How do I put into words what it feels like to be home? To be safe. To have finished my journey.
When I sighted land yesterday, I was overcome with emotion. I was about 50Nm away so didn’t expect to see land that far out. Turns out Cairns has some of the highest mountains in Australia (Mt Bartle is 1,611m above sea level) so when I popped my head above the companionway, I was greeted with a setting sun and the majestic Atherton Tablelands. After 5 and a half weeks at sea and 16 years living abroad, I don’t think there was a prouder Australian on the planet in that moment. Tears streaming down my face, there was a melting pot of relief, joy, pride and patriotism. A moment I’ll never forgot.
The final 5 hours into Cairns were in the dark and I anchored just outside the Marina before midnight as I’m not allowed onshore before the various arrival formalities are complete, most of which happened this morning, though I’m waiting on Quarantine to come at 1:30pm and then I’m cleared to step on land.
Once the anchor was set and the boat safe, I turn off the engine and am greeted by an almost deafening silence and stillness. My senses are almost overwhelmed by the lack of noise and movement. It was a feeling unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I try and soak it in while I pop the cork on a nice bottle of red and call friends and family. Drunk on exhaustion and happiness my saloon feels like a palace it’s so peaceful.
Can I tell you a little secret? When I started this trip, I had never actually done any real solo sailing. Certainly no over-nighters. That first stormy night on the South China Sea was my not so subtle introduction to solo-sailing, but at no time did I regret my decision cast off the mooring lines and sail into the distance. This trip will be a corner stone in my life. A transition point. A junction. A waypoint between two oceans. The Rory before who lived a great 44 years before the 21st May and a new version, one that, in a few short hours, is about to embark on the rest of his life. The shore that awaits me only meters away will be the first step into a new chapter. A new existence. How exciting to be about to begin a brand-new adventure. I wonder what it will hold…?
100 years on, we still talk about the great depression of the 30s and how it defined a generation. How it changed the behaviour of our grandparents or great grandparents. Why many were risk averse and thrifty. What they did during that time. Covid19 will have a similar impact, with generations to come curious to know what their parents, grandparents and great grand parents did during the “great shut down”. While this trip was part adventure seeking, part grieving, I also didn’t want to be defined by the virus. I wanted to choose my response so when my kids or their kids asked what I did, rather than say that I sat back and watched my personal and professional life implode, laying in the corner in the foetal position, that I chartered a different course. I followed a dream. I let my heart soar and, in the process, life took on a most wonderful hue.
Just what this new chapter looks like, dear Reader, I can’t tell you. I thought I’d spend more time thinking about my business pursuits and personal aspirations out here, but it turns out survival took precedence. Perhaps that’s a good thing. I have many ideas and plans, but I sense I’ll be landing in Australia a different man to the one that left. I plan on taking time to keep the space around me open, before filling it with commitments, obligations and deadlines and just see what unfolds.
There’s no rush. The universe will sort it out.
One of the things I like most about the open ocean is the endless horizon. It forces you to focus on where you are at that moment in time. It doesn’t matter if there’s a squall about to come into view, calm airs, a moon set or a sunrise. All that matters is what’s happening in that very moment. I’ve never been more present than I have these past 5 weeks and I hope to take that same “living in the moment” world view with me when I step on land. Life is lived in the present and that’s where happiness is found.
You may wonder whether I found what I was looking for. In short, I think I have, but I’ll hold judgement until I’ve had time to reflect, get some sleep and adjust to my new reality.
In Native American Cherokee, “Ahyoka” means “She brings happiness” and I can tell you that I arrive a very happy man indeed. She may have been out of her depth. Perhaps we both were. But she delivered. Well done my girl.
We all seek in our own way at different times in our life. Be it seeking meaning, love, happiness or truth. Starting the journey of discovery can be tough though. Once you’re underway you’d be amazed at how adaptable you are. How resilient. How creative. I hope my writings and my journey have helped show you that anyone is capable of living a life that’s extra-ordinary.
There’s an inner adventurer in us all. Embrace yours, dear Reader.
Explore, Dream, Discover.