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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2019

    Default Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    I have always wanted a boat and finally bought one. That was too small for my needs so we (me and wife) bought a 23 foot boat that is 4 berth. Love it. Old perkins engine and good on fuel. I little home away from home. We want to use her for sea fishing trips a couple of miles into the Bristol Channel. My wife has to 'make it ours' first. Fine by me. Moored in Penarth Merina.

    I have done the PB2 costal and enjoyed it. Iv been on boats and enjoyed it. Now I find I have panic attacks every time we go out. Iv not even had the courage to lock out of Cardiff Bay into the estuary.

    I suffer mild asthma and fear 2 things. Sinking the boat and injuring someone I care about or another water user.

    Having an asthma attack at sea and having no way to get help.

    I am a very nervous person generally, but I'll be dammed if my anxiety is going to rob me of the things I love. My wife is understanding but has no such affliction herself. The kids also enjoy it and are relaxed and confident on the water. I am always a hair away from a breakdown... Or that's what it feels like.

    So unfair and I'm at a loss on what to do about it besides either shut up and put up, sell the boat or take some medicine that I just don't want. Being sedated to enjoy a family day out is not normal.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    A Member State of the European Union

    Default Re: Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    I am sorry to hear this and it would be a great shame if you had to give up boating.

    How about going out on your boat with an experienced friend (perhaps leave your family at home for a while) so as to build up experience and skill. With that will come confidence in your ability.

    And/or you could go on a Day Skipper course.
    "Brexit: like watching a library being burned down by people who can't read"

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Default Re: Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    Not sure that I am qualified to comment on how to deal with anxiety but my thoughts would be to approach things in an organised and pragmatic way to see if that helps overcome your fears. First off I would say don’t think that you are alone in feeling apprehensive when taking a boat to sea - it is a serious business and should be taken seriously and many feel a certain apprehension when preparing to cast off.

    I guess one approach would be to treat the whole thing as a risk management exercise so think not only about the consequences of something going wrong but also consider the likelihood and what you can do to minimise both. This might help to put your concerns into perspective.

    On this basis I would say that whilst the consequence of the boat sinking could be serious it is (very) low likelihood. The consequence risk can be reduced by such things as wearing life jackets, having comms (VHF) to raise the alarm and maybe an EPIRB to help with the rescue services finding you. A life raft is probably not an option on your size of boat but remember that you are only planning to be fairly close inshore. The likelihood can be reduced by good maintenance (seacocks in good order, bilge pumps fitted and functioning, hand bilge pump installed), training (you have PB2) and careful navigation and boat handling.

    Similarly risks of breakdown can be reduced by good maintenance, carrying spare filters and knowing how to change one (most breakdowns are fuel supply related) and having an anchor so you can prevent the boat from drifting too far.

    Maybe also worth building slowly up to going to sea - use the boat to help gain confidence and when you go to sea maybe get someone experienced to go with you.

    I hope that you are able to address your concerns and are able to enjoy your boat with your family and friends.
    Last edited by Greg2; 22-06-19 at 07:49.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2005
    up on the moors.

    Default Re: Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    Welcome to the forums.

    First of all, well done on making the leap into owning a boat. You are not alone at being anxious in the early stages of handling a boat at sea or within a harbour. I think every skipper starts a voyage however short or long, with an element of enhanced awareness, and identifying the reasons for those concerns is the first stage in overcoming them or, at least, putting yourself in a controlling position over them.

    Your concerns about sinking the boat, and injuring someone, are absolutely standard, and indeed commendable, as they serve to make you aware that maintenance and boat skippering are skills that can be acquired (as through your decision to do the course) and by experience.

    Part of managing a boat is the voyage planning preparation and the log. If you are careful in planning what you are going to do (tides, weather forecast, harbour options, fuel check, comms, etc etc) and write it all down , and then record what happens and where you go in the boat's log, then you will soon see how quickly you are building up experience and confidence that the huge majority of sailing consists of predictable and controllable events.

    Gaining that experience might be a question of finding someone who could go out with you as a "buddy", and share his or her thoughts with you about all the decisions and actions that have to be made at the different stages of a trip. Or you might find someone who could take you out on his or her boat to "learn the ropes".

    A cruise in company is another way of gaining experience; even a couple of hours out in the Channel, practising manoeuvres, seeing the effect of tidal stream and wind changes, will all add to gaining experience and confidence.

    The duties of being the skipper, especially with family on board who are probably used to you taking the principal decisions for them, is one that cannot be denied. But what you are doing is just extending your skills and the natural sense of responsibility, and that can often be done by the natural teamwork of a family on board. Setting little practice tasks for the family such as taking bearings and marking up the chart, listening to VHF procedure and making pretend calls, checking fuel and bilge levels, understanding ColRegs, even arranging to dish out food, are all tasks which increase the crew's confidence and skills, and will also do the same for you.

    It may sound artificial, but a checklist of tasks from the course you have done, or the Competent Crew one, might be a tangible way to show family and yourself that you are all mastering the skills and knowledge-sets needed.

    You have made the most difficult decision first. The rest is down to dividing the large range of boat-owning tasks down into checklists and tick them off as you achieve them.

    I hope you enjoy your sailing out of Cardiff. The Channel is a lovely place and will give great pleasure to you and your family.
    Last edited by sarabande; 22-06-19 at 07:56.
    I think, therefore I am. I am, therefore I sail.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    North East Hampshire

    Default Re: Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    Have you considered boating on rivers to build confidence. Close to easy mooring if needed and a great way of learning close quarters boat handling. As Greg says, preparation is everything to help reduce the risk.
    I do understand your feeling but you’ll get more confident the more you use the boat. Just pick your days wisely and enjoy it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Bradwell and Leigh-on-Sea

    Default Re: Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    A few years ago I went to a talk by Robin Knox-Johnson. At the end a questioner asked what was the most important thing to take with you? The answer was "a sense of apprehension". Experience can reduce the level of apprehension but should never totally eradicate it.
    Not all who wander are lost

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    South of France.

    Default Re: Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    If the engine breaking down is a worry maybe get a 6hp outboard and one of those drop-down brackets bolted to the transom … you may never need it but it'll make you feel better … that and an extra 50 metres of rope to attach to your anchor chain so you can drop it anywhere if in trouble … you've got a radio I trust? That and, as MoodySabre says above, lots of experience - get out as often as you can and you'll soon find things start coming naturally … when that happens you're well on your way - you'll be OK ….

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2019

    Default Re: Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    If you enjoy being out on boats, but not being skipper, why not ask your wife if she will take on that role ? If you are both qualified and experienced you will be a lot safer. You don't really need to have a designated skipper anyway. The Diesel engine and a first aid course are worth doing too. Some people are happy as crew and don't want to be skipper. But the more you both know the better.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006

    Default Re: Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    Surround yourself with safety equipment such as get you home outboard, life jackets, small life raft for example, & find someone competent to go out with a few times until you build some confidence.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2013

    Default Re: Panic attack on boat. Love sailing.

    In Cardiff bay there is a fantastic RYA instructor James Withers.

    He also runs / owns Cardiff Sea Safari's (

    If you ask Stuart the Marina manager Im sure he will introduce you, he keeps his ribs in the marina and is back and fore all day.

    Im sure James will take you out and help you overcome your anxiety and start to enjoy the boat.

    I can personally vouch for James very competent and professional in every way.

    Hope this helps dont ever be afraid to ask!!!

    “There are five important things for living a successful and fulfilling life: never stop dreaming, never stop believing, never give up, never stop trying, and never stop learning.”

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