Ponder This

Sailing Offshore and Why Some Men Hate Women

Offshore sailing and sighting land. The ultramarine sea with land in the distance. On the left a yacht with the head sail set flies a yellow "Q" flag to notify authorities that those on board will need to check in.
Approaching land flying a yellow “Q” flag to check in.

Stressed over the Covid-19 fear mongering, lockdowns, and now a cold-blooded police murder igniting demonstrations and riots all over the world as if arsonists had set fires in multiple tinder dry areas waiting to explode into flames, I stared absently through the window at a yacht anchored in the bay. My heart pounds in my chest. The world has become a frightening place – even though there are no riots here in New Zealand, and months ago I lost my fear of catching the coronavirus when I understood that this was a remake of the 2009 swine flu pandemic scare that fizzled out to nothing.

The sky and sea are blue and a navy blue ketch lies at anchor against the backdrop if Limestone Island.

Gazing in the direction of the yacht again, the misty foreboding in my mind clears and a dark navy ketch comes into sharp focus. It is built for motor sailing, chunky, about eighty or ninety feet long. A familiar longing to be aboard rises up from the anxiety in my stomach. It invites my thumping heart to calm itself as I imagine setting the sails and heading out through Whangarei Heads to leave the craziness of living on land far behind. Nineteen years ago, in June, I did just that, I now recall.

I sailed right by the window from which I now peer. It was my first offshore sail and we were heading to Tonga aboard a 36 foot steel sloop owned by a German, Herbie, I had met while sailing with friends over the Christmas just passed. How did I feel leaving land far behind for what would be a twelve-day sail aboard Tessa, rocking in time to the ever-changing rhythm of the sea enveloped in shades of blue or grey, merging one day into another? I opened my June 2001 diary and began reading…

03 June 2001

34.3 degrees South; 178.36 degrees East
Our third day at sea… I awoke at sunrise – just in time to see the sun appear through a crack in a bank of dark grey cloud sitting on the horizon. It was a welcoming sight after a dark night at sea far from the lights of land. I am alone in the cockpit, a whole new day opening up before me on a grey-blue sea that will change to a beautiful ultramarine blue by mid-morning.

The auto helm grinds to port, pauses, gives a few grunts to starboard and grinds to port again, steering a more accurate course than I can in light winds. Two masked boobies skim above a meter swell, fishing. They rise to soar this way, then that, before circling Tessa and heading off again. “Follow me,” a little voice sings inside my head, “and I’ll set you free…”

I am alone, dancing on smooth wet sand at Wilson’s Promontory, the southernmost tip of Victoria. The tide is fully out. A few seagulls circle overhead and cast shadows on the sand in early morning light. I run in little steps and wheel and turn as if I am a bird, moving in time to the seagulls’ dance in the sky. The freedom of dancing barefoot on the sand left such a huge footprint in my memory that I wrote a song about it during a graduate diploma in music education I did a few years back.

I started singing again about the wheeling seagulls and a sailboat dipping and tossing way out at sea, its sails stretched taut, driven by the wind. “Follow me,” it beckons in the chorus, “and I’ll set you free; follow me…into a new day.”

Words choked in my throat when I sang, “Follow me, and I’ll set you free…” and tears began rolling down my face. How grateful I am for this opportunity to finally break free of my crippling patterns and leave the shore behind.
I think about the book I am writing and realise it needs to have a happy ending. I always thought it would be about becoming a successful artist or writer… It comes as a surprise to me that the ‘happy ending’ could be about breaking free of patterns, allowing me to finally cast off the mooring lines and leave port to search for a new and unknown way of being.

Herbie and I had a wash this morning – Herbie on deck with salt water and me in the bathroom with fresh water and a washcloth. It felt sooo good. It has been a perfect day at sea – sun, dolphins, man-o-wars with their ‘sails’ up. However, there is little wind. The motor now ticks over with a steady rhythm and music plays through the companionway. The sea is relatively calm with a one-metre swell. Jumpers came off and our bodies soaked up the sun all day.

We have talked a lot. Again about breaking patterns. Herbie said he had to get away from people…from land so that he could break his patterns. I have had a tougher time trying to break my patterns with people on land, but then, that is probably what I needed in order to break them. Maybe Herbie is kidding himself if he always has to escape to the sea to break his.

We also discussed at length why men hate women. Well, not all men hate women, but I have certainly met more than my share of men who do. This topic came up when I went to visit a friend for a weekend shortly before our trip. It made me recall what a client had said about not being able to find men with whom to talk about his feelings. He was in his early thirties, and because he’d had no close relationships with women, he was jealous of the sisterhood he perceived women to have. And he wanted it…wanted that intimacy. It made me wonder if we seek the thrill of passion in our quest to find the unconditional love we felt deprived of as children. Can passion last in a relationship if we clear the pain from the past and learn to love ourselves unconditionally?

