Date

Day 33 – Game time

(written from a windy and bumpy Coral Sea)

I awoke with the feeling of butterflies in my stomach. You know the ones you feel before a big game or before you’re about to start something challenging, big, or, dare I say, epic?

These nerves, if used well, can be a great tool to ensure your physically and mentally ready for what you’re about to embark upon so I harness the energy and get to work on the final items on my lists. I ensure my grab bag has everything in it that’s important and add a few extra items. I put a dry bag next to the chart table so I can pack my computers at short notice if needed and basically have everything in place for a worst-case scenario – winds of over 45knts.

I then clean the boat, likely for the last time before Cairns (other than the daily dishes) and do a full inspection. Everything is in order and my gooseneck repair is holding nicely. I run the storm trysail sheet, so it’s in place in case it needs to be hoisted (if gooseneck breaks) as well as an outboard block for the jib sheet in case the car breaks and attach the preventer to starboard.

Basically, I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be for when the pressure hits in about 36 hours. I’m grateful I did the bulk of the work in the previous few days as it means I can spend all afternoon enjoying the sail towards Jomard Passage. It’s a glorious day with winds at 10-12knts so delightful sailing.

I see what I think is another sailing boat for the first time, but upon closer inspection with my binoculars, it’s actually a local outrigger. I almost consider steering closer to say hello, but think better of it and keep a watchful and fascinated eye on them with the binoculars. I assumed they were off fishing, but maybe they were headed to another island for a ceremony? A meeting with a tribal chief? Perhaps a wedding? Or maybe to share some Kava with a nearby tribe… I wonder what they thought of me and the different universes we exist in?

As I get closer to Jomard Passage, the boat traffic increases significantly and I’m very grateful I’m doing this in the daytime. I haven’t seen this many boats since Hong Kong and my AIS alarm is constantly going off. There are two channels to the passage and small craft are to take the eastern channel and large vessels the western one, so while I see the boats in the distance, it doesn’t make it any more challenging for my own navigation.

The eastern passage is bordered by two exquisite islands, each more beautiful than the other. Like sentinels guarding the way. It reminds me of the that scene in Never Ending Story where Atreyu passes the huge rock guards as part of his epic adventure. Its 3pm by this stage and the sun has started its journey towards slumber. The colours are enhanced at this time of day and the blues of the water, the greens of the islands and yellows of their beaches, the turquoise of the fringing reefs and oranges of the sunset make for a magical afternoon. I couldn’t have imagined a more spectacular transition point into the Coral Sea.

Some passages are nothing more than open water, so you need to use your imagination to demarcate where one sea or ocean stops and the other begins, but not today. Not the entrance to the Coral Sea. Jomard Passage was more beautiful than I could have imagined, and I sat there on deck, keeping constant look out for waves and currents with a huge smile on my face. What a delightful way to start the journey home. Like crossing the equator, I spoke to loved ones and could feel the relief in all our voices that a safe harbour was now only a few days sail away.

Of all the legs in my journey, this is the one I’ve thought about the least. It always felt so far away. So many other legs had to be completed before I got here. I think one reason I didn’t  get excited about the Coral Sea was because I didn’t want to be let down if I didn’t make it for some reason. Now that I’m here, I feel a mixture of elation and anticipation. It’s a big, rugged sea in front of me with plenty of challenging sailing to go, but I think of how far I’ve come. How many challenges I’ve dealt with and what a ride its been.

As dusk crept in, I stood on the side of the boat and looked ahead. The wind was 18knts and we were sailing well and about 20Nm passed Jomard. The waves were a dark grey and the black of night sky was encroaching by the second. Just above the bow I could see some stars coming out, so I cast my gaze in their direction and looked straight at the Southern Cross. Our bearing was 180 degrees and I used the constellation’s methodology to confirm that we were indeed heading due south. I smiled. The next land mass I’ll see will be the great land down under. What a wonderful thought.

