The Cruising Life: Women’s Perspectives. Part 9: Your Scariest Moment

Although we don’t need to dwell on the possibilities of those “Scary Moments,” it can still be good to know what type of things people experience… Here is this week’s question:

What has been your scariest moment?


Abyni @AbynisYouTube For me, the scariest moment would be when I had a really bad allergic reaction (we still don’t know what from) and got rashes and hives all over my body. Thankfully we avoided a trip to the hospital, but it was very stressful, painful, itchy and scary when it kept spreading!

Alexandra @SVBanyan Thankfully I don’t have that many, but I do vividly remember that time on passage when we saw a nasty looking squall in the distance and needed to bring in the jib. We tried but the line didn’t move, and so we needed to go check the furler. Husband preps to go on the bow and untangle the line. The boat is smashing into the waves and he’s out there fighting with the setup, the skies are getting darker, the seas are ramping up, and the winds hit, all at frighteningly fast speeds. The noise of the loose jib in the wind is terrifyingly loud and all I can do is stay in the cockpit trying desperately not to broach the boat. What feels like forever later, he finally gets the line back in the furler drum, staggers back into the cockpit, and by then the rains have hit. We weathered out the squall and moments later, the skies cleared up, and no one would have known what had transpired moments earlier, except for my still weak knees.

Barb @HartsatSea  We differ on this. I was most scared during our first and probably worst storm, less than a month after leaving Maine as we rounded Cape Fear. I broke two fingers at the start of the storm and we beat into it, away from Frying Pan Shoals and away from the Gulf Stream. We had lightning, wind, waves, and the potential for waterspouts. We had no way to communicate with our family. I did not enjoy it. EW says that he was most concerned when we messed up crossing from St. Thomas to the Guna Yala area of Panama and had to heave-to for nearly three days. However, neither of us enjoyed the 18 hours we sailed surrounded by thunder storms west of the Cape Verdes, either. But none of that terror stayed with us, we forgave ourselves and the universe and enjoy the memories. As for tough times near shore, I have not yet let go of the two very hard groundings we had in the Bahamas in December 2010. The first was entirely my fault and the second was simply a lack of understanding about the currents. Those two memories still haunt me.

Barb @SVMelindaKay We were in a tremendous thunderstorm while in the Keys.  We drug about 100 feet but the anchor reset during the storm.  Other boats drug to shore.  Winds were close to 74mph.


Carla @SVMahi Having my husband, Joe, and our Taswell 43 sailboat, MAHI, go through Hurricane Matthew in the Bahamas when it was a Category 4 storm.  I was away from the boat with our child on a home visit when Matthew hit.   Joe was hunkered down with a group from Great Harbour Cay Marina in The Berry Islands, and cell, power and internet disruption made receiving news most challenging.  We were able to communicate through a sat-text PLB device to determine the safety of the group and the boats.

Carly @SaltyKisses  I wouldn’t say I’ve had “scary” moments. Our son was born in the Bahamas and had to spend 2 weeks in the NICU due to an infection, there were times I questioned whether we had made the right decision for our family but he pulled through and got top notch care. There was also the time we got trapped by sea ice in Greenland for a few days. But we knew our options and weren’t in any great risk of loss of life. We hung out anchored to the ice with some friends we had made, we made the most of our time with ice trekking, a polar bear sighting and even a dip in the water. Brrr! (photo attached) Even more scary is now we are buying a boat without a freezer, unable to carry icecream onboard my husband should be afraid, very afraid!

CJGrabens @SVRagnarok We have played it pretty safe so far. There was the boat disappearing/anchor drag that really scared me. There was also a time we got going 8knots under sail, that scared me because I don’t think our boat was designed to go that fast. And there was a time we got caught in a storm and the forsail got away from us.

Btw we had our scariest moment last night. We lost the dinghy. The sea was super rough and choppy and in my haste to get on the boat I did not tie it up well at all. I did publicly announce this and hoped my bf would pick up my slack. But he instantly forgot about it too. We were sitting outside enjoying the breeze in the super uncomfortable choppy waves. When we noticed it was gone. So we went into the cove and tied up to a marina dock (it was after hrs) and my bf walked the beach for a mile until he found it (thank god for the perfect conditions to blow it to shore vs to sea). Sooo scary, especially because we invested in a new dinghy.

