In follow up to my other post about getting off the boat, I figured on balance I should also indicate why I decided to stay on (when other ’round the world’ crew on all boats had already been getting off sooner):
There is a phrase that’s apparently often used in the AA, that also seems relevant to giving birth. Euphoric Recall is effectively when your mind forgets all the bad times related to something, and then over exaggerates the positives.
As a result, within a few hours of arriving to our next port (which was generally when the waters would be calm significantly around the coasts, and we were about to be back on land), no matter how much time I’d spent whilst sailing, thinking about leaving the race, when you see land for the first time again in weeks, you can be so incredibly happy to be there, you learn to forget how tough it was getting there. It was as if I could recall the thought process that I wanted to leave, but couldn’t connect to any of the emotions connected with it, so those thoughts didn’t seem real.
I’d set myself a challenge, to sail around the world.
I knew it would be a challenge, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I didn’t appreciate how hard it would be (no-one really did), but I wasn’t going to just give up. It’s not something I’d done in the past, and didn’t plan to start now. Stopping this race early, would possibly be the first time I’d ever quit anything unfinished.
However, Australia was the half way point. The total ’round the world’ race had 8 ‘legs’. Sailing around Australia would be going to the end of the fourth leg. It was also closer to NZ than starting to sail ‘back again’ to the UK.
I knew that I would have covered most of the main sailing conditions by that time (80 foot swells, 120mph winds, heat, doldrums, storms, etc.).
I was still expecting to carry on all the way, despite my regular thought processes to the opposite under many of the sailing conditions.
My family had also gone out of their way to help me (when I nearly flew back from Rio to resolve the issues with my previous hotel’s new managers, and leave the race), so I was now doing this for them too, not just for me.
Despite the very small number of exceptions, the vast majority of the people on board were really incredible people.
The Clipper Race attracted successful people from around the world, many of whom were leaders in their respective industries (you generally have to be pretty successful to afford the initial costs, as well as the time off work to complete the relevant parts of the challenge).
I would have conversations throughout the day and night about all manner of things. We were that ‘close’ (in the physical sense of the word) that surface topics were often omitted, and most of the conversations were deep and meaningful. I’ve always enjoyed finding out about people, what makes them who they are, what experiences have led them to this moment.
I watched real experts doing so many things, such as our on board MacGyver (Ship’s Engineer) who could fashion together virtually any repair from the numerous items and tools he had to hand, rethinking challenges and finding other solutions. We had multiple crew conversant in countless languages. We had doctors, paramedics, nurses, IT programmers, property developers, marketing geniuses, health & safety experts, coaches, public servants, you name it!
There was always something to learn from someone on board.
The knowledge and experience
Obviously I’m not talking about the London Hackney Carriage taxi licence training, but the actual sailing knowledge gained as a direct result (and only a real direct result) of sailing.
Some more random things became common, like learning it is okay to wash up everything in fresh cold sea water (hot or even fresh water is too much of a luxury, and washing up liquid often wasn’t used).
Similarly leaning how to shower once every 8 days, in about 3 litres of tepid water if you’re lucky (and use only baby wipes the rest of the time).
How to balance yourself over a loo, while the boat is at 30 degrees, tipping up to 20 degrees randomly in any other direction at the same time (it’s like being in a portaloo with a canvass door, on the back of a truck, whilst the truck is driving over a muddy hilly festival site).
Making fresh bread every day, and for the latter part of the race particularly, eating pretty well too.
Pretty much 5 hours out of port, all you can see is water for most of the journey. You’re surrounded by water. Your world is a 70 foot racing yacht, with a physical awareness a little beyond that with the waves about to hit you from the various angles.
Your visual reference does go beyond the surrounding waves, to the cloud formations (weirdly, because of the lack of rain caused by ground features, it doesn’t really rain all that much, although you do need to keep an eye out for sudden storms on the radar!)
But as the watch pattern is a 24/7 switching of shifts, every two days, you will see at least one sunrise and at least one sunset. There aren’t many times of my life I’ve been that closely linked to watching them each day.
Luminescent plankton though, is incredible. Watching the water light up from the movement of your boat, and even better, watching torpedoes of light, darting through the water on either side of the boat, on a starlit night, while the dolphins once again swim with us for 10 minutes or so.
Switching off from the rest of the world
There’s no TV on board, no internet, not really telephones (apart from emergency satellite phones). Email was a new luxury at £1.50 per plain text email to send or to receive.
We generally had no idea what was going on with the rest of the world in terms of politics, TV shows, celebrities, etc. Occasionally news would filter through from people’s private email, but in general, all we really knew about was what was happening on our small boat, what the weather may be doing around our planned route, and where the other boats were in relation to us. That was our world.
I’d gone from managing 5 businesses side-by-side, including a luxury boutique hotel for 3 years immediately prior to the race. My average working weeks were no less than 100 hours a week. Getting on the boat did mean my hours on call were still about the same, but I was no effectively on a sabbatical from my previous work. My plan was to ‘retire’ by this point, but it was certainly a weird way to start my retirement.
However, I did quite quickly realise, working that hard for that long, I’m not going to retire. I was taking a sabbatical of sorts, but weirdly couldn’t wait to get back to doing other things, developing new ideas, and getting various things done.
There were many incredible experiences on board. It was certainly memorable, and I doubt I’ll ever forget so much of what I learned and what was ingrained into me from constant repetition.
Even though I made the decision to get off in Australia, and not get back on again, it was amazing,