After a night of fitful sleep, I dozily put my head through the companionway to view the day’s conditions. The first thing I saw when I did was a rainbow directly off Ahyoka’s stern. Two in fact. It was of those rare double rainbows. The second one there just to make sure you’ve seen the first. I smiled to myself. Gave them a wave and went back to bed knowing I was safe. My watch said 3:30am but the sun was up. Strange. I’ll deal with that in a few hours once I’ve had some more sleep though.
I write entries in my logbook 6-10 times a day, putting in information such as my course, wind speed, barometric pressure and engine hours for both the generator and main engine. And of course, I put in my Latitude and Longitude co-ordinates. I’ve been travelling east for some time now and have covered well over 1000 miles. I just didn’t realise how far from Hong Kong I was until I noticed the time of the sunrise this morning. I’m actually further east latitudinally than Darwin. I’m not sure what “time zone” I’m in but as I go to sleep early evening and wake up with the sunrise, I’m not sure it matters. I resolve to keep my watch on Hong Kong time as my only commitment is to call the boys at 5:30pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday so I figure its easiest to not change anything. Keeping my watch on HK time also allows me to feel closer to the boys, or at least not getting farther and farther away. I can remain connected to their rhythm and their schedule. Everything else can simply be based on my natural world and not by the man-made construct of “time”.
I often find myself meditating out here for hours on two simple sentences about time. Sentences I’ve come back to many times over the years, each time seeing something different. They’re ascribed to a famous Hong Kong Buddhist Monk whose monastery I’ve spent many days in silent retreat at. They seem so poignant on the ocean, surrounded by the infinite of the stars, whose lives are measured in the billions of years, and the endless horizon where time has a very different meaning to that which we wear on our wrists.
“What is time. There is no memory”
Just let it sink in and take hold…
The AIS alarm pulls me from my reverie and I see a cargo ship off in the distance. Vessels like this one can move at over 20knts so the time from them coming over the horizon to being only a few hundred meters away is only a few minutes. They’re often unwilling to alter their course and it’s also possible there’s no one monitoring the AIS their end. Sailing boats have no rights on the open ocean so the moment the alarm goes off you need to immediately understand the approaching ship’s vector and speed over ground (SOG) and how this relates to your own course and ensure you take evasive action quickly if needed.
As the ship drew closer it looked more like an ocean liner than a cargo ship. It was the most stylish cargo ship I’ve ever seen. The only stylish cargo ship I’ve ever seen in fact. It was an exercise in monochrome. Everything was white with flecks of grey. The hull was white, the bridge was white, the life rafts were white, and the containers were white with a few grey ones thrown in purely to create contrast. The containers seemed to have been stacked by an artist for an open ocean art installation. I sat there marvelling at these projections of creativity and wondered why more containers and containerships weren’t white. Before I could come up with an answer it was gone. Across the horizon and forever a mystery. So many mysteries on the ocean.
The forecast was for very light and variable winds and patches of rain. It was spot on. The sky was littered with cloudy pockets that clearly had rain in them. Not so much squalls as the wind was not very strong, but more micro rain cells. A patchwork of clouds, each a few hundred meters wide that were full of rain. The first one I approached I decided to try out my rain harvesting skills on and catch some water. I was mildly successful and managed to fill one 5L water bottle but, to be honest, I still had plenty of water and didn’t feel like spending the day catching the few drops each cloud produced.
One nice thing about the weather was there were rainbows everywhere. When these micro rain cells weren’t on top of you the sun was out, so I saw rainbows in almost every direction for the whole day. It was quite unique and if I wasn’t so tired, I’d have taken great joy in watching them all. One was so close I could almost reach out and touch it. I even tried to, arms stretched out over the pulpit, but it somehow always seemed to be just a few meters away from my grasp.
