I have been reliably informed that 2017 is a train that has now left the station and any saved up phone minutes, last year’s resolutions or Christmas turkey sandwiches are to be considered past their due date. That means it is time for me to look forward, set unrealistic goals, turn myself inside out trying to acheive them and sail- no doubt- a whole load more miles. Before I do that though I would like to look back a little on 2017 and pick out some personal highlights .
Once again we finished our 20,000Nm annual Transatlantic Circuit with no injuries or damage beyond some dented ego’s, blown out sails and a few scratches in the vinyl wrap on the hull. That I think is something that has real value and whilst I would like to be faster on the race course and have all the maintenance jobs done before an event starts (!) I will take writing ‘Crew Safe, Vessel Sound’ in the log at the end of each voyage anytime.
So memories – hmm… anyone who has sailed with me will know that my recollection of individual events and circumstances can be at times ..ummm…a little vague when it comes to things on the boat. After what is now 300,000Nm (Gulp!) things are all starting to blend into one another but not because I have now turned 40 (GULP!) but because of the way my sailing memories all look the same. If you think about it the environment of ‘the boat’ is always roughly the same; the view from the boat really doesn’t change once we are offshore, everyone looks the same from the back in wet weather gear, one squall looks just like the next and so the variables are therefore pretty much just: nightime/daytime, upwind/downwind, good weather/bad weather. Ultimately this does mean that most of my memories from sailing in the past 20 years are pretty much one continuous loop of the same thing-punctuated by light bits and dark bits but despite this there are of course things that do stick out.
Those things however, are no longer storms, or blown out sails or good/bad race results- No- the things that stick with me now are people’s attitudes, tone of voice, tiny acts of kindness and a gut feeling about whether a person can be relied upon in a tight spot or not. So after the initial blank look when people ask me ‘Do you remember XYZ?’ and my standard comedy answer of; ‘Was it daytime or nightime?’ the number one way to get me to remember something specific is not to tell me about what the boat was doing or what the clouds looked like but to tell me how people were acting, tell me if people were helping each other or was tension and fear turning them into lets say…poor variations of themselves. Remind me who that guy was on your watch not by how he was some big shot from the local yacht club or a millionaire but because he was the one who always asked people if they wanted a cup of coffee at the start of the watch or helped clean up -unasked- when the noodles bounced off the stove.
What have I got to report from 2017? Well we didn’t ace any of the events we entered but we had a hell of a lot of fun, we shared great stories and great insights with each other and yes I think maybe I even taught a few old dogs some new tricks. But most importantly while you were worrying about squalls and fighting with the winches and ticking of the miles let me tell you what I remember – on a boat, at sea, far from the maddening crowd once the initial period of novelty has passed- people on the whole are kind and considerate and selfless in their actions; they are intimately concerned about each other’s safety and well being and united by the common themes of family and friends, positive personal endeavour and life long learning.
For that reason and that alone- above the swank and swagger of races and regattas I will be happy to once again push my personal mileage on to 325,000Nm in 2018 – if just to escape the bleating message the media loves to promote that this is now a ‘dog eat dog world’ and we are all doomed. Well maybe it is ashore- but as far as I can remember that problem hasn’t made it’s way off the beach yet.