Some of the most frightening times on the water are right when the fireworks end or the final show plane has flown over. It feels as though every boater in Chicago has not only come out for these events but is now weighing anchor and making a mad dash back to their slip. The fear of these high traffic situations has paralyzed even some of the most seasoned boaters into spending Labor Day, Memorial, Fourth of July, Air and Water show at the dock.

There’s no need to let fear dictate when you do and don’t go boating. Proper preparation and education allow us to combat immobilizing fear with reason and logic. At Chicago Yacht Academy, we teach our students how to be in the moment, so they can get the most out of the boating education and time with us. This “in the moment” education style teaches our students high-level cognitive processing skills so as not to just survive their future boating experiences but thrive within them.

Based on Lawrence Gonzales’ book, Deep Survival, these nine steps have aided in the decision-making from our graduate’s helms and can help you stay in the moment. You will not only survive the post fireworks rush but you will also enjoy all of the time and money you’ve invested in your short boating season.

1. Perceive and Believe. Don’t fall into the deadly trap of denial or immobilizing fear when on the water. Admit it: Whether leaving a crowded anchorage at night or returning to your slip in high winds, you need to recognize that you’re in a risky situation and it’s up to you to mitigate that risk.

2. Stay Calm. The best of mariners are not ruled by fear; instead, they make use of it. Their fear often feels like (and turns into) motivation which, in turn, makes them feel more alert and sharper.

3. Take Correct, Decisive Action. Own the decisions you make. You can’t control what the other boats are doing so take full control of yours. I often tell new boaters, “It’s ok to be uncertain but it’s not ok to be unclear.” Create a plan and communicate it with those on board who are helping you get that boat back in her slip.

4. Celebrate your success. Whether properly managing a collision course, executing a smoother-than-usual docking, or learning a new knot, make sure to take joy from even your smallest successes.

5. Enjoy the Boating Experience.  Hundreds of thousands of people stand on the shore looking out, wishing they could be you, so don’t forget to have fun! Even in the most discouraging circumstances, you need to find something to enjoy, some way to play and laugh. Boating can be tedious.  Exercising patience and self-control is an art of its own and are key elements to a consistently enjoyable boating experience.

6. See the Beauty. The best professional and recreational mariners never fail to be awestruck or inspired by their surroundings. At times, it can be challenging to see the beauty through the literal fog, or what appears to be an endless quantity of boats. Even in the most extreme conditions lies a unique beauty that deserves our admiration. This very sense of wonder about the world around you will aid you in interpreting your environment.

7. Believe That You Will Succeed. Buying into your own failure will undoubtedly lead to it. Things like mantras, positive self-talk, and visualizing are all empowering strategies.

8. Surrender. Yes, there are drunk and ignorant boaters out there. If you have never scratched or punctured a boat… just wait, you will, it’s a given at some point in your boating career. Don’t let it worry you, and don’t let it keep you on the dock, no one can prevent an act of God.

9. Don’t Give Up. One of the great things about boating is that it is a skill that you can constantly grow. There are always new ways to get more education and training to ensure that you truly thrive during your next on-the-water experience.

Don’t miss out on a great day on the water because fear kept you in. Use these nine steps to help you hone your mental game during your next boat outing. For practical skills and training, join Chicago Yacht Academy for classes and private lessons to practice these nine steps in a safe, low consequence environment.

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