Late at night, as the wind and waves pick up and I’m tossed around like a hot potato with no chance of sleep anytime soon, I re-read a poem my beautiful sister sent me earlier in the day. It’s about the virus and isolation but there was also much I took from it from my own experiences the past 5 weeks. The appreciation of the important things we all once took for granted and that we’ll soon have back. It gave me comfort as I sat there in the darkness listening to the howl of the wind, clipped on with PFD, wet weather gear, boots and headtorch, eyes open wide at 2am. Feeling each yaw, creak and groan and willing Ahyoka onwards.

It’s the home stretch, my girl. You got this.

In the morning

We will intertwine fingers

I will hug you for too long

And then dance

In the reawakened street

I will hold your cheeks in my hands

And note every freckle on the faces

I have missed so much

The sunlight will warm us

As we shake off

Our Autumn scarf of fear

And Winter coat of misery

As we appreciate the sun

On our shoulders

Like we never have before

For now we are in the dark

With so few candles

But I know that if we wait

If we just hold tight

It will soon be morning

Postscript:

@Eileen O’Farrell

You know what, I’m going to really miss your supportive, positive, helpful and happy messages in a few day’s time Eileen. They’re a highlight of my morning, so thank you for sending them.

@Marie-Clare Elder

Love the idea of sailing on the beautiful Sydney Harbour in winter, all rugged up…

@Campbell Mackie

Many thanks Campbell!

My blogs are generally 36 hours behind as I write them the morning of the next day, send them to my friend in the US then he uploads them when he gets up. Rest assured I’ll keep them coming in the next few days, though they don’t correlate to the track very well.

@Marc Castagnet

Thanks Brother. I’ve thought about your stories of rounding the Horn while I’ve been out here in big seas and how amazing that must have been.

Look forward to sailing together one day soon. 

@Stephen Higgins

Haha – love it. So great your able to join the journey mate. Give Hillary a big hug from me.

@Jo

Thanks Jo! Will be lovely to catch up when I get to Sydney.

10 Responses

  1. Rory, I love reading your posts, I hope to talk to you once you finish your journey. I have something I am about to launch that may be of interest to you. You continue to amaze and I hope you have a safe journey. God speed.

  2. Forgot I shared the horn story, anything below 40 knots, with what you went through the last 30 days , should not be a problem with your enhance level of experience and prevention. The extra amount of experience you got in one month is worth years of sailing for many, remember you have now this in the bag, so what is coming will be easier than your first week at sea. Gear or boat failure, may happen but you have done your best and tries to anticipate, so it is all in the hands of god, neptune,…….Enjoy my friend, once we see each other I will confide a little secret about how I feel alone at sea helming, with the stars, the fluorescent plancton on each wave, splashing around, and a 15 knots breeze coming on the side, pure pelasure……Sad we cannot share those feelings to most of the living souls, but also a priviledge, that makes life beautiful, fuller and special, and rejuvenate us. Sail high, fast and Safe my friend, land will come, it is a goal not an end.

  3. Your trip Rory has been nothing short of amazing. I have eagerly looked forward to your blogs every day. Even though you are so close to home be careful over these last few days. You have shown such fortitude and ability that I will really miss these daily blogs and hearing from you and your great adventures. I look forward to meeting you when you come to Tassie and hearing more of your great adventure. Stay safe, sail well and look forward to that cold beer, hot shower and soft comfy bed. Regards Michelle

  4. Hi Rory, been following you all the way, great achievement – one peak left to go!
    One comment on the gooseneck: on delivery trips, we used the trysail a LOT! In 20 knots it was so much easier to deal with, if it got fruity you were already at reduced sail, and it weather helm was way less. Looks like you will be reaching, so this last detail will be significant, and will take a lot of load of your self steering gear.
    Just a thought to avoid dealing with damage to the gooseneck in 30+, then you can use the main for your victorious arrival in Cairns!
    All the best, Tom

  5. Rory,
    Thank you for the “Shout Out”. I do not know what we will do without living your adventure vicariously from Aberdeen, and for all your ”Dear Readers” across the Globe.

    Your good friend in the States must be working Overtime, as the Blogs are coming out in the morning now, perfectly timed to read and enjoy with morning coffee!

