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92 nights on board - the life lessons I learned

It took 2 years of prepping for us to physically leave our home and business in June 2017, for a full summer in the Mediterranean aboard Lady Roslyn. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! Did I learn anything? So much more than I thought I would!

I’ll share some of those life lessons with you now…

Lesson 1: Live in the moment! I’m sure that most of us try to live in the moment – or at least try every now and then. I have done day-long “living mindfully” retreats, only to find that the next day I arrive at the office and can’t even remember the drive there – so much for the money spent on that retreat! However, during our trip I wondered why I could not think of anything much further than the day we were experiencing. I had been asked by my mentor to put some serious thought into a few things we had been working on before I left home, but I really struggled to find the time or head-space to do so. I actually thought I was going mad and that my brain had completely shut down. After reflecting on this when I got back home, I realized that I had mostly been living in the moment on board. When you are on a boat, things can change within a matter of minutes – from a quiet sea to a full blown storm, from just tying a rope, to almost getting your finger amputated. I often found myself in a state of heightened consciousness and found that I was living every moment mindfully. I could not think of the future, because what was happening NOW was the most important thing on my mind. I realize, since I’m back home, how much I live in my head: in the future, in the past and very little in the moment. It’s much harder to live mindfully when routine sets in. How one can live in the moment when back at home is still a work in progress for me.

Lesson 2: Media blackouts are good! It’s great to disconnect from what’s happening in the world for a while. We seem to be addicted to news…especially bad news. From following Trump in the States, to Zuma and State Capture in our own country - it’s a recipe for depression. Nic and I decided to delete the news apps from our phones (well, I moved mine to my phone's fourth screen page so I would not see them when I switched on my phone) and we took a complete break from the news while on board. It freed us up with more time, made us less addicted to the news and put our lives into a healthier perspective – away from the negativity of what was wrong in the world. When we re-connected again back home, we were both surprised at how very little had actually changed and that we hadn’t missed out at all. Taking a break from technology and social media needs to be done every now and then!

Lesson 3: The saying “It’s not what happens to you but how you deal with it” rung so true this trip. We faced some truly amazing times but also some very difficult challenges, one of which was almost amputating the top joint of my left index finger. With the high-highs came the low-lows. Did it affect me? Hell, YES! I went into depression for about 2 weeks after the accident (partly from all the painkillers I was taking) and it was VERY hard to pick myself up and carry on when all I wanted to do was go home and heal in a place I am familiar with and with doctors I know. However, my wonderful husband was my shining light and saw the positives in my situation to help me get through it. Once over the worst, I realized that however cautious you are, whatever preventative measures you take, things will happen to you…and they do. It’s all in your head how to deal with it. You can turn things around and put things into perspective and take another path of how you want to act and respond to the situation…it’s up to you to decide. Once Nic and I put a few of our challenges into perspective, we saw the positive in them and were able to approach things differently. It really is true that through adversity you gain strength and resilience. And a little meditation also helps!

Lesson 4: Letting go of control! When I had the accident with my finger, I went from “control freak/competent crew” to “passenger-in-waiting”. I could not do much and being the busy person that I am, it was a huge lesson in letting other people do things for me. I really did have to sit back and watch. It was hard... and frustrating! But I learned that I don’t have to do everything and control everything. Letting others do things is wonderful and gives them a sense of achievement as well. When you can’t cook, then other people’s food does taste delicious, and although another person (in your mind) can never set the anchor as well as you can, it is still acceptable and okay. A few deep breaths….and you can let go of control!

Lesson 5: Keeping a sense of wonderment! Try to experience things as if it’s the first time you are doing them - have a sense of wonderment like a child. Having my mom on board was such an eye opener for me, as she experienced so much for the very first time. The look on her face when she did a new thing was something that I will never forget - her first jump from the boat into the ocean, the first time she swam by herself without a lifejacket, the first time she went up the mast in the bosun's chair, the first time she could tie a nautical knot by herself, the first time she rode a bicycle. It was very humbling for me to watch my mom and I need to keep reminding myself every day to enjoy the wonderment of being alive and to continue seeing the world in FULL COLOUR.

