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Day Eighteen – Land Ahoy!

I’ve been able to have a restful day getting in a couple of naps to rebuild my strength from the previous few days. The islands of Yap, Palau and various atolls are all with sailing distance so pose somewhat of a navigational challenge for the day. These islands mark the halfway point in this open ocean stage of the pacific so it’s a great milestone and one I’m very happy to achieve after the recent challenges. There’s a very long way to go though, and I’m still not at the halfway point for the entire journey, which gives me a reality check and forces me to focus on the task ahead.

Its 2pm and off in the distance I see land for the first time in 14 days. Its Ulithi Atoll and I’ve sailed further south than the rhumbline just so I can take a look. I smile from ear to ear upon its sight and shout in joy. I’m surprised at how happy it makes me, the sight of land. I’ve dreamed of exploring atolls like this, having the place entirely to yourself and spending days under water on the untouched reefs, swimming, diving, fishing and surfing, enjoying the safety of the waters and the beautiful colours and marine life. I wonder if I should stop, just for a night?

I think I see another boat in the distance and ponder if the occupants would like some company over dinner tonight? I’d certainly love some human contact. Maybe they even have cold beer! I bet they’d have some good stories to share and I’d love the conversation and interaction. I fanaticise about seeing some people, talking and laughing together for about an hour, but as we get closer, I see it’s a wreck and my dreams need to be put on hold. There’ll be plenty of time for that type of sailing in the future. For now, I need to focus on the task at hand, getting to Pioneer Channel and out of the northern latitudes.

Life is always greatest at the margins. I see lots of birds and sea life with fish jumping all around. I throw out my line and get a strike almost imediately. It didn’t hook it properly though, so it’s gone after a few minutes. I don’t have to wait long before the next strike. It’s a decent sized Dorado and after 20 mins I get him close enough to the boat that I can see the bright yellows and greens of its skin. Just at the last moment the hook pops out and it see him gracefully swim away. I have plenty of food, so I thank him for the fight and try again. I get one more strike before nightfall but can’t seem to hook this one either so cook up various root vegetables and make a delicious hash while dreaming about the one (or three) that got away.

The moon is a blood orange tonight, as it slowly rises from the horizon, framed by dark clouds with even a palm tree silhouetted in the fore ground. It more than makes up for missing it the night before. It looks a little like a giant Jafa rising from the sea, a uniquely Australia sweet developed during the Depression. I think about all the change that has taken place in the world these past few months, much of which will impact an entire generation. Our great depression. The hundreds of millions of people who have lost jobs. The millions of businesses which have shut, many never to reopen. I count myself amongst the lucky ones. I wonder what’s happening back in the world. At least for a minute, then remind myself that ignorance is bliss and to enjoy this unique moment of global detachment,

In many ways today was just what I needed. I got some much-needed rest and a solid (and surprising) morale boost from seeing land for the first time in two weeks. I ended the day happy and in good spirits. Dumb luck wins again.

Post Script:

I see there are a few questions in the comments, which is great. If there’s anything you’re curious to know feel free to type the question and I’ll do my best to answer them here.

Here are some so far:

@ Eileen O’Farrell

  • I love how engaged you are and thoroughly enjoy reading your comments.
  • You mention that it sounds like I’m diurnal, which in some ways I am, but not a regime like I’d follow on land.
  • A traditional watch system (like a 4/4/2) doesn’t work so well when sailing solo as there are times when I’m busy for 12 hours straight and other times when I have no sailing related tasks for hours. The random nature of the sailing pattern means a structured watch system is less effective as I can’t rely on someone else to look after the boat when I’m off watch.
  • I spoke to a French sleep doctor as part of my preparation who specialises in supporting solo sailors and his recommendation was to follow a poly-phasic sleep cycle, which is, by and large what I’m doing.
  • Our sleep cycles are 90 minutes, so I generally give myself 100 minutes per cycle. I do one cycle during the day and then 3 at night. I get up between cycles to look at the boat, the weather and the instruments and then head back down 30 mins or so later. The bulk of my “chores” are during the day, which means all I need to do at night is deal with variables such as squalls and wind shifts. Because I can’t really prepare for these, I find it easier to just get out of bed, sort it out then go back down and enter another sleep cycle.
  • I don’t sleep when I’m anywhere near land or when things are dangerous though and will simply stay up all night if I have to.
  • It’s also hard to sleep downstairs at any time, but particularly during the day as it’s so hot. I’ve developed a heat rash on my back from constantly sweating while laying down to sleep so no matter which way I cut it, I’m definitely sleep deprived.
  • In essence, I sleep when I can, where I can, but it’s hard to find true structure when conditions are bad.

