Can The Easily Panicked Be Taught To Sail?

socalrider

Super Anarchist
1,421
780
San Diego CA
I agree with the dinghy sailing suggestion.  Once you've capsized a laser a few dozen times you're less afraid of heeling.  Letting her drive is another good idea.  

I've found a lot of people are freaked out by the heeling of a keelboat - it's very unsettling if you don't have an intuitive feel for how it "should" feel.  Just doing it a lot helps, but my wife really never got into it, which is part of the reason we now have a trawler.  

 

alphafb552

Super Anarchist
2,912
622
Fryslan boppe!
I agree with the dinghy sailing suggestion.  Once you've capsized a laser a few dozen times you're less afraid of heeling.  Letting her drive is another good idea.  

I've found a lot of people are freaked out by the heeling of a keelboat - it's very unsettling if you don't have an intuitive feel for how it "should" feel.  Just doing it a lot helps, but my wife really never got into it, which is part of the reason we now have a trawler.  
Whenever I take newbies out on my folkboat, I point to the cabin sole and tell them that underneath that is the weight of a small car that will keep the boat from fully tipping over - haven't had much panic on board, so it must work!

 

Crash

Super Anarchist
5,195
1,100
SoCal
I think the answer to the OP's question is, "Yes" for about 95% of folks, esp if they want to go try again.  I think a combination of education around the basic physics of sailing (there's a 3000 lb lead keel that sticks 5 ft down to keep us from tipping over), and understanding of controls (when the boat starts to tip we can ease the main, or head up some), and recognition of what causes the panic (typically, the boat heeling - that's a new concept to many people, and tipping over seems "wrong/leads to impending disaster), followed by taking that person out sailing on days that don't produce the conditions that cause the panic at first, followed by days that might begin to approach it, followed by days that actually approach it, followed by days that do it, followed by days that might even exceed it.

Whether or not you are willing to invest that time and effort is a different story.  Plus, as IB rightly points out, there are some who will never acclimatize, regardless of how slowly and gently you go...

 

Rain Man

Super Anarchist
7,372
2,178
Wet coast.
Some people don't like the feeling when things are "out of control".  I take first-time passengers flying in gliders frequently, and I find that the most important thing is to keep talking to them in a calm, confident voice.  lf they know that you are not scared, they will not be scared.  

So, with this person, I would be a bit of a blabbermouth and just keep the conversation going.   Be careful about the expression on your face and your tone of voice.   Laugh a lot and make jokes.

A lot of people pick up little cues and mis-interpret them, like an extended silence, leading to fear.  When I am going to be silent for a while during a flight (I get tired of hearing myself too after a while) I tell the passenger I'm going to be quiet and just enjoy the feeling for a while.

Communicate everything you are doing before you do it.  Even small changes in course and sail trim, and explain why you are doing them.  

Make sure you don't take them out in conditions where you are anything less than 100% confident in your ability to not just manage the boat but do it without drama or anxiety on your part.  The slightest anxiety on your part is likely to be communicated unintentionally and may trigger your friend's panic.

 

Jules

Super Anarchist
8,664
3,458
Punta Gorda
No. Some people just freak out. What I hate is when they go "wuhhhhh" like it's dangerous over 12knots of breeze or 15 degrees of heel.

The most beneficial solution is to take them out in sort of windy conditions for a 3-4 day sail so they get used to it, but don't expect their comfort level to remain high for more than a few days.

Personal experience, YMMV.
We went out today.  Thus my timely post.  But we invited some friends.  Two were in their 80s and absolutely no help at all.  But one knows his shit, and is one of those guys who says, "It's not a problem.  We'll be okay."  And he's a huge help working the boat.

Sailing today was brisk.  Winds were topping at maybe 15 or so.  One 80 something guest was freaking at the start.  (Her husband was nestled comfortably in the cockpit.)  But my scaredy-cat friend jumped on the helm and steered us into some rail-burying runs.  And she was elated.

I'm glad I didn't choose psychology as an occupation.

 

CaptainAhab

Anarchist
875
250
South Australia
Take her out in a double handed dinghy(420 or similar) plane the boat and capsize it again & again until it breaks her panicky habit or quits sailing all together. 
 

Most of us cherish every opportunity to go for a sail. Why bring someone that will consistently ruin it for you. Leave her on the dock. 

