One Year Anniversary, Sanity and the Seamanship Trophy

When I flew to Vancouver for a wedding some weeks ago, a friend said to me “have fun on your vacation from your vacation!”, which I thought was quite hilarious. Is that the general consensus?

It’s been almost exactly one year since I set sail from Monnikendam, Holland, singlehanded, and here I am in New York. When I re-read the post about my departure, it genuinely felt like I’d left just several hours ago. I can still smell the hickory in the air from the Eel smoke house; I still remember shaking the dockmasters hand as I left on that rainy day; a line squall on the horizon. There was no one else around, it was a weekday, as I pushed out the bow and jumped onboard, motoring out through Amsterdam and the North Sea canal. It rained like never before, and I whistled a happy tune as the rain trickled down my neck, and ‘August the mighty Yanmar’ powered us through the centre of Amsterdam.

It wasn’t long before that, when Constellation was sitting on jack stands in a marina in England. I was living onboard, working part time in a pub so I could work on the boat, climbing the ladder every night, waking up to sand the hull, and then repeating the previous days schedule. Every day felt heavy on the one hand, yet full of endless promise on the other. I had this lovely boat, and a wonderful dream, yet we’d never sailed together before, I had no cash reserves other than my weekly paycheck from the pub, which was quickly spent at the chandlery. And still I told everyone who asked, that I was sailing to Australia.

That feeling has returned: Constellation is back up on jack stands, only this time, on another continent. She’s beaten and battered, we have over 6000 nautical miles under our belts, and yet there is a heavy feeling in the air again. It’s that same sense I had every morning I woke up in England – of impossibility, yet an unnerving compulsion to keep going. In England the challenge was to just to get the boat in the water – to see if she floated, and to see if we could float together. Amazingly we did, and in the end we floated all the way down the coast of Europe to the Caribbean, and then north again to New York.

So as the leaves change colour again, Constellation is on land, and the new challenge is to put her on a truck, and go overland 3000 miles to the Pacific. That challenge is the new weight on my shoulders, as we battle on to keep the voyage going. I was laughed at for suggesting I was going to sail across the Atlantic, and now I’m being laughed at for suggesting I’d truck a boat across America, following closely behind on a bicycle. In fact, when I say it out loud, I can really see the absurdity of it all, and do seriously spend days wondering what exactly it is I’m doing. The large majority of my friends are well placed professionals; some have kids, others have husbands and wives, and some even have dogs and houses. I mostly shudder at the thought of having any of that, yet the built-in societal sanity checker is in overdrive – lately I can’t help but wonder if I’m surging ahead, or being left behind. In my days of great realisations, I know there is nothing to be ahead of, or behind, yet we all have periods of self-doubt, and mine are triggered by seeing a small red boat out of water.

So in the midst of all this, I recently received the “Seamanship Trophy” for my voyage so far, from the Contessa Association in the UK. I was never one for awards, nor for trophies, yet receiving unsolicited pats on the back from sailing associations is certainly rather nice. Special thanks to Jo Mooring Aldridge for accepting the trophy on my behalf, and thank you to the Contessa association for their support of my endeavours.

And so the vacation continues. Yet, as far as I’m concerned, vacations are lovely periods of sitting on the beach, spending the first week in utter relaxation, and the last week thinking about going back to work. Technically I have no job to go back to, yet the past year has been in that latter mode of vacation – you’re not at work, per se, yet your head is totally consumed. This last year has been the greatest, as well as the hardest in my life, and I’m not even half way, with every spare brain cycle dedicated to continuing this journey. Since this project’s inception in mid-2006, it’s all I can think of, it consumes me every single day, it’s what I dread most, and it’s all I can do.

Thank you so much to everyone who’s been following so far,