As the day progressed, the wind died and shifted through all points of the compass at a frustrating 2-3knts. I was constantly changing sails and trim for little to no gain, so I felt quite frustrated. Its days like today that you bring a lot of fuel. I just couldn’t be bothered with the constant tacks. I was drained from the emotion of yesterday and still in the depths of the grieving process, so I put the engine on, furled the headsail and steered to my desired heading. I then watched another heart-warming sunset and went to bed early, knowing that at least I wouldn’t have to get up every half hour and alter course or re-trim sails. The “thump, thump, thump” of the engine lulled me into a deep, restful sleep.
Most Scotsmen are emotional creatures. If you have a Scottish granny and you are a man, you cry from time to time.
It is good for the soul and nothing to be ashamed of. My eldest son and I buried his 16-year-old Springer Spaniel in a corner of my garden a few days ago. My boy is 54, I am 78 and we both wept buckets … and felt a lot better for it.
You are going well Rory boy. Keep it up and always remember … Watch The Wind.
Over the waves and God speed.
Uncle Nick (on the Black Isle, Ross-shire, Scotland.
Aye Rory, it’s guid tae greet. Safe travels cuz.
Love reading how you are going on “seeking Solitude” you are an inspiring writer and seem wise beyond your years!! I am new to this blog; my Australian Friends I believe are friends of your parents; and you name came up in conversation here in Sydney – I am stranded here re COVID 19; and am fortunately able to utilise accommodation provided by these friends. I will likely return to South Africa once international flights open. in the meantime how nice that I can follow your journey and hence making me feel less concerned about the pressures of COVID 19 and my own demise!! Trust all goes well and look forward to your blogs, regards Mercia.
Really enjoying the updates, keep up the great work and look forward to seeing you in Oz.
Lots of love,
Rory, your Aunt Liz passed me you blog on Friday as a fellow sailor. I read up to day 8, fascinated, delighted to read the detail of your fastidious Passage Plan, to learn of your opening storm, the yacht and its electronics, your daily rhythm developing, and your settling into Ocean life.
Your insights and knowledge, your opening up of emotions and thoughts, your trust and appreciation of the natural world and your ability to articulate these, meant that I felt I was there with you. Having crossed an ocean too, but not on my own, I could feel and hear and see everything you were going through. So I immediately signed up for your email updates.
The next day, after lunch, whilst feeling a little lost in the garden and sad for some reason, perhaps the easing of Lockdown which I have strangely enjoyed, my email ping’d with your next Blog. Well.. you blew me away, and reduced me to tears also. For you and your family, for the depth of your hurt, and for your solitude.
I was starkly reminded of having a similar day mid Atlantic… some 2 weeks into my voyage, and also in the Tropics.
Few people experience truly distancing from the day to day hustle and bustle of life. As the days pass at sea, it is like peeling an onion… and finding a new rhythm.
The stresses, the tiredness, the offloading of all that we carry around and accept as normal in busy working lives, layer by layer peel away. Little communication, save for weather and position reports, and of course the Blog, allow us to be at one with our immediate and vast surroundings.
This allows us to fully embrace the beauty of our planet, the Sun and Moon and Stars, Shooting Stars, The Milky Way, the Southern Cross, the Sunrises and Sunsets, the Moon, ever changing its shape and colour, and the changing moods of the clouds and the colours of the sea. The night time bio-luminescence…always made me smile at the wonder of it, just like the arrival of dolphins or the sighting of a whale.
Whereas you are mourning and now readying to start the healing process from the recent trauma of your family and business, I was overcome mid ocean with the loss of my mum some two years previously, which I thought I had dealt with.
I think that although we deal with emotions, loss, upset, death even, in our land lives, it is not until we are truly at one with ourselves and nature, does our body and mind really get the chance to process all of this completely, without distraction.
I feel for you Rory, and for what you have gone through. As Kipling says, which you have just posted, and as my Dad always reminded us of when growing up, ”If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…”.
You are a survivor Rory, a winner and a leader… you will be back stronger and happier, for it is only in meeting our challenges that we grow, develop and improve.
You are well on your way. Fair Winds, stay safe, and in Twain’s words… Explore, Dream and Discover.
Keep writing. 🙂
From Aberdeen, Bonnie Scotland!