Herbie said that he didn’t hate women, but wanted a woman strong enough to be his equal. It will be interesting to learn exactly what that means. Perhaps men have hated women because they fear their inner power. Women don’t appear to seek love and acceptance and approval as much as men do, for men seem to be driven by insecurities about who they are. Sometimes I have watched men in dismay as they compete with other men as if to measure their manhood against them. Insecure men may oppress women to have power over them, or to take away their power to ‘feel’ more for themselves.

What made them insecure in the first place? Perhaps herein lies the secret of how men became imprisoned in this emotionally crippling need for power over others. Is there something hidden? Is there a different need: to be liberated from a sinister and culturally damaging hatred of women towards men? I believe that for as long as men have oppressed women, this hatred has gone underground – so much so that we are not even aware it exists. So now I have to ask, “Why do women hate men?”

While at times I have observed that insecurities within men feed a need for ‘power over’ others, often that means power over women. Herbie pointed out that some women have tried to get their power back by having a better social standing in the community through their husband’s occupation. Women have been taught to ‘marry well’. Herbie said this puts high expectations on a man to be successful. We also talked about the high expectations mothers may place upon their sons to give her a greater standing in the community – especially if her husband did not amount to much. How many women would like to say, “My son, the doctor…”? Do some men grow up to hate women because they can’t live up to their mother’s unrealistic expectations, and later the expectations of their wives?

Herbie said he was grateful I have no expectations of him. He said it is giving him space to recover from the expectations placed upon him by his mother and other women in his life. It will be interesting to see what the outcome of this will be.

Screenshot from a video I took sailing under sail. Shows the fore deck with spray rising high into the air as the yacht slices through a wave.

12 June 2001

It is nearly 5 p.m. Herbie and I are on the bunk in the saloon. He is lying down and I am nursing one of his legs as I write. Tessa is crashing through a 2-3 metre swell. The sea is confused and the wind is now over 20 knots. It is a rough ride, but I feel okay. A low is building up to the SW of us. It feels like it is sucking air from the edge of the high we are on. We have one reef in the main and trying to maintain over 4 knots to get out of this weather pattern. Quite a few waves have come into the cockpit and a little water has found its way into the galley. We ate the last of the curry last night and I don’t feel like spending much time in the galley cooking in these rough conditions. A pasta dish out of a packet will do just fine.

We are heeling to port, so cooking is not such a problem. But I have to be careful how I brace myself, otherwise I can end up on the floor if Tessa suddenly lurches to starboard. Going to the toilet and having a wash is quite a balancing act on this tack. I have to lean against the wall to stop the toilet seat swiveling around on its hinges. And since water is in limited supply, I wash myself with a face cloth and rinse it in a very small amount of water.

Sitting in the cockpit last night and watching the stars, I thought about the need we all have to be loved unconditionally, and that perhaps men have a greater need of it in order to develop their true selves. They need gentleness and a woman’s love for them in order to learn to love and accept themselves, I feel. And it is a strong feeling.

During the day we talked about this. Herbie admitted that men had a greater need to be loved and understood, and that few women really understood men. Perhaps when we look upon men as the tough, strong ones, we don’t think they have a need for gentleness. As I become more aware of this and feel more gentleness for Herbie, I feel more gentle and at peace within myself.

I thought a lot about love and men while I watched the stars and altered course when the wind shifted. I thought about the courage needed to embark upon this journey, which is an inner one that allows us to integrate our shadow side and become whole. Perhaps we will know we are whole when we can love ourselves unconditionally. This is by far the most difficult journey I have ever undertaken – far more difficult than sailing through wild storms at sea…

Tessa anchored in the lagoon at Marigot, St Martin, with pastel-colored buildings and roofs in the background.
Tessa anchored in the lagoon at Marigot, St Martin after Herbie continued on his way to complete his single-handed world circumnavigation.

Nineteen years after this trip the world now seems consumed by hate. I reflect on the words I wrote so long ago and what those conversations brought up that we continued to discuss for the five months we were away. What emerged was that both of us were born to women who, I strongly suspect, had been sexually abused by men when they were young. Both were dutiful mothers, but neither of us had a sense that our mothers loved us. They were remote…distant, as if nursing pain that could never heal. What also emerged was that I had an emotionally invisible father, and Herbie’s father left when he was two. Later I became aware that the patterns we developed as children to help us cope emotionally with family dysfunction, work against us as adults. But the patterns were difficult to change. I likened them to a deeply embedded anchor one has to retrieve by donning scuba diving gear and following the anchor chain down into the murky depths to dig it out of the seabed. But what if a person has a fear of diving? Obviously, if they cannot override this fear they won’t free the anchor, which will leave them emotionally stuck in one place for the rest of their life.