Cheri @SVConsort  We encountered some fairly aggressive sharks while spearfishing. Don’t be the only person in the water without a spear. Seriously.


Crystal @LetitBreeze  My scariest moment was when we were crossing the Mona Passage in a lightning storm for 5 hours. Having a 60 foot metal rod in the middle of your living room is pretty terrifying when the sky is lighting up like the 4th of July.



Duwann @MakeLikeAnApeMan  Friends ask this question a lot! We like to tell them that we are always scared – it is just different degrees of scary.

It is hard to say what my scariest moment has been, but I think the scariest situation we have been in is when we lost our forestay and headsail while crossing the Gulf Stream on our way to Mexico. 75 miles out of Key West we were motoring along without a hint of breeze when we were suddenly hit by a giant wall of wind (a White Squall). It knocked us over – rail in the water. My husband steered up and the headsail backfilled. I took over the helm, he let the sail out and after a few tacks back and forth we got back on a course. The wind was up and we were sailing so we cut the engine. I went back down below to finish my lunch when I heard my husband yell from up above – the forestay and headsail fell into the water. Apparently when the wind hit us it broke the cotter pin that holds the forestay to the top of the mast. I took over the helm once again while my husband strapped on his tether and very carefully (we were bouncing up and down in the waves churned up by the White Squall) went forward to secure the mast with a couple of extra halyards and then started to fish the sail out of the water and lash it to the side of the boat.

Once everything was secure we turned the motor on and turned around to head back to Key West. Aside the impending darkness and the 10 foot waves, all would have been well except that we were getting air in our fuel line and our engine kept cutting off. Bleeding the fuel line fixed the problem only temporary as it continued to happen with increasing frequency as the sun set and we got closer Key West. As we neared the channel leading into Key West, in the wee dark hours of the morning, I was terrified that we would snag a crab pot.  With the engine cutting out so often, my husband was having to hover over it to bleed the fuel line every few minutes and I didn’t have a spotter for the dreaded crab pots. We freaking made it back to safety and dropped the hook in the same spot we had left from 2 days before.

Here is this Passage to Mexico story in more detail.

Jenny @SVRocketScience Getting hit by a rogue wave. About 2 days or so after leaving San Francisco, it was the middle of the night. The weather was a bit nautical – we had 3 days or so of 40 knots and 15′ waves. It was my time off watch. I woke up from an impact that was so hard, it felt like we hit something. I was thrown out of the bunk, the blanket and the dog on top of me. I ran out, and there was my DH, soaking wet. I asked him what had happened. He said he heard a roar, turned around and there was a 30′ vertical wall of water behind the boat, just about to break. All he could do was keep the boat straight and hope for the best. It hit us on the stern, we had about 3′ of green water on the deck. Of course the hatch was open a crack and there was water inside. He asked me to clean it up. I couldn’t. My legs were like jello. It took me a while to recover from that.

Kerry @YaNevaKnow Most scary moment was almost being crushed by a big white boat whilst refuelling our dinghy…..the boat was very large and simply not looking out for us!!  I had to jump off the dinghy to escape being crushed to death = not fun!!!

Laura @FortunesAfloat Our scariest moment happened at 2:00am (don’t they always happen in the middle of the night?) in the Kuna Yala when we were struck by lightning. We took a direct hit to the VHF antenna at the top of the mast. There was a bone shaking BOOM!, instruments turned on by themselves, smoke and strange smells filled the cabin; it was terrifying. We lost lots of equipment that was difficult and expensive to replace. (In fact, we still don’t have an anemometer.) We limped from there to Cartagena doing day sails because we had no autopilot. We spent six weeks in Cartagena repairing what we could and just continued sailing. Read More in The Lightning Strike

Liza @TravelPod In general: The unknown. Until the time that I experience something, I have trepidations about it. Fortunately, I have a husband who is very experienced, I trust completely, and who remains calm under all circumstances. Fortunately I’ve only been truly scared only three times and the fear only latest for under five minutes…until I understand what was going on and how to deal with it. My lightning strike story was likely the scariest moment I’ve experienced out here.

