Alone in the Middle of the Ocean I Discovered Wellness

With health care increasingly expensive and in the near future perhaps even hard to find, it is not surprising to see an abundance of books, blogs, articles, centers and coaches offering wellness advice, tips, services and products, including this one. Wellness, once seen as mostly a do-it-yourself enterprise with grandma handing out the directions, has become more complex with specialists to help us develop our breathing, diet, exercise, inner calm, and the right balance of hormones, enzymes, minerals, and every property our body needs to function and support us. Plus so much more.

Is wellness more than just the absence of disease? Is there a sharp line dividing disease from wellness, or is there a grey area between them. A zone where you are neither ill nor really well. At least not at your optimum.

In my forties, I gave some, but very little, thought to this question. I ate a fairly good diet most of the time, drank lots of coffee, some wine, did yoga, took a walk on the beach many mornings, and worked way too hard. Then I made a life-altering decision to sell my home, buy a boat and go sailing alone at least as far as New Zealand. Thus came my awakening to my own role in preserving and enhancing my level of wellness…in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, alone on a small (31-foot) boat.

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1988 on board Southern Cross leaving San Francisco

As I had prepared the boat (but not myself) for the undertaking, I had assembled a substantial first aid kit and requested help from a cousin (an anesthesiologist) to assist with a few hard-to-buy items. She met me for lunch with a gift of codeine enhanced Tylenol and a tube of Neosporin. I was actually looking for injectable pain medication, suturing materials, scalpel and forceps. I knew that I would have to solve any problems that arose on my own, perhaps thousands of miles from assistance. Eventually, all was ready on board, and I was off for the first transoceanic solo crossing of my life.

After the first few days out of Acapulco, I spent the next two weeks in excruciating pain from (diagnosed) sciatica, thinking each day it would get better. Finally, I could not stand up, sit down or lie down without pain. Crawling to the foredeck to manage sails pushed me beyond my limits, but there was no one else to do it. And so I went, often in tears and sometimes screaming in pain.

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Downwind at sea

I knew that I had at least three more weeks of this before I would make landfall in the South Pacific Marquesas Islands. Going back where I had come from, by this time, was out of the question. I analyzed every conceivable contributing factor in my physical environment and every possible source of relief, without a solution. Then one day, a voice in my head…or maybe I even said out loud, “Nerve! You just don’t have enough nerve for this! Who do you think you are?” Sciatic nerve! And the cause was fear—a fear that I had failed to acknowledge. What sane person wouldn’t be afraid? I had a mental image of those rod-tight muscles reaching out desperately trying to hold on to the dock as I departed.

Without knowing why, during all the months of preparation to begin this voyage, I had been reciting in my mind the list of my skills and experience. Over and over. I never questioned why I kept doing this. It became clear in the middle of the ocean that it was my inner response to fears I wouldn’t face.

That day, I took charge of my body and acknowledged its messages. I relentlessly massaged the steel-cable-like long muscles running on either side of my spine. Hour after hour, I worked them against hard corners of the boat, small balls and hard limes. The following day my back was in frequent spasms twisting my entire body into bizarre forms, but I kept going all that day between the spasms with the same massage. I looked the fear in the eye, acknowledged it, accepted it, welcomed it (it would help keep me safe for the next eight years around the world), and I dealt with the results of it.

The second morning brought a gorgeous sunrise; I watched pain-free from the cockpit. That pain has never returned. Over the following years of my journey and since, I learned a great deal about caring for my own wellness. Of course, there were many times I went to see a proper healthcare practitioner or doctor, but I did my best to make their job easier by doing all I could to maintain this marvelous gift of life I was given. I believe that we are what we eat, what we think and believe, and what we do. Wellness is about making thoughtful decisions in all of those areas.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on wellness in the comment box below. How do you describe the state of wellness, and what is your primary technique for maintaining yours?

FREE CLASS: Three Ways Life at Sea Contributes to Back Pain for Long-Distance Cruising Sailors, February 16, 2016, 4:00 – 5:30pm, VIP Lounge, Riviera Nayarit Marina, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, NAY, Mexico.


Pat Henry inspires people to make gentle, healing movements that take them from limiting, painful joints to joyful flexibility. Her upbeat coaching style and effective program bring out energy, optimism, and freedom clients thought were just a memory. Her message and encouragement come from a deep conviction that “if you can dream it, you can do it.”

Pat’s life is a model of following your dreams…having sailed alone around the world on a small boat, authoring a book recounting her voyage, launching her women’s sailing school, and developing Organic Stretching®, the revolutionary movement program that has brought relief to countless clients as they allowed their own bodies to guide them to wholeness.


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