I have listened to the heartache of both men and women who suffered the emotional trauma of never feeling loved as a child. It is a trauma that goes very, very deep. It is excruciatingly painful. When I asked each of my clients during a meditative process what they needed to do to heal their lives, the answer was always the same: “I need to learn to love myself.”

What I have discovered during my own difficult to journey to love who I am – shortcomings, warts, toxic shame and all – is that I have had to do some deep diving, pull up the patterns embedded in my unconscious that work against me, and face every fear and insecurity I have. One of my biggest fears was drowning at sea – even though I am a good swimmer. After going sailing far from land on the open sea, I returned from that sailing trip to Tonga a changed person. Humbled… Gentle within myself… And in love with the sea in all her moods.

Years passed on dry land and I wrote extensively about what I learned while attempting to answer the questions raised on this trip. My health broke down and I discovered that I had all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – something previously only associated with soldiers in combat. Considerable research into this finally enabled me to understand how a returning soldier with PTSD could create a war zone within his home and act out the violent horrors of war, inflicting such violence on a family that it could become intergenerational. It explained my father’s violent behavior, his hatred of my mother who couldn’t ‘fix’ him, and how he ultimately became ‘an invisible man’.

After many more years had tumbled one into another, I stumbled upon Norman Dodd’s nightmarish discovery when he was in charge of research for the 1953 Reece Commission into tax-exempt foundations. [1] Written in the 1908 minutes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was this:

Is there any means known more effective than war, assuming you wish to alter the life of an entire people?

This seems a strange question for a foundation dealing with international peace; however they debated it for a year. After much deliberation they finally concluded that “no more effective means than war to that end is known to humanity.”

In 1909 they asked another question:

“How do we involve the United States in a war?”

Their conclusion: “We must control the State Department.”

Then in 1914, as we all know, the First World War broke out. To the men lucky enough to return from that war, it became the “unspeakable war.” It seems their tongues were silenced in a profound and permanent way that was hard to understand for those who had no direct experience of the horrors of this war, fought as it was with military equipment new to warfare. Planes, bombs, tanks and machine guns come readily to mind, replacing the customary cavalry and canons. Instead of men brandishing swords astride charging horses, there was the muddy, soul-destroying trench warfare with barbed wire and the constant firing of machine guns. Those who succumbed to shell shock (now PTSD), were often shot by firing squads as malingerers.

While a sense of despair, bitterness and anxiety pervaded Europe in the war’s aftermath, the artists who rebelled against the senseless slaughter of  ‘The Great War’ burst forth upon the world in a literary revolution. D.H. Lawrence was among them. In Aaron’s Rod he immersed himself in trying to understand the political and religious ideologies that shaped western civilization. Near the end of his life in a 1929 essay, he wrote the following sobering passage which, to my mind, shows how WWI altered the “life of an entire people”:

[Woman] visioned herself…as the all-pitying, all sheltering Madonna… [Yet] the vision of the all-pitying and all-helpful Madonna was shattered in the hearts of men, during the war. The all-pitying and all-helpful Woman actually did not, whether she could or not, prevent the guns from blowing to pieces the men who called upon her. So her image collapsed, and with it the image of the Christ-child. For the man who went through the war the resultant image inevitably was Christ Crucified, Christ tortured on the Cross. And Christ Crucified is essentially womanless.

At this time, it is worth considering what Lawrence also wrote about marriage:

The marriage-tie, the marriage bond, is the fundamental connecting link in Christian society. Break it, and you will have to go back to the overwhelming dominance of the state, which existed before the Christian era.

While we may have looked upon philanthropic foundations as doing good work in society, I have discovered that the very opposite is true. Stealthily and steadily working in concert, these tax-exempt foundations have burrowed in to destroy the very foundations upon which Western society was built. Look around you and you will see hate everywhere that has divided our society in every possible way. Thus divided we are easily conquered. And the visceral knowledge of this feeds the anxiety that now gnaws incessantly in my gut.

I turn my head to gaze over calm water at the yacht anchored in the bay and wonder what the pandemic fear mongering, riots, and political upheaval have to teach us about love, and our need to get along together in harmony on this planet, moving in rhythm with the energy of the earth and sea and sky. Perhaps it is time for us all to cast off the mooring lines, figuratively speaking, and sail away to confront our fears. Maybe only then can we be truly free.

The yacht anchored in the bay.


[1] Ed Griffin Interview with Norman Dodd on Tax Exempt Foundations in 1982 [Transcript]

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