Melinda @BurnettsAhoy  What has been your scariest moment?  Got caught crossing the Atlantic in 6 meter seas and 30-40 kts of wind for two days.  Was faced with alternating 2 hour shifts with my husband as we had to hand steer – the autopilot was slewing the boat too much on the downwind waves.  I was worried I would fall asleep or get too goofy to steer.  I did not.  Fear is a stimulant!  The boat and systems were all fine.


Melinda Taylor  Scariest moment, which one? Crossing Wide Bay Bar on an outgoing tide in 30 kts at midnight, trying to get out of Brisbane river in the flood or lightening storms at sea with fork lightening hitting the water around the boat? I don’t know, they were all terrifying but somehow thrilling too. Then they pass and all they are is a funny story to tell over sundowners.
Note to Newbies, these events are years apart, it truly is 99% scary moment free.

Nike @WhiteSpotPirates   It’s the first night of my second longer solo sail from Cartagena back to the San Blas islands. Winds are around a good twenty, coming on the beem and some two to two and a half meter waves are between two and two and a half meter waves are bouncing my boat Karl and me around quite a bit. In addition to my already short sleeping periods of 20 minutes, I have to get up more frequently to correct my wind vane because I cannot get it to run smoothly on this course.

I am tired, it is rolly, dark night all around me…the perfect moment for something to break. First I think it is just the wind vane not being set correctly again. But then I realize that one of the pulleys of the wind vane has come off completely and is now only just hanging on the line of the wind vane. “Seriously?” I ask myself. Well, I guess I have to fix that, not something I can postpone for when I am back at anchor.

What I should have done is to heave to, stabilize the boat and work on the wind vane without any pressure. What I did instead was a little less elegant but more importantly a lot more dangerous.

With one hand I tried to hold the boat on course and with the other and my mouth I try to fiddle around with a new rope to lash the pulley back in place. Sometimes I let go of the tiller for a second to tie a knot or to pull the rope tight whenever it is necessary. But whilst I wrap the rope a couple more times around the pole, my boat gets off course and Karl’s stern goes through the wind.

Everything happens really fast after that. The wind hits the sail from the other side with such a force that the metal mount on the boom where the preventer is attached breaks lose. The boom and the sheet come flying towards me and the tiller smashes my back onto the wall of the cockpit seat. The main sheet misses my neck by half an inch. I cough a couple of times, bring the boat under control and once everything is back in order I just sit there and stare into the dark night thinking damn, that was close, that could have cost me my life.

Sarah Gayle Early in our cruising adventures, we were anchored on a small tidal river in the Pacific Northwest, well out of the channel in a place we had spent lots of weekends testing the boat when we were started awake by a very close and loud fog horn, followed by a HUGE dredge barge and a three story tug hidden in totally solid fog!  He came within about 6 feet of us, yelling at us from the bridge and basically scaring the crap out of us.  It felt like a crazy nightmare as this was not the normal kind of equipment on this little river, usually the largest is a commercial fishing boat!   It prompted a whole new list of things to consider for the boat.

Sarah @YoginiSailor When the mast was struck by lightening when we were on anchor.

Stacey @SVSmitty My scariest moment was on our passage from Turks & Caicos to Dominican Republic. We were already pushing our luck with a quickly dissolving weather window and not ideal seas when we got a mayday call from a boat that decided to travel with our group (which we already preferred that they would not have – for various reasons).  Traveling back to them and trying to figure out how to get them and how to get them a manual bilge pump (which they didn’t have!) was very scary and stressful. Hours later, they eventually got most of the water out of the boat. Unfortunately, our weather window was now gone, it was dark, and we were in the middle of severe thunderstorms. One strike hit in between sv Smitty and sv Party of Five, there was only about 1/4 mile between us at the time – too close for comfort! We had to use the radar to track the storms and go out of our way in order try to avoid them. Moral to the story, we all have an obligation to help, especially with a mayday, but we are also responsible to ensure that our boat and crew are capable of handling sea conditions and emergencies and cannot expect that there will always be someone to help.

