In the time since I’ve been back on land, and the circumnavigation finished, I have been hearing from friends and people who followed along on our journey. Of the many questions I get asked about the circumnavigation, there seem to be a group of more common ones that I expect might be of interest to some of you as well. So, what I thought I’d do here is to write down my answers to some of those most frequently asked questions here. Sound OK?
1) What was the most beautiful or memorable part of the journey?
This is rather difficult to pin down to one specific answer, so let me pick five things. Then again, depending on how long I’m given to ponder the question, those five choices will likely change. But for now…
A) You’ve often heard me tell of the beautiful bioluminescence I encountered at several points along the way that more than a few times left me awestruck. That certainly ranks in the top five.
B) Storms in the Southern Ocean, especially the cyclone that we outran elevated the raw force of that tempest to something of a spiritual level for me.
C) The first sighting of the snow-capped mountains of the South Island of New Zealand after the generous fishermen of Ocean Odyssey gave me additional fuel was inspiring.
D) The colors of the sunset that same night still plays on the big screen in my mind, as perhaps the most majestic of the many sublime sunsets I witnessed.
E) I don’t think I’ll get over the sense that some mysterious symphony was being played out on the wings of the sea birds as they crisscrossed back and forth behind me, sewing up the wake I’d made through their ocean.
2) How can you be alone for that long?
I know that many people have different levels of comfort with being alone. Some work with people all day, every day and can’t wait to get home to the quiet of their house; others don’t feel comfortable being alone for even a few hours. For me, being alone is something that I have always been comfortable with and enjoyed. I’ve worked alone on construction projects, spent time traveling or driving across county… and of course, have spent a considerable time alone sailing on either Lake Michigan or the oceans.
I think we all need occasional contact with other people and I’m no exception to that. I almost daily communicated through emails with friends and family and every few days, took a minute or two to make a phone call on the Iridium satellite phone. Still being alone has always come naturally for me and it has allowed me to build that contrasting view of life that allows me to better appreciate the times in my life when I’m wrapped in human company, as I am now on this brief trip.
Also, being alone gives me the chance to connect more peacefully with myself and to discover and experience without so much distraction, the various thoughts and feelings that rise up from within me. This trip certainly provided me ample opportunities for such experiences and reflections, which I hope before long to transcribe and share in longer book form.
3) Frequently, I get asked about sleep. What’s the longest time you got to sleep on the trip?
As I’ve explained before, I try to sleep in 15-minute increments. That’s the length of time it would take for another vessel that is beyond my field of vision and just over the horizon, to get to me. So, the vast majority of the time, I sleep in 15-minute intervals (with the help of my egg-timer) and in areas like the coast of Florida, I might even cut that back to 10-minute naps. I know that doesn’t seem like much time to sleep, (and it isn’t) … but you do get used to sleeping in sets of 4 to 5 of these naps with just a few moments awake in between to check the boat and horizon. In our day-to-day lives, we sleep 8 hours, so we can be up for 16 hours. I take these naps so I can be up for an hour or two during which I’m constantly looking for any opportunity to take additional naps, so that I’m most able to function if something important comes up and requires my time. I do think there were times in the deep Southern Ocean where I might have slept for as long as 45 minutes, but such periods were few and far between. I’m sure I never slept more than the 45 minutes at any one time during the entire voyage.
4) What was the longest time you went without seeing another ship?
The trip between Cape Town, South Africa and Wellington, New Zealand was 52 days, and I remember I saw one long tanker about three days out of Cape Town and then didn’t see another ship until I met up with the friendly fishermen of the Ocean Odyssey who lent us a hand off the South Island of New Zealand. The Southern Ocean is considered some of the most remote waters in the world and you often hear the remark, which is true, that the closest humans to us in those waters are the folks on the Space Station maybe 50 miles above our heads! From New Zealand to the Galapagos would have been the next longest time at 35 days and the last ship I saw out of New Zealand was that first night after I left NZ!
5) What was the scariest part of the circumnavigation?
This isn’t quite so easy question to answer either, because I think I know what most people want to hear for my answer. It’s only human nature to want to hear an amazing tale of a wild tempest that nearly takes your life. But for me that wasn’t the case. While there were indeed several amazing and ultra-challenging storms, which demanded some of the toughest heavy weather sailing I’ve encountered in my life, even during those times, I never felt scared.
Strange as it may seem, those were the moments that I had sought out and prepared myself and Bodacious Dream to handle… and we did so with good fortune. Edgy? Very much so… and for days on end, I felt as though every sense in my body was pumping at 125 percent. Alert to every motion of the boat, every sound, even every change in the pitch of the wind, my mind and body processed huge amounts of sensory input to help me keep Bodacious Dream trimmed and sailing within the flow of an agitated ocean.
I’m sure to some all that seems like it would qualify as a recipe for scary, but remember, I was in a world I had grown fairly comfortable with and that I knew quite well. Take me out of that comfort zone and put me in some other world that I don’t know… and I can tell you a different story about being scared. Brain surgery, police and fire rescue, combat, raising kids even … would all scare me in more conventional ways, but being in the folds of the sea, while it can be very edgy, never pushed my scare button. I will admit though that I was on the edge of my seat for much of the voyage… as each moment out there is a one-of-a-kind roller coaster ride!
6) What’s it like to be back among so many people having been alone for so long?
Of course, coming back into Jamestown and being greeted by so many family and friends was a wonderful experience… but the hum of activities that followed and that kept me moving continuously the last couple of weeks has kept my mind from wandering much or encountering too many emotions of the sort that typically arise for people who have gone through long and challenging experiences. From adventurers who have thrown their all into achieving arduous goals to veterans of wars who have fought intensely for their comrades and their own safety, once the extraordinary conditions disappear and life returns to a more everyday pace, it sometimes happens that an energy “hole” appears… one which can sometimes suck you into some type of depression.
So far, I’ve had little time to ponder or integrate the full scope of what happened to me or what it might mean for me in the months ahead. I do know there have been times where I felt an increased sensitivity to things back on land, not yet having built up the usual calluses that help insulate you in the course of living day-to-day life. I have found myself having to manage urges to leave crowded situations, while at the same time, wanting to move closer to people and group situations. It’s pretty interesting and so far, I think I’m doing pretty well. I will stay on the lookout for interesting or challenging shifts as I move further away in time from the completion of the adventure.
Send me other questions, if you like … right HERE!
Thanks for following along,