The Next Chapter
As I sail across the Tonga Trench, this current chapter of my life nears its end. The fires that in the begining burned brightly, the flames driven by winds of discovery and new horizons, are now a deep bed of glowing embers. In those leaping flames, there were many lessons. Now, memories linger in the settling heat.
Today is my last day alone at sea. Tomorrow I reach Tonga, where Brigitte will rejoin Next Chapter, and where we will take time to recharge and reconnect, before sharing the final short leg to New Zealand in mid November.
I have no regrets about living this way for the last two and half years. I learned long ago not to hold regret in my heart, not to delve into those tempting boxes labelled ‘could have’ or ‘should have’. I learned not to let past mistakes paralyse me into spending my time gathering dust on the shelves of fear. Past exists only in memory; the future in our hopes and dreams.
There have been days that were sublime, times of beauty so profound and for which no words are adequate. There have also been days or boredom, frustration, and drawn-out moments of cold dread.
Some of the lessons of the past two years have been easier to accept than others. One of the hardest, the realisation that took longest to sink into my reluctant consciousness, is that I am no longer able to meet all of the physical demands thrown in the path of a short-handed sailor. Moreover, there are aspects of ocean voyaging I no longer enjoy or want as a permanent part of my life.
I will miss the night sky. No terrestrial vantage point will ever compare with lying on the deck of a small boat at sea, where the night sky is free of all air and light pollution. –
”There are moments when one feels free from one’s own identification with human limitations and inadequacies. At such moments one imagines that one stands on some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal, the unfathomable; life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny; only Being.” – Albert Einstein.
Those famous words by Einstein, come to me whenever I lay on deck letting my mind roam free, as I gaze at that ‘profoundly moving beauty’ above. My emotions as unfathomable to me as that which engenders them.
Looking out at an approaching wave to find six dolphins riding side-by-side in its translucent blue, foam flecked crest, almost until it meets the hull: that, I will never forget. I will miss the dolphin’s innocent play, their perpetual smiles, and their boundless energy and joy. It rips my heart like a broken bottle to know what happens to so many of them each year at that blood-filled cove in Taiji. I will never understand how those Japanese ‘fishermen’ can do it. It must be like clubbing children to death.
I will miss catching a fish mid-ocean. No shop bought fish could ever compare with the freshness and taste. To cut an almost transparent slice of tuna just after it has finished twitching… sashimi at its very best. And to lay a thick, freshly caught mahimahi fillet on the BBQ… mmmm, time to drop a lure over the stern.
I will not miss the nights of broken sleep. Since departing St Martin in May, I have sailed more than eight thousand miles alone. That works out to about eighty nights in the past four months, where sleep has consisted of thirty minute knaps, punctuated by checking for ships and changing weather. Nor will I miss when things go awry at night. Stumbling around on a pitching deck at 02:00 with rising wind and sea is no longer fun.
Soon it will be time to turn the page and see what the next chapter holds. But for now, it is vacation time in Vav’au.