It's day 22 of the Pacific Ocean challenge and we're so close to home! We've all been discussing our plans for our arrival in San Francisco and looking back on the experience so far.
When people heard I'd be sailing across the Pacific Ocean in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, they'd give me a range of reactions and encouragement; many would enthusiastically say, have fun! I'd kind of chuckle at that. Sailing across the North Pacific usually isn't typically very fun: cold, wet, windy, grey, with the occasional squall to shake you to your bones. There were times when I really wanted off this boat because I was exhausted, or wet and cold, or homesick. There were times when I crawled around the deck at night, rather than walk, because I simply didn't have the energy to keep myself both upright and safe. I’ve lost patience with myself and others.
I've beaten myself up for not being 'good enough'. This trip has been a lot like reading an enlightening book: it doesn't necessarily tell me anything earth shatteringly new, but it clarified and illuminated what is important and may have gotten lost in the noise of my life. I'd thought the trip would require buckets of strength and courage, which it has, but what living on a 70ft yacht with 17 other people for over 3 weeks has brought to the foreground for me is: compassion, gratitude, and humility.
Compassion has been a big one for me on this trip. Of course it's easy to sympathize when someone is obviously seasick or hurt, but I've had to remind myself that everyone has been struggling with something or other on this trip, and everyone shows it in their own way. It's easy to judge someone; it's much harder to put yourself in their shoes and consider their lot. Life's a lot better when you make the effort. This goes hand in hand with gratitude: being grateful for what you've got while you've got it!
Living a fairly austere life on a boat where most of all you do is sail, sleep and eat makes you appreciate what you've got at home, and the kindness and generosity of those around you. So often when I'd be sitting at home, feeling like a blob, I'd be wishing I was somewhere else on some grand adventure. Now that I've been on a grand adventure, I find myself (at times) wishing I could just be a blob and binge watch some new series on Netflix!
My point is it's helped me realize that adventure is indeed great, and so is a quiet night at home: you can have a nice balance in your life and should enjoy the moment. Finally, a trip this big across an ocean instils a healthy dose of humility. First, personally, to realize that striving for perfection is a fool's errand. On a larger scale, knowing that the ocean is an unrelenting force that you will never 'defeat' or 'overpower'. No matter how big your boat, no matter how great your skill, you are always at her mercy. You can love her, but she will not love you back. You can enjoy her company, but she is indifferent (although sometimes generous). I've seen more wind and variable conditions out here in the Pacific Ocean than I've seen in the span of my (albeit still fairly short) lifetime of sailing. I've been tossed across the boat by crashing waves.
I've had so much spray in my face while on the bow that I could barely breathe. I've looked down the hill of a wave that made my heart skip a beat.
This trip has given me a big dose of respect for the ocean and what she holds, and I've only seen a small slice of what she can do.
And if I'm really honest with myself, I wondered if I would come away from this trip loving sailing more, or realizing that I was more of a fair weather sailor. I can say that my love of sailing has grown even stronger on this trip and it's been more fun than I thought it would be, both due to the exciting conditions, and the wonderful people on board going through this together. There have been moments when I've felt closer to my dad (who passed away 10 years ago) than ever while on the boat, feeling his memory with me on the long, dark nights.
But there's been even more times when the kindness and consideration of my crewmates, as well as the messages of love and support from home, have carried me through. What you have is a heck of a lot better than what you had when you think about it, and more than anything, this trip has taught me that. I wondered if this ocean crossing would change me for the better or worse. I think I'm fairly set as a person at this point (for better or worse!) but it's reminded me of what's important in life: do what you love, love what you do, make sure those around you know how you feel about them, and don't miss an opportunity for adventure to test your limits!