    I awakened this am with a conglomeration of quotes in my head about your adventure:

    Hemingway – “Just then the Stern line came taught under his foot, … and he.. felt the weight of the small tuna’s shivering pull, as he held the line firm and commenced to haul it in….”

    Coleridge – “Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship. Yes she sailed softly too. Sweetly sweetly blew the breeze – On me alone it blew”

    And my favourite and mantra when I was preparing for my big voyages:

    Mark Twain. – “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
    So throw I off the Bowlines, Sail away from Safe Harbour, Catch the Trade Winds in your Sails.
    Explore, Dream Discover.”

    And of course then there is Kipling. – You have experienced a different type of ”Pitch and Toss” with the yawl and bashing head to wind for so long with Ahyoka, had your Triumphs and (minor) Disasters (thankfully)! You have Dreamed, Lived, been Tested to the limits, Held on when there’s nothing left in you from the dreaded Sleep depravation….. Yours in the Earth (and the Sea)….. ⛵️🌍🐳🌈🐠

    I am hopeful that the wind gusts will stay below 25 knts for the remainder of your voyage, and that you will be in before the weekend when they seem to pick up again.

    Great work on preparing the Trisail sheets and preventer, but hopefully they wont be needed.

    I hope you have no contraband onboard – all fresh items will be long gone, but these Border Force / Customs types seem to have a sense of humor lobotomy as part of their induction!

    Presumably you will have your Yellow Q Flag at the ready, and will Trumpet or Bugle the Australian curtesy flag up the Stay!🎼

    As Tom and Castignet say – Enjoy this fine Blue Water Sailing, and all the pleasure it provides. This is what memories are made of, and experiences that, no matter the eloquence or description, just have to be lived.🙃. Savour every minute.

    Fair Winds, my friend.

    A Shorts Day in Aberdeen… well Hopefully! 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿😎

    PS. Have you run the engine recently? 🤣

  6. Hey Rory. We’ve been following you from back here in Cambo and wishing you well every step of the way. Glad to hear you’re on the home stretch now and making so many new memories to add to the bank of incredible life experiences you’ve already ratcheted up. Enjoy that first cold one when you’re on dry land. You’ve well and truly earned it!
    Hilary, Steve and kids

  7. The final leg home my friend. What an adventure so far with the final stretch in front of you. Although we’re so elated for you and can’t wait for you to touch home soil, there’s a part of me that will definitely miss reading your blog everyday. It’s been such a great source of inspiration that it’s given me a refreshed outlook during this pandemic time. You even helped me do my first open water swim of 1.2kms on the weekend – I hadn’t been swimming in 4-5mths and so wasn’t sure I’d make it – while I was swimming all I thought of was it was a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to what you’ve endured and gave me the energy to get it done in good time. So thank you for all the little ways you’ve helped us in sharing your journey.
    It would be great to see you on your arrival home in Cairns and give you a big embrace, but I’m sure you’ll have a line up of loved ones welcoming you home.
    We’ll be following with great anticipation as you enter the Coral Sea and I’m thinking of our trip to the Solomon islands over 20yrs a go now and wonder if the water is still as crystal clear and you’re able to see schools of barracuda and tuna like we did all those years ago.
    Sounds like both you and the boat are ready for the rest of your voyage and sprits are cautiously optimistic!
    Much love mate and fly the flag till you reach home soil my friend. Xo

  8. Dear Rory
    Such a beautiful description of your journey.. I have been reading many of your posts. I was reading one out loud to my son Archie but he had to finish it as I was in a flood of tears over the natural wonder you described.
    All the best for the last leg
    Xx
    Tor

  9. I am literally biting my nails waiting for you to get to Cairns! I don’t want you to finish this amazing journey in many ways, especially as I love reading the posts. Keep some going about your first days on land so you can ease us out of it. Good luck and god speed Rory. An amazing journey. Aimee Xxx

  10. Hallo Rory.
    Hold on… most of the work is done.
    I’d like to see some videos about your experience.
    maybe when you arrived you would post photos and videos on the blog or on Facebook?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More
articles

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.