Lesson 6: Allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone every now and then! The times when I was pushed out of my comfort zone were the most memorable! Swimming with a huge Devil Ray far out at sea (I was terrified at the time as I had no idea if it was dangerous or not!), being hauled up the mast in a bosun’s chair, being on night watch from 10pm – 2am sailing down the Albanian coast under a full moon – these were some of the most memorable occasions of the trip. We often tend to stay within our comfort zones, but I realise that the times when you are out of your comfort zone are when you grow the most and receive the greatest sense of achievement.

Lesson 7: Time alone together with your partner is a must! We absolutely LOVED having our two daughters, my mother and our close friends on board – nothing beats the bonding that you do on a boat over a sundowner drink or exploring a new place together. We definitely want to continue to have the amazing people we have in our lives, join us on our journey, for without anyone to share it with, it becomes meaningless and empty. HOWEVER, we learned that Nic and I need time to ourselves in between guests. Of the 92 days on board, we only got to have the last 14 on our own. Those 14 days were like a second honeymoon. We were able to sleep, unwind, not plan too much and spend real quality time together. People asked me if I wanted to throw Nic overboard having been together for so long in a confined space. My answer was “NO. We fell in love all over again!”

Lesson 8: Don’t over plan and remain flexible. With so many family and friends joining us along our almost 2000nm journey, our entire trip was planned in minute detail. This did not leave enough room for flexibility or staying in a place for longer than a night or two. During last two weeks on board, we decided not to plan anything, to wake up and decide what we felt like doing – literally where the wind would blow us. That seemed to take a lot of stress away and gave us the flexibility to stay for up to 3 nights in a gorgeous bay if we felt like it. We slowed down completely, travelled shorter distances and were able to follow the good weather and calmer seas. So in the future, a general plan is needed, but we want to be flexible to change it to what suits us on the day. Weather plays such a key role in sailing that one needs to let it guide you in where you go, to a certain extent, if you like the “gin and tonic” kind of sailing! How do I do this in my daily life at home? My life is so planned that I need to keep some “free space” for allowing things to happen. Also to remain flexible if plans change and not to get stressed about it.

Lesson 9: If you want to take time out from your career, plan for it beforehand and then do it! You can spend time away from the office - it’s very easy to stay in touch now, while travelling. I had to run our business remotely and found that it was possible to do so. We had begun putting plans in place from 2 years before we set off and then tested the systems we had put in place a month before we left. With 3g signal and wifi on board, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom and emails, I stayed in touch and was able to sort out issues that cropped up at work. However, I also managed to put my phone aside and not be on constant high alert to emails all day, but rather checking in only twice a day and dealing with things then and there. With great management and staff in place, I was able to let go and our staff were empowered to make decisions and keep the daily aspects of the business going.

It’s not been easy returning to a day-to-day routine back home. It takes a while to settle back in. From being “footloose and fancy-free”, getting back to the hectic pace of our lives is a real shock to the system. At the end of the day back home, I’m exhausted and wonder what I have done all day – where did it go? I haven’t had time to stop and enjoy life. I miss the days on board of being busy but not doing much, going at a slower pace and enjoying the beauty of every day. I have learned that my life is too busy, too fast paced, I take on too much and am a huge achiever. To slow it down is the right thing to do. To enjoy every moment and the beauty around me here at home is just as precious as being away.

This year we head back to the Med in May for another summer on board our beautiful boat. I’m sure more lessons will be learned, more adventures had and new places explored. However, I hope to take these life lessons that I learned with me and remind myself every day of them as Nic and I continue on our journey.

Written by Cath mostly in October and November of 2017, just after we had returned from LADY ROSLYN, and finished off a few days ago.

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