Going Solo

While you’re reading this in your armchair, lying belly up in your bed or at the breakfast table before heading out to face the world, I’m floating somewhere far from land on a cleverly designed vessel all by myself. There might not exist a more rewarding experience of feeling absolutely at one with the surrounding than solo-sailing the oceans. It’s been quite a while since I had done a similar stint. Back in my daredevil twenties the second blue water passage in my life was a solo sail from the Canary Islands to Grenada in the Caribbean.

I applied and expanded on where needed the basic navigation and general boat handling skills I had learned during my first voyage from England’s South coast to the Canaries. No autopilot or any other form of self-steering was on the boat, so I spent my days tied to the wheel and at nightfall lowered the sails, got a good eight hours sleep and in the morning raised the sails again to continue on. After 35 days I made it into Prickly Bay on the verdant South coast of Grenada, but just barely so. I was afraid to approach the coast too much and turned in a little too late. The windward ability of the heavy Classic Wharram was not exactly spectacular, much less so with an inexperienced skipper on board. The outboard wouldn’t start, so just as I got swept past the entrance to the bay by the fierce trade winds, I managed to drop the anchor on a patch of sand between corals. Having another look at the motor it turned out that the battery terminals had corroded in the salt air. Once that was remedied I entered the harbor and I still until today remember the intense feeling of deep, bottomless sadness. I had left that extraordinary world of oneness, where alone truly becomes all one; I had lost the humbling but exhilarating feeling of being but a mere speck on a vast watery expanse; and I had return to the world of man’s craze and haze. It was an emotional crash landing of a very brutal sort.

Anyway, I survived and my self-appointed mentor at the time at a public reception the following day whispered into my sun-tanned ears: “You have grown up now to be a man! You are a man now!” In a sense he was right, as he always was, in a sense. I had squeezed my shaky post-adolescent self through a rite of passage and at twenty-three it was definitely high time to become an adult. At my present age it seems that those kinds of qualitative transformations are much harder to come by. They have to break through an encrusted armor of well-worn habits and the joints aren’t by far the only things that have started to creak. But it must still, and up until the last breath we take, be our sacred task to strive for transformation. So when I write this here in the well-groomed hull of Aluna the night before departure, I do nurture a set of silent expectations that the oneness, the wholeness and the holiness of the open ocean experience will change me into something other than what I have become so far. Something new, something fresh, something totally unexpected. May the gods of the winds and waves be strict and demanding with my mind, but gentle and soothing with my soul!

Here’s a cybernetic slideshow of scanned paper photographs from an era when the bytes where few and far between.


3 Responses to “Going Solo”

  1. Beatriz Restrepo Says:

    Solo espero que cuando leas esto estes a salvo y disfrutando de un merecido descanso. Pronto no estaras mas solo. Tu escrito me llega hasta lo mas profundo de mi ser. Te quiero muchisimo y extraño un monton. La fotos estan bellisimas!!! Buenos recuerdo de tus travesias.

  2. Scott Veirs Says:

    Fair seas, Beat! We’ll raise a glass to you this evening as we pour over the Pacific pilot charts and dream of our own mid-life transformations.

  3. Junko Says:

    Nice to read the strories of your adolescent …which might be perpetual with you 🙂 Going back to reading. Thanks & take care! Junko

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