 

Grande Mastere Dreade

Snag's spellchecker
I've got a friend I've taken out exactly three times.  Every time we've been out she panics at some point.  But when we get back to the dock she always says how much fun it was and how she wants me to teach her more.

Personally, I don't think she's learned anything other than I will always do whatever has to be done to stop her from freaking out.

She frequently bugs me to go out again and I always find a way not to go.  I've even told her she has to overcome panicking but all that comes from that is the promise she won't.

Is it possible for her to learn to sail without me wanting to throw her overboard?
pop a few strong margaritas into her first , then go sailing,..

 

fufkin

Super Anarchist
On top of the already mentioned dinghy sailing, dinghy capsizing, putting her on the wheel, plying her with Margaritas, and RainMans most prescient commentary on fear as contagion, I'd add only one thing...

...trim and reef for comfort in advance of a stiffening breeze and let your newbie crew in on what you're doing. Making the boat controllable and docile in a stiffening breeze, or having the right amount of sail up to match a wave period...even just little adjustments...can go a huge way towards giving the boat a slightly more comfortable and predictable ride. The more predictable the less panic...

A lot of great things about giving someone the wheel...gives them control/confidence/feel for the boat but also gets them standing and perhaps flexing legs and instinctively balancing the inner ear. Complete opposite of if they go down below etc.

After that...at some point yeah you should go for more and more controlled heel, put the rail in the water and bring it back. If she's still smiling, who knows, maybe she's a keeper.

 

Hitchhiker

Hoopy Frood
4,675
1,316
Saquo-Pilia Hensha
I've got a friend I've taken out exactly three times.  Every time we've been out she panics at some point.  But when we get back to the dock she always says how much fun it was and how she wants me to teach her more.

Personally, I don't think she's learned anything other than I will always do whatever has to be done to stop her from freaking out.

She frequently bugs me to go out again and I always find a way not to go.  I've even told her she has to overcome panicking but all that comes from that is the promise she won't.

Is it possible for her to learn to sail without me wanting to throw her overboard?
Yes.

 

Steam Flyer

Sophisticated Yet Humble
45,305
10,131
Eastern NC
We went out today.  Thus my timely post.  But we invited some friends.  Two were in their 80s and absolutely no help at all.  But one knows his shit, and is one of those guys who says, "It's not a problem.  We'll be okay."  And he's a huge help working the boat.

Sailing today was brisk.  Winds were topping at maybe 15 or so.  One 80 something guest was freaking at the start.  (Her husband was nestled comfortably in the cockpit.)  But my scaredy-cat friend jumped on the helm and steered us into some rail-burying runs.  And she was elated.

I'm glad I didn't choose psychology as an occupation.
Looks like she learned something... maybe the wrong things??

Keep the guy who was a lot of help. Sounds like the others may not want to come back anyway. And always have that skipper's awareness of who is crew, who is merely a passenger

FB- Doug

 

Sail4beer

Usual suspect
10,366
3,673
Toms River,NJ
Only one way to be sure. Marry her and see if her interest in sailing drops to zero.  
I think she would have to get a divorce from her husband and take up this lady to test your theory!

As an aside, that’s how things worked out with my marriage. She lost interest in sailing and me and now she doesn’t have to bother with either :)

 

Meat Wad

Super Anarchist
We went out today.  Thus my timely post.  But we invited some friends.  Two were in their 80s and absolutely no help at all.  But one knows his shit, and is one of those guys who says, "It's not a problem.  We'll be okay."  And he's a huge help working the boat.

Sailing today was brisk.  Winds were topping at maybe 15 or so.  One 80 something guest was freaking at the start.  (Her husband was nestled comfortably in the cockpit.)  But my scaredy-cat friend jumped on the helm and steered us into some rail-burying runs.  And she was elated.

I'm glad I didn't choose psychology as an occupation.
There is always that moment when the Brain Clicks and the owner of said brain thinks...."I get it now".

 

Sidecar

…………………………
3,238
1,628
Tasmania
You've given her a safe way to have the shit scared out of her. She wants more. It could be as simple as that.

Maybe talk through sailing with her - what are her goals, and what does she enjoy about sailing? If she just wants to be scared, she can be rail meat. If she wants to learn sailing and really lean into the speed junkie thing, then teach her foredeck, send her up the mast, go sailing in big wind, etc.
This...... You should count your blessings that she still wants to go out sailing with you. Or  just take her out when conditions are too benign to panic and see what happens....

 
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