Geographic Navigational Anxiety

Anyone else know about this? It’s the irrational anxiety felt by a mariner that’s related to a particular geographical area.

I first noticed this with regards to using the great circle U.S. to Asia run, some crews get nervous being in the Bering Sea regardless of how good the forecast is. I think they pick it up from captains who suffer from GNA (Geographic Navigational Anxiety (unless there is a better term)).

Capt Doug used to be nervous going through Snow Pass on the inside passage. He’d go around every time with an excuse about the weather, even in good weather. It made me nervous going through for a while.

I’d put the Bay of Biscay on my list as well although I feel that’s justifiable.

Anyone recall a capt or crew that certain areas made them more nervous than was justified by the situation?

+1 for the Bay of Biscay. When I was a Cadet on mailships the schedule was rigid and the service speed 22.5 knots though the ships could run to 28. One master would be glued to the starbourd bridge window for the transit.

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Cape Mendocino is cursed. Common knowledge. Nothing irrational about that.


Gulf of Aden, Bab el Mandeb.

Persian/Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman.

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Hustadvika on the Norwegian coast has that effect on many.
Resent double whammy (Viking Sky and Hagland Captain) shows why.

Chronic unease is one thing, but why would someone avoid the heavily used GC route or not use Snow Passage?

In some cases it due to a bad experience, in other cases the result of an over active imagination.

I also avoid the bay of Biscay like the plague and over the years have grown to get nervous when I see certain forecasts in various areas of my run. I also tend to be more wary of my stability condition and how it will effect the overall ride once we inevitably hit heavy weather. Running the gauntlet in and out of the North Sea with a high GM in winter is not something anyone should look forward to and keeps me up at night in anticipation.

The Gulf of Tuhuanepec in a sailboat.

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I think I know why I am never likely to win a lottery. In my nine passages through Drake Passage, Cape Horn, it was always flat calm.
I’ve had some bumpy rides around The Cape of Good Hope though.

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I was aware of the south east coast of Africa’s reputation for rogue waves but thankfully never encountered any transiting between Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban.

I must say that during my sailing days I never felt that kind of anxiety anywhere in the world nor was it a point of discussion as I remember it. I met worse storms in the Atlantic then in the Gulf of Biscaye, we had to cross that Gulf both ways on a regular basis. The English Channel and North Sea were more or less our home turf.

I felt a bit of anxiety when we were shot at by the VC on the Saigon river when we were fully loaded with aircraft fuel and worse also after having discharged with tons of fuel still sloshing around in the tanks and full of gas, but that is another story.

I envy you as you most likely sailed on vessels with superior scantlings to what we are presented with today. To encounter anything approaching 10 meters, I anticipate cracking of high tensile steel in many locations. Modern ships are like taking a unibody car out where you may have had a body on frame Mercedes in the past. Lots more nannies but don’t have the bulk to take major abuse.

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Difficult areas should produce reasonable caution not irrational anxiety. I wouldn’t willingly sail with anyone who has anxiety attacks which, like panic, is a transmittable disease.
A dive master friend used to drill into his students who were nervous that “The water is not your enemy, panic is.”

It’s a range. On one end is complacency, at the other end is anxiety. The sweet spot in the middle is chronic unease.

Here is a good article.


anywhere in a 737 MAX 800


With regards to unease, or anxiety; there are two idea in the book Getting Things Done by David Allen.

One is that back in the day, tasks like splitting wood could be kept track of easily because there are two piles, one unsplit and one split. No need to note where you left off at the end of the day because it was obvious.

Managing a more complex organization today is not like that. There is emails, people stop you and make requests or tell you things etc.

The second point is that the brain has two characteristics, it can’t remember and it can’t forget

That’s where this unease come from, that and general intuition that somethings not right.

The point is that something is done about it. When I was C/M and I felt that way I would just start working on something, usually stability because it ties together so many other things; fuel, ballast, cargo, many times I would start working and realized I had overlooked a recent change and things needed updating.

Anyone doing frequent deliveries of yachts up and down the East Coast of the USA almost universally loathes Delaware Bay for entirely rational reasons.

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I got nervous in 1958 at COPT in San Francisco…when our 26 footer had to transit the…Potato Patch. Oh yeah…Fighting U.S. Coast Guard. 6 year plan. 2 active and 4 reserve.

Boring, frightening, and nowhere to run come to mind.