Confidence is king!
Ages and ages ago (it just seems that far away), when Rebecca and I spent our days running a martial arts gym, confidence was a subject that we thought a great deal about. Parents often quoted confidence as a prime motivator for enrolling their children in our school, and we knew that even fighters needed to have high levels of confidence to be able to perform well in the ring. So, what does confidence have to do with cruising, and more importantly, how does one go about acquiring this valuable trait?
Personally, I think confidence is of supreme importance to both beginning on, and successfully navigating your way through cruising. We hear over and over about people that are still preparing to head out cruising. Some folks have been at it for years, and they likely always will be, never cutting the lines from the dock to actually set out.
Why is it then that a couple like us, who don’t have decades of experience, who don’t have the most tricked out boat, and who don’t have Bill Gate’s fortune can actually do it while others with many more resources don’t, or can’t? I bet you can guess what I’m going to say… I think it relates to confidence.
In this case, I’m talking about the confidence that you can make things work out, even though you don’t really know how that might occur. And to be clear, I’m not talking about blind faith either, because I believe there’s a huge difference between false confidence and real confidence, that which is backed up by experience.
How do I acquire confidence?
Which brings me to the whole subject of developing confidence. One of the things I am very grateful for is the coaching I have received from our martial arts friends at Straight Blast Gym. When it comes to coaching methodology, I believe there are few better. I learned from our friend Matt Thornton, and later employed on a daily basis in our martial arts classes, how to use the concept of progressive resistance to aide in the development of functional skills, and the confidence that went along with them.
The basic idea is, that when working on a new skill, to have your training partner resist or struggle against you just enough to make it a little bit tough for you. When you succeed – and that is important, at the beginning you need to succeed – your partner would then up the resistance, struggle a bit more, to make it a tiny bit more challenging. This process would continue until your partner was resisting completely, and you were still, in most cases, able to apply the skills that you were training.
Well, that’s all cool, but what does that have to do with this sailing/cruising thing? I could give a hundred examples!
Let’s take yesterday’s post about tearing apart the carburetor for example. Why, with no prior experience with such a task, would I feel that I could be capable of successfully taking apart an outboard engine and putting it back together? I would say that because of the smaller engine-related tasks that I have already successfully accomplished (changing fuel, changing the oil, changing the spark plugs and filters, removing the gas tank… notice that I listed all these in some type of order, from simple to slightly more challenging), I developed some confidence that I would have a good chance of being successful. Not a guarantee of course, but that’s not what I’m taking about. There are never guarantees.
What about the confidence to sail in heavy weather, such as we had a few days ago? Again, much of this is confidence related. Confidence that your vessel will perform as you want it to in those conditions, and confidence that you can deal with it too.
When we first started sailing a little over a year ago, we would have considered a 10 knot breeze to be windy, and 20 knots was way out of our comfort zone. Now, having been sailing in progressively stronger winds, and rougher conditions since that time, our confidence has grown substantially.
Mother Nature can be a bad training partner!
But, here is where we come to a little bit of a problem with the progressive resistance training model… Mother Nature is what we would refer to as a bad training partner.
Actually, we had less complimentary terms that we would use for those people, but you probably get the idea.
Instead of incrementally adding a tiny bit of resistance as your confidence and skills increase, Mother Nature can go and throw a gale at you, as she did to us on Saturday. So, as it sometimes happens, when you take on too much resistance, things may not go as planned. That is not an aide to developing confidence, but, that’s life. What can you do?
How about the confidence in your crew? I have read that certain sailing schools prefer to have husbands and wives take their courses separately. While I understand their arguments, at least in our case, I think doing our training together was the best. A couple out cruising needs to know that they can rely upon one another. If not, at least one of them is going to get pretty sleep deprived. Rebecca occasionally remarks that she feels that I don’t have confidence in her skills (at the helm for example), and it usually is at some time of great stress (imagine fighting with the overpowered boat in 35 knots of wind). In my defense, in conditions like that, I don’t have much confidence in myself either, or in our boat. It was beyond my confidence threshold. I know that will change though.
As a final example, many people, our friends and family included, want to know how we can simply sell everything we have and set sail with an admittedly, limited amount of money to sustain ourselves. I again relate this to confidence. For quite a long time, Rebecca and I ran a business that, if we didn’t do something to make money every day, we wouldn’t eat. This really isn’t all that different. Although I don’t know how Rebecca and I will be able to sustain this lifestyle, we are both confident that we’ll find a way, and I believe that we feel this way because of our prior experiences, and the confidence developed from them.
So, where does that leave us? Rebecca and I will no doubt be faced with multiple new challenges along the way, hopefully adding to our skills, and our cruising confidence, and of course, having fun while doing so. If this post was a bit too cerebral, when compared to most of the fodder that I post here, rest assured that there’s a good chance that I’ll be back to discussing sunsets and marine toilets tomorrow. 🙂
Dismal Swamp, here we come!