Link to the full story on our blog:

Susie @Wanderings Losing our rudder 

@ThingsWeDidToday For me… “Scary” is when you’re in a situation over which you have no control.  So far I can’t really say that I have been truly scared.  But… there have been two experiences that I will tell you that I was READY for it to be over!  I don’t know why I haven’t felt true fear… maybe I have faith in my Guardian Angel, or I’m living in a huge “Personal Safety Bubble” where I think nothing can REALLY ever happen to ME…  But when the shit hits the fan, I feel a sense of resignation to dealing with the situation.  I “put on my big sailor panties” if you will.  Once I realize that this shit’s REAL and there’s no getting out of it… I buckle down and my mind goes into get-it-done mode.  It’s amazing really.  It’s like I’m inside my head looking out… watching me do whatever needs done with a running sidebar conversation going on…  The other thing that really amazes me at how many times I think to myself “Wow… if it wasn’t for the fact that this could really end badly… it would be FUN”!  I know!  What’s wrong with me???  But somehow I find the whipping wind and rain on my face, my hair blowing around and wild roaring in my ears… the feeling of being a little bit (or a lot) out of control and watching it all unfold… it’s all quite exhilarating!  I have to forcibly wipe that crazy smile off of my face and get back to work saving the boat from certain doom!  Read about the two biggies here: Our first real bad anchorage decision: This Ain’t Yo Mama’s Bahamas  And the weather event that everyone was talking about:  El Derecho
Katy @SVKlickitatII Given that I was petrified most of our entire first season, this is a tough one – but I’ve narrowed it to two. One was in the middle of the far northern Sea of Cortez when the wind picked up from 0 to 35-40 knots in the space of 15 minutes. We were anchored on the windward side of a tiny island, so had to bail and get to the less-ideal anchorage on the other side. In turning to round the island, we had to go broadside to the waves for a bit and had green-water break over the top of the bimini. The other was a similar situation with sudden wind picking up on Isla Carmen and being blown out to sea on my paddle board.



Byn @OhSailYes I’ve had some scary moments with the kids being in the water, off the boat, when I didn’t have the dignhy at hand to go rescue/help them. Those were nerve wracking, even though they always turned out fine… in the moment I was Freaking the F*CK out.

However, since those things have passed, the most RECENT stressful/scary thing was when Hurricane Matthew hit Georgetown while my husband and two of our children were right there in the middle of it. I was stressing, watching from afar and scared that our home was going to be destroyed or that my humans were going to be hurt (although the human part was pretty unlikely, since they were in a shelter with an underground shelter available if needed). Still, watching from afar was horribly stressful.

“All of that being said, I can say that none of that seems like much when it comes to our first hurricane experience.

Having never been personally near a hurricane, I guess I never grasped the size and the… I never realized how LONG they last. I didn’t know that they didn’t just happen and then peter out like a tornado. I had NO clue that they would go on for DAYS and could even gather up more strength days after they started. I was not prepared.” [Read More]

You can see my husband’s coverage of Hurricane Matthew on our blog.

I guess I also need to mention that time that our starter went out and as we took off to sail to Staniel Cay from Allen’s Cay… our SAIL FELL OFF. Sad smile Yeah. You can watch that whole event on our most recent YouTube Episode.

See the other posts in this series:

Part 1: What Makes it Worth it?

Part 2: What Would You do Differently?

Part 3: What has been your most surprising experience?

Part 4: Where Would You Revisit?

Part 5: What is Your Favorite Physical Activity Onboard?

Part 6: What were the biggest struggles for you in your first year? How did you deal with them to get through?

Part 7: What Technology is Essential for You?

Part 8: What is your best piece of advice for people who are getting ready to take off on a cruising adventure?

Part 9: What has been your scariest moment?

Part 10: Budget Friendly Tips?

Part 11: Best Social Media Tips?

Part 12: Your Best Life Hacks for the Boat

Part 13: Your Favorite Photo

Part 14: How Did Cruising Affect Your Marriage/Relationship?

Part 15: Let’s Talk About Sex