Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Long Way

     "Exhausting gales, dangerous waves, dark clouds scudding across the sea with all the world's sadness and all its despair.  Continuing anyway, perhaps because you know you must, even if you no longer understand why.

     Clear skies, sunsets the colour of blood, the colour of life, on a sea sparkling with power and light, giving you all its strength, all its truth.  Then you know why you are continuing, why you will go right to the end.  And you would like to go further still." 
- Bernard Moitessier, from his book, The Long Way about his sailing journey around the world, alone, in 1968-1969

I haven't written about sailing lately, and with the cold weather, don't think of it that much.  However, I once again, for about the 5th time, started reading Moitessier's The Long Way.  The first Around Alone race, non-stop.  1968 it started and the last boat to leave on its journey was the Teignmouth Electron with it's skipper, Donald Crowhurst.  Only one sailor made it back home, Robert Knox Johnston.  Donald Crowhurst died during the race under mysterious circumstances, a couple had to turn back because of bad weather  Nigel Tetley capsized only 2000 kms from the finish.  Bernard Moitessier, after rounding Cape Horn decided to keep going and sailed halfway around the earth again before finally setting anchor in Tahiti.  

Back then they didn't have digital knot metres, no radar, no GPS, no HAM radio, no satellite telephones, weather faxes or lap top computers.  No fancy freeze dried food or scientifically created clothing.  No high tech carbon fibre boat hulls, lines, sails or equipment.  No 'team' back home designing sails, boats or gear.  They had friends helping to sew new sails or collect rubber hosing for water tanks.  Strangers donating old winches and a little money.  Some had wooden masts, wooden boats.  Others had new designs in sailboats that are very common today, a trimaran.  They depended on wool to keep them warm and mostly dry, canned food, instant coffee, canned milk, rice and hoped for whatever fish they might be able to catch to sustain them.  They collected rainwater to fill their jerry cans, and had to wait until the sight of land to radio the coast guard their Lloyds of London call number to report in, or call a passing ship to report their whereabouts. Moitessier had a slingshot, he would wrap up his rolls of film, letters, charts in a jar and hope it met its mark on a passing ship's deck.

Moitessier was a philosopher.  He writes about the open ocean, its quiet days, its nasty days.  He also writes about the life that kept him company while on his 10 month voyage.  The sea birds, the dorados, the jellyfish, the phosphorescence, the dolphins.  

Nowadays we are imprisoned in our consumer culture, the need for success in one's career, in one's pocketbook, the need to buy the latest and greatest television or electronic gadget.  We are imprisoned in a world where there is not enough food to go around, in a world that values money and possessions over life experiences, friendships and family.  It's refreshing to read Moitessier's journey.  This story is not just for sailors, it's for everyone.   The paragraph on the back cover of the book states "...Moitessier began to regard this as a voyage that could not end for him with the rewards of those whose values were not his."  Sometimes when I'm on the boat and there's no wind and we are bobbing along at 0.24 knots and it's just me and Paul, it's nice to think about nothing - just stare at the colours of the water, the colours of the sky, the life around you, the warmth of your companion.  I, like a lot of people always ask myself 'why are we here' and I don't ever think we will ever know the answer.  I think we all ask ourselves that question when we slow down, sit and think.  We should all do that more often, sit and think.  

Sailing gives me that time to sit and think.  Cooking does as well.  You have to be patient to cook, to learn, to create.  I like to work in my kitchen sometimes in the quiet, it allows me to think.  How often do we turn off the television (that really adds no real value to our lives), turn off the radio, turn off our man made world and stop and think.  Our thoughts don't have to be profound, sometimes I think about the rust spot on my car, at least I'm having a thought.  

Our lives are too complicated and I don't think some of us are really living. Our lives are short.  Let's re-evaluate our time here on planet earth!

"To have the have the choice...not knowing what you are heading for and just going there anyway, without a care, without asking any more questions."  Thank you Bernard Moitessier for making me think.

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