a week and had a few days off the boat before the second week and was dizzy for about two days straight. It all went away when I got back on the boat.

    • November 24, 2016
      Reply

      Argh, the landsickness is the worst! I definitely spent several meals rocking from side to side, haha.

  13. January 17, 2018
    Reply

    Beautiful photos! I’m going to Thessaloniki soon; I have to check if you have any posts on it. So true and well-put: “Well, if there’s one thing that travel has taught me over the past five years, it’s that you’re not growing as a person unless you’re at least on the outskirts of your comfort zone.” Congrats for your big leap!

    • January 26, 2018
      Reply

      Thanks so much! Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Thessaloniki yet.

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