Had a few tough days lately. Tough as in with a significant element of fear. They are interesting. There is a pattern in they happen and in the response.
I never seek these days. They either can't be avoided, or happen because I've misjudged the challenges of the day: wind, current/tide, swell, coastline/water depth profile... Tough is usually either a struggle to get to land, or a struggle to make a landing.
It was tough approaching the Gironde. There was a bigger swell than I appreciated, the tide was low and sand banks extending 7nm out to sea were blocking passage into calmer water. I made what was a good call to go round. On the banks the waves were unloading, and the further out I sailed the bigger they unloaded. The long period swell arrived in sets with significant gaps in between. When they arrived - silent racing express trains - you'd see that what appeared previously as clear navigable ocean clearly wasn't reliably safe. The only way in was further and further out.
Yesterday was tough. A delayed start for repairs. A high pressure launch - mess that up and sail and mast are for the bin. Then pressure to get a landing. The swell was 17 second period and 1.5m height, which roughly translates to surfing waves of 2.5m. They are not continuous, in fact the gaps are big, but light winds mean you are slow and vulnerable to getting caught. Yesterday, chances of a successful landing were slim. Safe landing was inside the Arcachon basin. Reaching there before dark was a big physical effort. I pumped almost continuously for the full 50km, stopping only once - for less than a minute - to retrieve sunglasses and sun-visor from bag. Sailing in over the banks on a dropping tide was a gamble - perhaps an unwise one - but the set waves that broke in the channel further out - where I'd just passed - reformed into swells by the time they rolled through. Had they not, I doubt they'd have left the gear sailable, and I'd have been left getting swept seaward on the current racing out of Arcachon basin, to likely meet where the set waves were breaking in anger.
I didn't quite make it to inside the basin - and still haven't - but frantic pumping got me partially round the point to where I could grab a landing.
Back to the pattern. There's not usually fear at the time - just glimpses of awareness. Mostly, once you're in it you get on with it. And then, upon landing or entry to safe waters, a kind of euphoria kicks in, and it is tempting to think "that's that - done". Windsurf Round Europe Facebook followers may recognise the update style! But it's not job done. A deeper processing still needs to happen. The fear needs to be felt. Perhaps written.
The day after a tough day - reliably - I'm in a good-for-nothing zombie. Operating on autopilot. The lights are on but no-one's home. Left alone, you'll find me roaming the streets in a daze. That's favourite. Facebook followers may recognise the lack of posts! Then something triggers an emotional response. A release. The zombie departs and I'm ready to move on. Literally.