Fear cannot hold us back

Sailing as a remedy for anxiety

Transcription by Istvan Bus, edited by Mila Boshnakova, photos by Vassil Alexandrov

Who didn’t want to roam the seas as a child? We grew up on tales of pirates and mermaids, read Treasure Island, and watched Jack Sparrow in a cinema while munching popcorn. Our fondest memories are often linked to cool summer nights at the beach, leaving behind our footprints in the warm sand, or holding hands with our loved ones.

This mysterious realm where the waves rule is the second home of Vassil Alexandrov – sailor, sportsman, and sailing instructor. He is ready to welcome us aboard and show us the joy of riding a boat. We do not have to travel far from Sofia for this adventure, because his base is only an hour’s drive away from Sofia, by the Iskar Reservoir. Before setting off on this journey, let us introduce Vassil and read his story.

“I have been sailing since I was 8 years old, and I’m now 31. This makes roughly 23 years of experience; I was competing on a professional level between 8 and 18.” Vassil said.

“It all started at my uncle's club in Nessebar, where my parents enrolled me in sailing lessons. My first contact with the boats was cleaning; we rubbed three extremely filthy ships with two friends for three days. After that, we were training for our first race for about a month or so. Of course, we were utterly unprepared because no one can be trained sufficiently within a month. Although we were young kids and afraid before the race, my dad and the father of the two other children just pushed us into the water with the boats.” He recalled.

“The wind began to blow strongly, and there were huge waves around us, but we were doing our best to sail. We finished in 27th or 28th place out of 30 competitors, but the fact that we crossed the finish line was a success.”

Although Vassil was terrified of the elements, he did not let anxiety set any boundaries. “I was scared of the strong wind, which is completely normal. I would then start training harder and harder until I slowly overcame it and managed to fulfill my dreams.”

This childhood experience inspires him to help others cope with their hurdles as a sailing instructor. “It is part of my daily routine to see people who are terrified of water and the depths. If this is the case, you have to jump into the deep water first with a life jacket. The next day with a swimming belt, hanging on to it not to sink. On the third day, you can start slowly swimming around the belt without holding on to it, and on the fourth day, swim calmly without throwing the belt in the water.”

Nonetheless, Vassil is not only teaching others to manage their fears, but he also keeps challenging himself. “I go skydiving and parachuting. I thought I would be afraid of heights.”

However, we do not have to go to extremes – sailing is also suitable for the faint of heart. “The Black Sea is a little rougher than the sea in Greece, that is why tourists prefer sailing there. On the other hand, I like the Iskar Reservoir a lot. Purely from a touristic point of view, it is gorgeous as there are mountains around with forests and coves.

The water is warm, around 20 degrees Celsius in the summer, and it is crystal clear because it supplies the area. Also, there are no such waves on the Iskar Reservoir that characterize the sea, so people do not get seasick. I recommend people try sailing – whether with us or in Greece or Turkey, it does not matter. Feel what it is like to move with the speed and direction of the wind. To have ripples splash you while sailing – or without waves, just going with the flow and seeing whether you like it or not.”

Do you wonder which are the fastest sailing boats that float above the water? Check out the complete conversation in Bulgarian, episode “С морето шега не бива – но хоризонтът ни привлича” in the podcast “Тайни познати”. Also, you can contact Vassil through the website of their company at sailwithme.bg.