In 2014 Kitiara Pasco set off on a 2-year trans ocean journey with her partner. Not knowing how to sail, she faced challenges and has inspired others to see that they don’t have to be ‘born adventurers.' These are 5 Things Sailing taught her about life.”
What Sailing Taught Me
#1 We Overcomplicate Everything
The day before I set sail for the first time across the Atlantic Ocean I was running around a city. I felt like I was juggling a thousand things.
I was making lists of people I had to email, things I had to buy and errands I had to run. For some reason, I needed to contact approximately one thousand people just so they knew where I would be for the next month. It didn’t even matter that I had not spoken to some of them for months at a time before.
I didn’t even consider that. After all, they could have got in touch before, it was physically possible.
Now it wouldn’t be.
I had created so much stress and rush in my head and my body that I even ran around the pontoon when it came to release the lines.
But when the Canary Islands dropped off the horizon a few hours later, a wave of calm engulfed me. Because life had suddenly got exceptionally simple. My partner and I had a very small list of priorities; keep the boat and each other safe for 28 days across 3500 miles of water.
Nothing else mattered. Nothing else mattered at all.
When I reached the internet again after a month of no communication, I couldn’t believe how badly it affected me. The barrage of social media, the millions of pointless but slightly stressful emails and the ever growing To-Do list. I wanted to flee right back out to sea.
I realised that, just by scrolling through Twitter, I was overcomplicating my life. I would go from being just me, to worrying about whether that magazine tweet had a point, maybe I didn’t know how to use foundation. I didn’t wear foundation, but that wasn’t the point, that nugget of information was in my head, taking up space.
#2 You Can Always Do The Thing
I’m a big disbeliever in my own abilities. The first thing out of my mouth in a new situation is often ‘I can’t do that…’ and it’s definitely the first thing in my brain. From free diving to sailing, from driving to fixing something I think, I cannot do this.
But that’s not really an option when you’re 1000 miles from the nearest piece of land, the wind is blowing hard, it’s the middle of the night and one of the ropes holding the the poled-out foresail has just broken. When one of you needs to go up on deck in crashing waves and the other needs to perform some incredibly fine motoring skills so that the other isn’t knocked into the churning ocean, you can’t say, ‘I can’t do this…’
Every single time something went wrong, I thought, ‘I can’t do this,’ and then guess what? I proceeded to do it anyway. Not because I was confident, but because it had to be done.
#3 Almost Everything is a Luxury
The first time I washed my hair in a bucket of seawater I was in a muddy English anchorage a few weeks before I set sail for the Caribbean. It was a fairly unpleasant experience, crouched on deck in a bikini in, frankly, non-bikini weather.
By the time I had sailed to Central America, I was a bucket-hair-wash pro. For 2 and a half years I washed my hair in saltwater, did the dishes in saltwater and shaved my legs in saltwater. Very occasionally I would find a real shower on land and every time it would be heaven.
Walking into a supermarket in Panama was an experience in itself. With mice skipping across the flour bags and fruit rotting in baskets, finding quality food was difficult. Settled in an archipelago, food to this part of Panama had to travel for hours on rough, frequently closed, roads and in baking sunshine.
Coming from a country where supermarkets have A-class food 24/7, Panama gave me a much more realistic view of life in the tropics.
Everything from showers and quality food to replacing hole-ridden clothing and buying a cheese grater is a luxury. Everything I took for granted in the UK suddenly became close to impossible to get hold of.
#4 You’re Never Alone
With at least a thousand miles of water in every direction, you’d think that being mid-ocean would be lonely. With just two of us on board and only one person awake at any time, there wasn’t much conversation.
Once, when I was looking out across the endless water I felt a twinge of loneliness. We hadn’t seen a ship in days and even then it had been on the farthest horizon. I looked down and all I could see was blue. Were we really the only ones out here?
Then I heard a snort.
I looked over the other side of the boat and found two dolphins streaming alongside, mist spraying upwards as they exhaled, catching the sunshine.
I stood on deck, hanging onto the rigging and looking out at the waves. Speeding triangles barely broke the surface until whoosh, three dolphins leapt in synchronisation. A pod had us surrounded.
The lives of other creatures may not always be quite so majestic or playful, but after those dolphins appeared from nowhere, I started looking at the other lives around me whenever I felt alone.
Wherever I’ve found myself in the world, there’s always someone nearby; a bird, a gecko, a sheep, a sloth. Even in the quietest, stillest places, chances are that you’re being watched by a friendly face.
#5 We Belong Outside
My mother used to drag me from the house telling me, ‘you’ll enjoy it once you get there’, ‘it’ll blow the cobwebs away,’ and my personal favourite, ‘stretch your eyeballs.’ These were her phrases that all meant the same thing, ‘going outside will make you happier.’ And she was right every single time.
Whether we were trudging up a hill in the English rain (or worse, Welsh rain), riding our bikes along muddy tracks or simply being blasted with the wintry wind along a clifftop, being outside did make me happy as an eight year old and it still does today.
I might faff and prevaricate and spend an undue amount of time deciding on what to wear and whether I need a bag and oh wait, do you think it might start to spit? But the moment I get outside and start moving, start breathing the fresh air, hearing the birds and seeing the trees flutter, I am much happier.
Living aboard a boat for over two years utterly changed not me, but the way I view the things around me (okay and a little bit me). Hearing the ocean sigh just inches away from my head as I fell asleep, always knowing what the clouds were doing and hearing the squeaky chatter of dolphins alongside showed me so many things.
Namely it showed me that we are all in it together. We are not lonely soldiers out in the wilds of society, but all equal parts of the same thing.
Everything out there is just looking for a snack, a drink and somewhere cosy to sleep.
Kitiara Pascoe is a freelance writer who spends the majority of her time travelling, exploring and trying new things. In 2014 she began a 2+ year trans-ocean voyage on a small yacht, even though she’d never sailed before. She recommends it.