Risk is everywhere. Perception is more powerful than reality. Constraints are imposed on us by authorities to protect their biggest asset, tax payers. People wonder why we go yachting.
It’s just before dawn. I’m in my study, all choked up, tears running down my cheeks. I shed a tear or two yesterday when changing a water pump on number three main engine. Strong emotions washing over me like a rogue wave.
This is not normal for me. I’m not that emotional.
I sit here gearing up to achieve my goals. Thinking what to write for my next blog post. I am aware of my messy disrupted and confused thought process with so much rattling around in the old grey matter that I risk doing nothing.
The plan to follow on from my last post expanding the bit about the joy of rowing and what makes a good row boat, keeps getting swamped by the emotion of Bethany Smith’s tragic loss.
You may have heard how Bethany fell from the mast of the superyacht she worked on.
I wonder if these waves of emotion are happening to me at the same time as those close to her. I’ve never felt anything like this before.
The Smith family seem to be living a parallel life in so many ways to my own family.
They purchased the same design yacht. Departed to go cruising within months of when we departed from the opposite side of the world. Their children are of similar age to our own.
When my son phoned me from the superyacht he’s crewing, with the sad news, it hit me hard.
The questions started revolving through my mind. I struggle to comprehend the events.
Then came the waves of sadness.
Next the need to help, but wary of the risk, making things worse unintentionally.
Do no harm.
Because of the choices we have made throughout our life, our families have acquired life skills, seen and experienced people, places and nature in ways most don’t.
We do our best to minimise risk, then take ourselves out of our comfort zones and reap the benefits of an adventurous life, less ordinary.
I remember the first time I hoisted our son Hamish up the mast in a bosun’s chair. He had seen me go up and wanted to try.
The excitement at deck level and fear as he got higher was closely monitored as he reached the first set of spreaders. With a rest stop the fear subsided and the request to go higher soon followed.
Sibling rivalry is a powerful motivator. Kate wanted to have a go. She got to the first spreader the first time she went up. Again, I monitored the level of fear.
I knew from my job with the navy adventure training centre, sail training craft, that going a bit outside your comfort zone is healthy, going too far has a negative effect. Managing this is so important.
You know you’ve got this right when they want to do it again.
They both got some kudos amongst their friends from having achieved this scary activity. I ended up hoisting several of their mates up the mast as time went by.
Yes, there was risk. Yes, it was managed. Yes, their life was richer from having done this. Yes, our mutual respect became stronger.
What was interesting to me was how over time the act of going up the mast became less scary and more fun.
From my perspective having another crew member willing and able to go up the mast to help pilot “Blue Heron” through a coral passage was invaluable. Hamish didn’t hesitate when asked. He was competent and comfortable with the task.
For me however, I knew that as his confidence grew the level of risk increased. An uneasiness lay just below the surface as I watched for signs of misadventure.
A healthy level of fear is a great protector.
When the level of risk is perceived to be less due to a familiar activity, our chance of having an accident increases.
Many of you reading, already know this and may have experienced it firsthand if you have been driving a motor vehicle for a while.
The chance of having a serious accident in a car while you are learning is, I suspect, quite low.
Accidents happen when our confidence increases and we allow bad habits or distractions to creep into our task of driving the car. Every day on the news there is evidence of this.
Thousands of us travel at death defying speed in our little machines and are comfortable with that. Incredible if you stop and think about it.
Over confidence and perceived low risk are not always the reason for accidents. Sometimes gear failure or plain old bad luck are the cause.
I learnt the hard way and tried to teach others during my time as Sailing Master that when everything feels right, start to worry.
In other words;
When it was scary and difficult at first but now feels easy or normal, get concerned remember the fear.
Easier said than done.
This is likely one of the main reasons that modern society is growing this giant called health and safety.
Through rules and regulations, we are forced to follow constraints and systems that protect us from our human failings.
Big corporations, especially in the construction and the oil and gas industries know the true costs associated with accidents in the workplace. They have the resources and critical mass to do whatever it takes to eliminate or at least minimize risk.
For some, working in that environment, is mind numbing. Emotions begin to flatline, creativity is lost.
Those of us who have an adventurous spirit would rather explore new possibilities, trading constraints and systems for adventure, added risk and the unknown.
With the added risk of adventure, comes an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes our adventurous activities go a bit wrong, knocking the wind out of our sails. Other times everything is perfect as we sail through life, sharing and learning, surrounded by other adventurous people.
Very occasionally while living an adventurous life, we get severe blows. Blows so severe, the waves of emotion travel around the globe, touching thousands of others.
For many it feels like an invisible hand keeps reaching into their chest, squeezing their hearts causing emotional pain.
Despite this we know from experience there will be fair winds ahead. Healing winds. The good memories in our life will rise to the surface and the pain slowly sink to the depths.
Give me the choice of;
The second option would be my choice.
I base this on what I saw and felt during the two and a half years I worked helping with the Gladstone LNG plant construction.
Most of us are trapped by our commitments.
We don’t live life to the full because of these constraints. Things like;
It is possible to break free.
Sarah, David and their children managed to overcome these constraints. They have been living a life with large doses of pure adventure.
If you want to hear or read what it takes to free yourself from your commitments, listen to Sarah tell her story in the podcast we created.
You can find it here.
My heart aches for their loss. It could have easily been one of my children.
I understand the choices they have made that led them to this point in their lives. Sometimes it doesn’t go to plan and that sucks.
Something good will come and some kind of balance will be restored.
Life is a balancing act.
For me, flatlining your emotions is far worse than riding life’s roller coaster with all its ups and downs, twists and turns, pain and happiness.
Feel free to comment below. What do you think?
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