Post Date: May 29th, 2017

Why I took a week off in the midst of busy season

My husband John was through most of his deployment in Afghanistan in 2007 when we met in Rome for an unforgettable holiday together. It was during that time that we jokingly decided we were going to sail the Mediterranean in retirement.

Not long after this, I sat beside a civilian colleague at a military function (Let’s call her Claire). Claire and I did the usual “What do you do?” “Where do you live in the city?” “Do you like the area; why? why not?” When she asked me why we moved to the west end of Ottawa I told her “I love the water…it makes me happy…plus, I’ve always wanted to learn how to sail. (The sailing club was a little more than a block from my house and the boats always looked so beautiful and peaceful).

Three months later, out of the blue, an email arrived from Claire asking whether I was serious about learning to sail. Attached to the email was a flyer about a women’s only sailing event taking place on Saturday. As much as I had always wanted to sail, I had a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old at home and a business that was just starting and needed every spare bit of attention I could offer. John tried to talk me into it (great guy) still I resisted. Finally, he said:

“Maureen, if we’re going to sail the Mediterranean in retirement, one of us is going to have to learn how to sail.”

Saturday morning came. I fed my babies, left them with their dad and headed to the sailing club where I knew absolutely no one except Claire. And to add to the stress of walking into a room full of strangers, I knew absolutely nothing about sailing. NOT ONE THING!

Everything about that day blew past my level of understanding. I couldn’t figure out the theory because I had never stepped on a sailboat. “Don’t worry” Claire assured me. “It’ll all make sense once you get out there.”

Monday night came and our skipper walked us through all the parts of the boat and how to race this sailboat. “Let’s just get out on the water and see whether or not this is for me,” I thought to myself. That night was fine, but it was the next Monday that sold me on sailing. We went out on a calm July evening. According to the weather reports, the wind was supposed to pick up as we headed back to shore, but it picked up a little early. I thought for sure the skipper would tell us it was time to head in, but he didn’t! We were mid-race and we weren’t going to quit! The boat heeled as the wind filled our sails and we jetted across the water. “That’s it!” I thought to myself. “I’m hooked.” I wanted to learn everything about sailing and racing (and there was a lot to learn)!”

That summer, Claire introduced me to more of her sailing friends and before long I was racing on sailboats 2-3 times per week. I was absolutely clueless, but I was eager and most of the summer was spent as ‘rail meat’ (weight on the high side of the boat). I didn’t care. I was sailing!

I raced for a few summers learning the different positions. Then in 2012, our family was posted to Belgium. The ocean was a 2.5-hour drive from where we lived and I spoke neither French nor Flemish, so catching a ride for a race proved very difficult. It was time to shift my thinking. If I wanted to continue sailing I would have to figure out a way to get on a boat.

I talked about sailing every chance I got. Before long we came across a couple who loved to sail. Next thing you know, we’re planning a vacation with them to Greece to sail in the Aegean Sea. It was our first charter experience and we were hooked.

But sailing once a year for a week didn’t seem like enough for me. I wanted to learn more about sailing so that I didn’t have to rely on other people for a ride. I did some research online to figure out how to earn a sailing qualification. Living in Belgium, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) seemed like a good spot to start my learning because 1) everything was in English and 2) the RYA is recognized around the world (meaning whatever certifications I earned while in Europe, I could use in North America).

Once again, I left my husband with the kids, but this time not for a day, for a week. I flew solo to the Canary Islands and joined three strangers to earn my Competent Crew Designation. When I returned home I was so excited about my experience, I convinced John to go down in November, where he worked towards his certification all week and earned his Day Skipper Certification.

Not one to sit idly by, a year after earning my competent crew designation, I convinced a few of my girlfriends to join me as I tried to earn my Day Skipper Certification. What a week that was! Myself and my new friend, let’s call her Meghan earned our skipper certifications and our other two friends earned their competent crew certifications.  

We had so much fun sailing in the Canary Islands that we joked about making sailing an annual tradition. In 2015 it was the Canary Islands. In 2016 we travelled to Cinque Terre, Italy where we chartered a boat with a skipper and saw the beautiful villages from the sea.

That June Meghan and I, along with my newly minted skipper hubby and her husband chartered our first boat together as newbie skippers; Flying Solo was her name.

Which brings me to this week and why I’m not answering emails. We are flying solo again. This time, it’s the four ladies from 2015. Our first voyage as two skippers and two competent crew takes place in the gorgeous Greek islands and I am so excited I can barely contain it.

[Tweet “Successful careers don’t just happen, they take focus, direction, determination and resilience.”]

Why take the time to explain all this? Successful careers don’t just happen, they take focus, direction, determination and resilience. It’s not about chasing every opportunity that presents itself; it’s about deciding first what you want to achieve in life and building a strategy that will help you get what you want.

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