Decisions, decisions ...

posted 12 May 2015, 14:42 by Dominic Thwaites
More than any other endeavour of mine (work included), this venture involves making important and difficult decisions all the time.

I'm an analytical animal and if I'm called upon to make a subjective decision I am completely hopeless. Do I want tea or coffee? Should my wife have a yellow dress or a green one? How the hell should I know? By what possible criteria can I evaluate what the correct answer is? When faced with these kinds of questions my brain goes into a whirlpool of indecision and I find it extremely hard to provide an answer.

On this venture I have to make decisions based on the objective of a) getting further round and b) enjoying the experience. The inputs are what my capabilities and needs are at the time, options as to where I could go, what the tide is doing and what the weather is doing. Once underway, conditions change and the situation is fluid and so you are continuously re-evaluating what you should be doing. I spend a HUGE amount of my brain-time analysing my options and making decisions either in the planning or on the hoof.

When you are single handed you have no one else's opinion to weigh up and so you have great responsibility to get it right. Mistakes or bad judgements can have severe consequences.

So decision making on this venture plays a very important part. Take my passages 11 and 12, Dunbar via Montrose to Stonehaven as an example. On the face of it, if you read my passage notes, it may seem obvious. But trust me, nothing is obvious when you are in the thick of it. I decided I had the capability to do a passage from Dunbar to Stonehaven in one go mainly based on strong following winds. I knew that Arbroath and Montrose were bolt holes and had researched/read up on them.

Due to the strong following winds these bolt holds would become obsolete as options as I passed them (i.e. I would not be able to turn back to them). So passing each commits me to the next. By the time I was coming up to Arbroath it was becoming clear that a bolt-hole option was on the cards. Arbroath, however, has entry restrictions and as I was approaching there it was low tide and thus would require me to "hang about" outside the harbour for 2 or 3 hours. Not a nice prospect in a F7. But it was a good place for a yacht. I could get into Montrose, but I would not be able to stay there. The weather forecast was increasingly showing that winds were going to be possible gale force for the next 2 days. While the wind was increasing to gale force, it was directly behind me so, in fact, the boat can make progress reasonably well even in these conditions. I was feeling OK, though the experience was getting unpleasant, so why not just hunker down and go for Stonehaven? It's really not obvious, and you churn these and may other factors around in your mind while you are helming your boat through heavy seas. You think through it all a lot. In hind site, I think I made the right decision - but only if you combine it with subsequent decisions - i.e that I left Montrose at 3am in the morning!

So, this venture is not just about sailing a boat. It's just as much about planning and decision making. And most of all, to be frank, about enjoying the country once on land!