Unbeknown to me at the time, last October started a year of saying “yes” to opportunities that frankly terrify me. I honestly have no idea why, when Monika introduced me to the Leading Lights asking if I’d like to go sailing on a proper sailboat for a week I said “yes please!” because the truth is I was completely terrified of sailing and suffer with horrendous sea sickness.
The thing is, once you’ve said yes to joining in, pulling out is a lot harder. When I told people what I’d signed up to, all my loved ones pretty much looked at me with bemused terror – they knew all too well what I’m like with being on the water. I calmed myself by telling myself that I’d get super fit before I went and learn lots about boats. What actually happened was I stuck my head in the sand about what was going to happen, so in reality, I did neither.
Everything came into focus when on the first May bank holiday I arrived at Southampton with my trusty rucksack in tow, and my out of office saying:
I’m off sailing around the world!
Well not quite around the world – more from Southampton to Gosport with the Leading Lights voyage, but for someone who has spent most of her life avoiding being in a boat this is a big thing. That said, thanks for contacting me but until the 13th May, I’ll be on the water, looking for dolphins. This means I won’t be accessing my emails as I’m sailing on a ship with a sail so I’ve no idea if there will be any wifi (hope not) or any phone signal. So if there is something that really needs my attention then please contact Sam and she’ll do her best to help. Once I’m back I’ll respond as soon as my land legs are back – and I’ve had a shower.
I took some comfort that I was quite literally in the same boat as all the other girls who were taking part and put my hands in the very lovely (and competent) crew and mentors. Bays Consulting was put in the hands of Abbie and Sam (equally lovely and competent).
So what happened when we went sailing? Truthfully it was amazing. It’s been a long time since I was (a) that nervous; (b) only had to focus on the task in hand and (c) didn’t have to make any decisions! What that meant in practice was that for a whole week I didn’t have to hold multiple conversations or project status’ in my head, nor sit for hours at a computer. Literally, all the life decisions had been made as well – the menu was sorted (all amazingly yummy) and the food was on-board, the team decided where we’d go and I had a place to sleep.
So what did I do? Well the boat sailed through the day, sometimes in the dusk and night. I learned that it’s the motion of engines that make me feel really seasick, when it was under sail, I was able to cope far better. In fact, I’m really rather proud of myself for not being at all sick. Admittedly I was obsessive about taking anti-sickness tablets but in the Force 6, I am really rather proud of the fact I managed to get fish fingers into an oven, open up some wraps and hack at cucumber and cherry tomatoes. I’d like to say the salad was regularly chopped, but hacked is a far more accurate description. No-one seemed to mind the lack of symmetrical chopping. The only day we didn’t sail was when the weather became really rather choppy – very sensibly the decision was taken to learn competent crew skills and I’m much better at knot tying than I was!
I remembered that what it was like to be part of a developing team again. All the crew were fantastic and quite literally showed you how to handle the ropes (and sails, stairs, waterproofs….) and to watch two sets of students who had never met before come together into a cohesive team that could navigate, steer and raise sails was genuinely inspirational. I was fortunate enough to be a mentor for one of the teams on-board, but what that actually meant was listening to the stories of these bright, articulate young women with an incredible array of achievements, hopes and aspirations. I’m not sure what I gave back to them, other than listening and telling them the benefits of looking for a job which you really, really love.
On a personal level, I re-learned why it’s important to eat properly, sleep and get out into the fresh air. All obvious things, but so easy to forget when sitting at a computer. I remembered I am capable of learning completely new skills (such as “boat speak”) and that washing up can be ridiculous amounts of fun (onboard Prolific it seems standard for the washing up to involve more water leaving the bowl than necessarily staying in it).
I gained an incredible amount by joining the voyage – I came back to work more refreshed than I can remember being in a very long time, with lots of ideas about how we can develop the company to keep growing and moving forwards. I also remembered that to be an effective director, I’ve got to make sure I keep looking at things from different perspectives, so saying “yes” to scary things is a good idea. As is getting away from my desk and sleeping properly.
So if you’re wondering how you can break the routine you’re in, get out of your comfort zone and help an amazing charity, I can heartily recommend sailing with Leading Lights. Just make sure you get the anti-seasickness tables ready….