We have spent the last 18 months sailing in the safe and secluded waters of Pittwater, one of Australia’s best cruising grounds. We know its beaches, where to get shelter, the holding. It is our home; familiar, safe and our friends are there. We love it.
We have 6 weeks off this winter and could spend our days lazily floating about Pittwater, we could nip up the coast to Port Stephens. We could head to Sydney Harbour. Life would be safe and secure, if a little cold.
Instead, we are heading off for a 1500NM trip into the unknown. To be fair, it’s a well voyaged route. But it’s unknown to us, and it is the unknown that generates fear. If we knew exactly what would happen there would be no unknown, no adventure and no personal growth. The last time I sailed offshore for a prolonged period was crossing the Atlantic in 2016 and then a few multi day passages in the Med in 2017. So it’s been a while, and that adds to the thought process, as skipper do I have currency, can I deal with whatever is thrown at me?
To the casual observer, sailing offshore seems a romantic proposition, and it can be. Occasionally you get a gently rolling sea and 20 knots on the beam and you cream along as the sun slowly sets. But generally, passage making, or even long multiday coastal cruises can become quickly a very unromantic proposition as you deal with rolling and pitching of the yacht, sea sickness, gear failures, cooking and watch patterns. If conditions are difficult, things can easily become challenging and stressful. It’s not the sailing its self that causes the stress, but the constant circular thought process about the weather, sea state, condition of the boat and crew and dealing with breakages and issues as they arise. So given it is a challenging environment, why do we choose to head offshore?
We recently saw Ranulph Finnes talking about his life, travels and exploration. He told an amazing story of hardship, adventure and exploration. I was particularly interested in how he selected the members of his expedition teams. For Ranulph, success comes down to lots of things but ultimately an individual’s motivation to set off and complete the task. His tried and tested logic being that you never can really tell how someone will perform under difficult circumstances until they happen. For Ranulph an individual’s motivation for doing something is everything and sets us apart from one another. In a nutshell, people who have a high level of motivation for the journey or activity will ultimately have a higher chance of succeeding.
This got me thinking about what motivates me to go offshore; for me it ultimately boils down discovery and adventure and the unknowns travelling by yacht throw at you.
There is little risk in modern life and work provides a routine that almost guarantees people know what they will be doing today, next month and even next year. Variation can be hard to find. When you break the bonds of work and day to day life and choose to head off on holiday it can be low effort too. Book flights and arrive with hordes of others all having a similar, if not identical experience. I have always been fond of the road less travelled. In a sailing, boat even if the route is well worn, the conditions make every trip different. There are no two experiences the same. On our Atlantic crossing, all the yachts involved in the ARC travelled the same route, but all have unique and widely differing experiences.
For me heading offshore is about the destination, the volcano, the reef, the island, but its more about the journey and sometimes the difficulty of the journey and the challenges you face on the way make the destination even sweeter.