Fear can be defined as a feeling of anxiety, apprehension or distress caused by the presence or anticipation of danger. It may be rational or irrational but it is always very real to the person experiencing it.
I've found that acknowledging and dealing with my own fears has helped me overcome them and more fully enjoy cruising.
When my husband and I first started sailing I was too excited about our new life to be afraid. We'd just escaped from our small-town life in Arkansas and were headed off to see the world under sail, dreaming of a life of discovery and adventure.
Reality set in when we made our first overnight passage in less than ideal conditions.
A small low-pressure system suddenly intensified, overtaking us during the night. I was terrified every time one of us had to go to the foredeck for a sail change in the darkness as the wind, rain and seas raged, and lightning streaked all around.
What had been a slight anxiety about night passages turned into full-blown fear after that storm.
Nineteen years have passed and we have put many sea miles behind us. Fear can't be conquered overnight and it took some time before I felt comfortable with approaching nightfall at sea.
Having a seaworthy boat, a liferaft and an abandon-ship plan added to my confidence, and I came up with a few simple ideas that helped ease my anxiety.
All these things created distractions and soothing routines, but the real key to overcoming my fear of night sailing was, much the same as with any phobia, just doing it.
We gradually increased the time spent on passages, culminating in our Pacific crossing. With experience my fears slowly began to ease until one night I suddenly realized I didn't feel afraid anymore.
Now I actually look forward to long crossings.