How I Challenged My Fear and Won

fearFRIDAY FUNNIES: MY FEAR IS LIKE A STONE WALL waiting to be scaled with bare hands and as my first day out sailing as a brand new Captain on San Francisco Bay draws nigh, I have visions of clambering up icy Mt Everest.

Arriving at the pier on the big day I am thankful Blue Eyes is with me as we prepare our rented 23 foot sail boat. I did beat him by five points on the written part of the Captain exam so my self confidence is not completely drowning in fear. If things go awry, I’m counting on him to play the gentleman and let me blame it on him. He’s always really easy going.

“I’ll take her out of the harbor” I hear myself say as I put the outboard in reverse and smoothly back away from the slip. Capt Bill, our instructor is watching us from the dock and I feel like a teenager going out for her first drive… Excited and terrified all at once.


Almost out of the harbor I peek over my shoulder at the dock and catch Bill just as he sneaks a parting glance to make sure we are ok. His figure is growing smaller and we are now officially on our own.

God, I hope I remember what I’m supposed to do next. Hello fear.

I choose to captain the boat for the first part of our sail to Sam’s Anchor Café in Tiburon, our lunch destination because the captain gets to boss the crew around. My favorite part. In Capt Bill’s words, “You can tell your crew to do anything you don’t feel like doing” and I am enjoying every minute of it. He did mention he passed me on the practical part of the exam partially because I had very good command.

fear“It’s the kitchen training, Bill” I explained to him. My chef friend, Uncle Dave had me wrapped around his finger for years all those times he cooked for me at his place. If I wanted a good meal I’d bloody well better learn how to be a good ‘Kitchen Bitch’, Uncle Dave would say. He was relentless despite my efforts to soften him up him with good tequila. We jusht ended up shlurring more but he never shkipped a beat…

fearAnd so now it is my turn to ‘chef’ the boat. Delicious.

The sail to Sam’s is smooth and we switch back and forth being at the helm, quizzing each other relentlessly with sailing exam questions. For some reason Blue Eyes is getting a little short-tempered and just as we approach Sam’s dock, he declares he desperately needs to use the boat’s head. This cannot wait and before I can warn him of my prior unpleasant experience with the aforementioned leaky port-a-potty he is below releasing a big sigh of relief.

fearWe encounter some wake and as the boat bobs to and fro the ensuing “AAAHGHGH!! What the… EEEeeuwww, that’s disgusting!!!!”  tells me that Blue Eyes just got a soaker. Two actually, his pants are not spared. The carpet below is now also fully christened with whatever frightfully foul fluid was in that head.

Happily seated on Sam’s patio to dry out, we are dodging the most aggressive Pterodactyl sized seagulls I have ever encountered. They are vigorously dive bombing our table and one of them sticks its head right inside my hot chocolate the moment I make a move for the landlubber restroom.

Apparently these birds will risk their lives for a snort of whipped cream. No fear.

Even though the fishermen are on strike and there is no crab available, we enjoy a lovely lunch and make our way back to the city. Practicing various maneuvers all the way I accidentally pull about five donuts in a row right in the middle of the commercial shipping channel, shaking Blue Eyes up a little. Holy bumble, who knew a simple ‘heave to’ could be so complicated!

My fear got in the way, I did it perfectly for the exam.

fearWanting to make up for the donuts I offer to dock the boat, not a easy feat. This requires balls of steel and my minuscule ball bearings are quivering with fear inside the three pairs of pants I’m wearing to keep warm. I barely make it without crushing the neighbor’s fancy boat and with a “Perfect!”, Blue Eyes rises to the occasion of being the gentleman as he nimbly hops onto the dock and pulls the wayward vessel into place.

Quickly surveying the area, I see we are safe from Capt Bill’s eagle eye. Or not. He mysteriously emerges from a crack in the dock to check on us and as he leaves, some beer soaked Russian fishermen pull in with their catch and generously offer us three juicy crabs.

Nasdrovia… it’s my lucky day and nobody got hurt. Except for my fear, it’s definitely lost it’s grip.

Back at the ranch we christen ourselves with a good bottle of champagne as we feast on the crabs. I am one seaworthy Kitchen Bitch.

Arrrrr, Matey! Again.


Capt Esmée St James