Setting Sail…

One sailing boat floating on the water by violet sunset - 3D render

In writing about human endeavours and enterprises of our time I am delighted that my friend Catherine has given me permission to tell of her sailing endeavours. You see Catherine has been a full-time sailor for 8 years now. She has journeyed many a nautical mile since I first worked alongside her in the allied health department of a rehabilitation centre – both of us not long out of university. The reason I asked her if she would allow her sailing tale to be told here is because it demonstrates the role of vision and persistence in getting an endeavour underway and to keep it going.

Like any innovative project a team is involved in this endeavour.  In this case the team is a couple – Catherine and her husband, who have held this shared vision for over 20 years, following the inspiration of reading about a woman and her family’s world circumnavigation.  After reading the book, and agreeing that they would like to sail that far too, the next stage was to keep the dream alive.  They affectionately called it their 10 year plan, for there were many preparations needed before it would come to fruition. There were finances to be saved, children to raise, oh, and yes that’s right – Catherine needed to learn to sail!

Ever a woman of “lists”, Catherine tells me she listed all the skills she already had that were transferable to their endeavour of circumnavigating the world, and she also listed the skills she would need to acquire – and the latter comprised some fairly essential items like sailing skills, and repairs and maintenance of a sail boat.   So starting at the beginning, she enrolled in sail training and ‘competent crew’ training, and then with the basics under her belt participated in a twilight race series and some sailing events for women and an inshore skipper’s course.  Her husband, on the other hand, had been a sailor since childhood.

Careful financial forecasting and saving was needed if they were to achieve their dream. This involved many cohesive choices in everyday life – such as taking inexpensive holidays over the years, choosing a simple lifestyle, recycling and repairing where possible instead of purchasing new items.

As their children reached adulthood and spread their wings away from home, it was time to actually purchase a sailing vessel and get to know it.  This was to welcome the third member of their team!  Once they had their catamaran moored in a local marina they gained confidence in her by sailing every weekend, and they invited family and friends to come along in small groupings so that gradually everyone important to them was connected to the reality of their dream and the lead up to their departure.  With great commitment they both studied the mechanics of the vessel and how to repair and maintain the engine and every part of her sailing apparatus, because out at sea they would both need to be able to pitch in and support each other with mechanical problem solving. Their lives could depend upon it.

They also found themselves a sailing mentor!  “Guru Bob” was the affectionate name for this seasoned sailor who turned up at the right time, taking on a role of providing support with weather forecasts.  HIs mentoring support continued for two years and was a fabulous help as they gained confidence and experience in being full time sailors.

The boat was to be their new home for at least a year while they tried out long term cruising – and so they needed to pack up their earthly belongings and decide what to take onto the boat with them and what to put into long term storage and what to let go of.  Selling their house prior to departure had always been part of the financial plan, but when it came to the crunch it proved to be a very big step.  Actually letting go of the home where they had lived since marrying and where they had raised their kids was a heart-wrenching choice and was one of the most emotional steps that Catherine experienced in preparing for their sailing endeavour.  But their dream called for a full commitment and so they sold up.  They also sold their car and said farewell to their employment too.

And so it was that in May of 2007, with a 10 year plan that had become 15 years, the time was right to launch! The preparations were complete and they embarked from Port Adelaide to head off long term cruising.  It took 13 months to reach Darwin via the east coast of Australia.

Once there, buoyed with confidence and enjoyment of their sailing life, Catherine and her husband allowed themselves to step into their big dream!  It was time to leave Australian shores and venture bravely overseas – Asia beckoned, and the world beyond that was also their oyster!

Fast forwarding now to the present day and you will find Catherine and her husband are very experienced sailors, with many amazing stories to tell, having sailed to many, many parts of the world during the past 8 years. In fact they are sailing back into southern waters now – having reached beautiful New Zealand where they will spend some time exploring, and listening to their hearts for the next phase of their endeavour.

Catherine’s story indicates how pursuing a vision takes commitment and persistence and a team!

In my next blog I’ll focus on particular aspects of life on board for Catherine – aspects like well-being, meaning and contribution. But for now here is one of Catherine’s reflections on turning their Vision to circumnavigate the world into a reality….

“Looking back I can tell you that the hardest pier to step off is the first one!  Leaving Port Adelaide in 2007 to embark on our sailing venture around the world was the hardest departure of all the ports we have left in all the years of sailing since.  Before we left we had ideas and impressions of what the journey would be like and what we wanted it to be – but until we made that first departure, until we committed to stepping off from what we knew – to sail into the unknown – we couldn’t discover all the ideas and possibilities out there.   And that is the same in life – if we just cling to what we know we can’t discover other possibilities.”

Foresight will always lack the certainty of hindsight – and so I wish everyone the bravery that Catherine describes here – after preparing adequately with a trusted team – to step off that first pier into the unknown and let our endeavours and enterprises begin!

sailing roped to pier

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