How to be alone but not lonely, advice from some of the world’s top offshore sailors!

At a time when a good many of us are spending more time in our own company and with considerably less interaction with friends and family than normal, it's easy to feel isolated and alone. Weve gathered some articles that bring together the thoughts and advice of sailors who are used to long periods of isolation. We've rounded up the sailorsadvice and some common themes which might help to offer some comfort in the climate we find ourselves in today.

Adapting to a change in circumstance

Pip Hare, a first-time entrant in this years Vendee Globe, highlights that as human beings we have an incredible capacity to keep improving, learning and adapting regardless of our age or stage in life. A step on the route to adapting is acceptance of change. Dee Caffari, Vendee Globe racer and round-the-world record holder highlights that we must accept that we must adapt to the new environment we are living in which includes focussing only on what you can control and dont waste energy worrying about things that are outside your control.

Our energy is far better spent on the controllables than being consumed with worry.

Routine and structure

Pretty much all the sailors recommend developing a new daily routine, a structure to your time in isolation. Pip Hare believes that it is important to create your own structure and try to follow it. Build each day around your short term objectives blending what you must do with downtime and fun.This advice is echoed by Enda OCoineen, the first Irish entrant into the Vendee Globe … “I suppose the first lesson is just to develop a routine. In other words, separate out your tasks. Set mini goals each day for what you want to do and what you want to achieve.

It's clearly still of value to set time aside to structure your days, focus on small goals and achievements and take joy in such tasks. Making time for 'downtime' and leisure and something you find enjoyable is just as important.

Media intake

Dee Caffari points out the downside to 24/7 connectivity We are bombarded with information via the media and we do need to take news onboard. However, if you find that listening or reading the news is increasing your anxiety or stress levels then limit your exposure to it. Obviously, the HPYC blog doesnt count!

Keeping updated and educated on current affairs is important but don't let it consume you!

Taking on a new project

Sir Robin admits to being worried about keeping himself together mentally and took to learning poetry I committed all these wonderful poems to memory. Id sit there steering while reciting to myself. Dee Caffari suggests Is there a project that you have wanted to take on but never had the time. Maybe now is the time to revisit some of those things you never got round to. Perhaps there is an online navigation course that you have been putting off or it could quite simply be getting out the charts and doing a practice passage plan?

Taking on a new project will give you a sense of satisfaction and help with a positive use of spare time.


Samantha Smillie, who is currently in isolation on her yacht in Greece points out that if I can manage some stretching positions in the 2x1 metres of flat space I have, anyone can. It occurred to me yesterday that I could use a mooring line to do some skipping on the harbour wall. Pip Hare concurs include movement and exercise in your daily routine there are plenty of exercises that can be done in confined spaces, for ten minutes at a time, working arms and legs, using bodyweight resistance to keep mobile and strong.

Don't be afraid to access new workouts online, if you have access to youtube there are an abundance of workouts to try. Likewise some simple stretches on your balcony or in the back garden can be brilliant for the mind and soul.

Finally Communication

All the sailors had something to say on the importance of communication when in isolation. Both Pip and Enda recommend that we pre-arrange times to make callsand to set up that routine and that regularity where at a certain time you talk. Dee points out that even a five-minute chat once a day could really lift someones spirits and be something they look forward to. Samantha admits that she learned a lesson in setting pride aside to admit youre lonelyif you reach out, there will always be someone to pick you up when your inevitable meltdown comes.

Being isolated doesn't have to mean being alone, with the wonders of email, skype, whatsapp people can be connected at a touch of their fingertips. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone, chat with a neighbour across the fence or to write someone a letter or card.

Read the full articles below:

Dee Caffari (The Guardian) Tips for Self Isolation Coronavirus Sailor

Pip Hare (Daily Telegraph) Survive Self Isolation Solo Round the World Sailor Pip Hare

Susan Smillie (The Guardian) I live alone on a boat at sea- How to be happy in isolation

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston (The Guardian) The isolation experts guide to lockdown living

Enda OCioneen (Irish Times) Isolation tips solo sailor Edna O Coineeen gives his advice

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