There are many “non-calendar” ways for knowing you’ve been at sea (and away from the internet) for a month. The length of your beard. The number on your daily food bag. Your morning video diary entry number. Or… the fact Spotify ever so kindly tells you to connect to the internet so it can verify your premium membership. What the…? All my playlists, music and podcasts are now shut off.
Now that was unexpected and unplanned.
After a moment’s panic, I realise I have a little music on my iPhone and scroll through to see if there’s anything worth playing as its been years since I’ve used iTunes. Hidden amongst the Wiggles and Hi-5, I come across some decent music and something else I hadn’t heard in eons, The 12th Man from 1989. It’s a cricket satire from my youth, which any cricket tragic will know all too well. I put it on and was immediately in hysterics. It was the sort of laughter that emanates from your belly and crescendos in tears cascading down your cheeks. I revel in the humour.
I also revel in the childhood memories it brings up. I was (and still am) a huge fan of cricket and growing up my heroes were Alan Border, Merv Hughs and David Boon amongst others. It brought up so many great memories of school yard (and backyard) cricket games where we’d pretend we were the great players we watched on TV and looked up to so much. I remembered the smell of freshly cut grass, the hot summer sun and laughing with best mates. The sort of mates you can only have when you’re 13 years old. My time at school. Learning to become a man. And Laughter. Lots of laughter. Mine was a good childhood.
Being the father of boys, it made me realise the importance of childhood heroes and how hard it is to find them when you’re an expat. You’re removed from your own culture and role models and its hard, even impossible to connect at the same level with local equivalents. Certainly, in places like Hong Kong or Cambodia there are no sporting heroes for my boys to look up to. Global icons like Ronaldo and Messi fill the void, but I’m not sure it’s the same. I resolve to take my boys to the cricket when they get to Australia and hope they grow to love the game as much as me. How fun to think of all these new experiences we’ll be able to share together once I’m home.
I spend the day sailing through various archipelagos, comprised of small islands and atolls and once again I’m disappointed I can’t stop. That’s one of the biggest changes I’ll make to the next trip I do. I’ll stop along the way and get to know these wonderfully fascinating places (and the people who live there) that can only be reached by boat. I’ve now sailed over 3600Nm and it seems like such a shame to not be able to explore these inordinately remote lands. I know I’m not legally allowed to stop, so it’s a false narrative to even entertain, but still, one can dream right?
One thing I notice in these archipelagos is there are more flying fish than I’ve ever seen. Generally, you’ll see one or two fish take off in unison when you pass by, but today I saw countless schools (or should it be flocks – not sure which is the more appropriate collective noun) take off in front of me and fly into the distance. Some of them comprised hundreds of fish and it was quite a site to see.
In the evening I watch a movie called The Mercy. It’s the story of Donald Crowhurst who is a participant in the Golden Globe Race in 1968 for the first person to circumnavigate the world solo, non-stop. The same race Moitissier (who I was reading earlier in the trip) raced in alongside another hero of mine, Sir Robin Knox-Johnson. The story of Crowhurst is a tragic one so I wanted to wait until the end of the trip to watch it. I waited until I knew I would make it home. He ultimately goes mad and kills himself, but what I find so sad, but also fascinating is how easily this could have been averted. How his dreams were usurped by others and a metaphorical gun put to his head by unscrupulous financiers. It’s the children he leaves behind that touches me the most and I think of my own boys and how much I can’t wait to give them a big cuddle.
The first I learned of Crowhurst’s story was when Mel and I were having dinner on the beach at Song Saa with the actor who played Crowhurst and his family a number of years ago. Naryth was playing with their kids in the sand while we talked of sailing and adventure over a nice bottle of wine. Colin learned to sail at Song Saa before filming started so it’s a movie I’ve always wanted to see, though I could never have imagined at the time that I’d be doing my own solo adventure in the not too distant future.
Solo sailing, as I’ve learned all too well, is one of the toughest tests for any man or woman to go through as there’s nowhere to hide. It’s just you, your wits and your fortitude against nature. The brightest of spotlights is shined on your soul in a way that’s impossible to do on land. There’s nowhere to escape and all your weaknesses, foibles and deficiencies are laid bare. Success is survival. There’s no trophy. No recognition. Just the knowledge deep down of whether or not you had what it took and what was needed when it counted.
I have 5 days to go till I get to Cairns. 5 more days of tests, spotlights and challenges. Perhaps some of the biggest of the trip. The greatest reward will be stepping on land for the first time. But not simply for having survived, but for having lived. That’s the barometer of success I set at the beginning of this adventure and one I hope to have lived up to when I make it home, safely.
There’s a long way to go though, so I resolve to continue simply focussing on each small task in front of me and doing the best I can, knowing if I do, the big picture will take care of itself.
Many thanks for the well wishes Campbell and don’t worry about relaxing – between you and me I’m a little nervous about this final leg, particularly if the European model forecasts of gusts of 35knts+ and 4-5m seas mid to late Wednesday eventuate. Seems I’ll be book-ending this trip with similar weather to how I started…
Thankfully I’m going through Jomard Passage during the day and will be well out of converging shipping lanes come nightfall.