@ James Wilson

  • Would love to video chat mate but even sending text is a tall order on an internet connection of 2.6kbs.
  • When I’m back on shore lets lock it in

@ Pintu

  • Sadly, I can’t upload photos either brother. The connection is just too slow. I promise to send photos when I arrive

@ Fatou

  • Thanks for the song suggestion (and lovely comments) my dear. Would love to listen to it out here, however like photos it sadly requires too much bandwidth, but I look forward to listening when I get to Cairns.

3 Responses

  1. Always great to hear you’ve had a restful day. I thought you may have seen the land before now, but imagined the joy of finally seeing land. I can picture the big Rory smile across your face when you saw it though and I also smiled in solidarity with you when reading. Crossing the Mariana Trench must have been a surreal and humbling experience. Imagining all those fathoms below you. Your blog is my daily soul reading and gives me pleasure while thinking of the passing of my last remaining grandparent last night grandpa Wilson. All these major life changes and your experience is bringing a lot of contemplation and introspection.
    Much love and thanks for letting us know you’re getting to see our messages. 😉 xo

  2. Hi Rory.
    Thanks for acknowledging the comments and answering the Q’s. Glad to hear you are enjoying the chat.

    I did a couple of legs of the Clipper ROW, and always found the Blog feedback reassuring whilst onboard, and when not on board sailing, watching the track and reading the daily Blog of my Crew mates was essential and addictive!

    It is a different world now from those early Vikings, Tea Clippers or ROW Sailors who had no internet or digital technology, or contact at all with family, friends or even the radio for shipping forecasts that we enjoy now.

    I hope your Volvo Ocean Race experience of the past day or so is enough to satisfy, and that you will not repeat the Team Vestas experience… Keep an eye on those Atolls and shifting sands and reefs.

    I just watched “OCEAN AUTOPSY”. A BBC Scientific Documentary looking at Plastic, Methane, PCB’s, Mercury, Global warming, Sea Level rise etc in the ocean and ecosystems. Perhaps its just as well your Dorado’s escaped!

    The science was saying that the contaminants compound in strength as they move thru the food chain. This impacts the reproduction of large mammals, and suggested that some phytoplankton may now be ingesting and feeding from plastic molecules. Scary stuff!

    Have you. Seen the Bio-luminescence yet off the stern or even flushing? How much Wildlife is there out there? Have you seen any Plastic accumulations? Have you been smacked by a Flying Fish? Smelly Creatures… Yuck!

    I hope you have some Sudocrem or E45 Cream on board to apply to any rash. Don’t let it catch hold. And if you have moisturiser…look after your hands.. Or they might Peel for weeks when back in Fresh Water. The salt water plays havoc! {That my Mum moment over:)}

    I take it the wreck was old and abandoned and no hope of a cold beer or chat…. One of our fleet found a wreck.. but that’s a whole other story.

    The good news today is NZ IS Covid Free and back to normal…I am sure Oz will not be far behind. I hope they will not make you isolate for two weeks on arrival. That would be just Mad!!

    Fair Winds

    Bonnie Scotland

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Rory Hunter
Sailor

Bio

Entrepreneur. Chief Executive Officer, Song Saa Collective. Pioneers of sustainable development in South-East Asia. The collective includes Song Saa Resorts and Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago. 2006, co-established the Koh Ouen Marine Reserve, Cambodia’s first-ever marine protected area. The reserve has since expanded to 400 square kilometres and has gained the support of Monaco’s Prince Albert II. 2013, founded the Song Saa Foundation, an independent NGO dedicated to preserving Koh Rong’s underwater sanctuaries, providing alternative means of livelihood for its residents and bringing much-needed healthcare and education to the region. Speaker at international conferences, including the G20 Summit in Brisbane in 2014. World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Member of the prestigious Young Presidents Organisation. Former advertising executive and worked for multinational firms including Saatchi and Saatchi. Graduate, Harvard Business School; studied sustainability and resilience, Stanford University: Global Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School; BEcon, Sydney University. Completed the Coast to Coast in 2015, one of the world’s toughest endurance races, set in New Zealand, in 17 hours; offshore sailor, downhill skier, long-distance runner and proud dad of two boys.