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 When was the last time you felt fear? Maybe it was a near accident situation in a car when your heart skipped a beat or an encounter with a large growling dog during a Sunday afternoon walk. Most us have organized our lives to avoid, where possible, situations that are frightening, we remain in a comfort zone that is the daily routine of our lives. The situation is relative as what is frightening for some people is exhilarating for others or just part of their normal lives. A fireman does not usually have the same apprehension of a fire as somebody working in another field. A policeman or policewoman will have a different attitude towards violence then most other people. Is it that these jobs attract more courageous people than the average population? The answer is probably yes but should be qualified with the concept of knowledge, training and experience. If you have been trained to extinguish fires and do this on a regular basis then your reaction to a burning building will be far different than that of untrained onlooker.
     It is the observer of a situation that determines whether someone has been brave or courageous and not the participant. What may seem an extraordinary act of courage to the observer could be explained in some cases as a highly trained reaction to a potentially dangerous situation and the training or experience of the participant allows them to perform these acts without any hesitation. This takes nothing away from their courage but their comfort zone has been extended through training to deal with situations that would be fear provoking in other people.
     What I find intriguing is that bravery or courage is neither confined to one type of individual or constant across all potentially dangerous situations for each individual. That is to say that an individual cannot be classified as brave or cowardly as his reaction to a variety of dangerous situations may include both classifications. A person that has no difficulty in chasing off thieves who have entered his house at night would normally be considered very courageous but if the same person cannot climb to the top of the mast due to vertigo how do you interpret this? We do not know how we are going to react to various new situations and part of the reason of seeking adventure is to find out. Adventure by its very nature is risky and the dealing with unknown and potentially dangerous situations is an integral part of the deal. Whether our actions are considered courageous or brave by others is of little importance and the real enjoyment comes from discovering how to extend your own boundaries.
     Another area that was of interest to me was in trying to avoid transmitting fear or anxiety to other members of my family. I realized that if I showed concern or fear regarding a particular situation then they would become anxious. If the alpha wolf skipper was visibly frightened they knew that they should be highly concerned. This is the snake fear syndrome where fear is socially transmitted, infants have no fear of snakes but by watching the reactions of their elders to snakes will transmit the fear to them. Have you ever heard radio transmissions from airline pilots or yacht skippers during very difficult conditions? The game is to adopt a laconic or bored monotone voice relaying potentially catastrophic conditions. This does have  great advantages as not only the your crew thinks that you are not overly concerned about the situation and probably in control but also the message is clear to anyone picking up the message.My way to reduce the level of anxiety for this enterprise of crossing oceans was to plan and train for what I considered to be the greatest dangers. These dangers included storms, serious injury, illness, man-over-board, fire, collision, mechanical failure and piracy. For each of these situations I had thought through various scenarios and planned a course of action for each perceived risk and whilst most plans do not necessarily work without adaptation in the field, they have the advantage of focusing your mind on possible courses of action. The fact of having thought through possible responses to dangerous situations saved precious time and reduced significantly the anxiety experienced when we were confronted with potentially life threatening situations. Having a back-up plan for the perceived risks helped considerably during difficult situations and running through the various scenarios in my mind assisted in keeping me concentrated on dealing with stressful moments. Analyzing prior to leaving has to be balanced with over analyzing all potential problems as this can lead to what is called analysis paralysis and you may never release the dock lines. There is a moment when it is necessary to let go the planning process and accept the risks of your adventure and that moment will be different for each skipper.





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