An Explorer's Affliction.
It’s one in the morning, the crew are asleep and I’m on skipper’s watch as we gently chugg through the infamous Cook Straight - logging our carbon output. I can see the lights of Wellington off our port bow as we approach the narrows between the two North and South Island. We have no wind at all and a good weather window to enter the southern ocean, aiming to slip gently between two low pressure systems and to quietly make our way east and south towards Chile so far away.
Night watch is a great time to ponder, reflect, wonder what loved ones are doing, think of fabulous friends and it's a great time to miss home and all your people. Tonight I do just that. These early morning reflections inevitably turn to a familiar thought - could I have picked an easier path? Why for my family’s sake could I simply not work 9 to 5, go slowly bald, get a little fat and be happy not knowing what is over the horizon?
I envy the men that can, in fact I admire them. They create less stress around them, strain their bodies less, strain their partners less, and are generally just less trouble to be around. I just know I couldn’t. Like a dog on a chain, I would pine, whine and wither away, becoming a shadow of the person I know I’m called to be.
In that pining, I’d be less of a husband, less of a father and definitely less of a friend. So here I sit on night watch, miles from my beautiful warm naked wife curled up in her doona no doubt, miles from my beautiful girls Jade and Java, miles from Simon and baby grandson Ru, miles from my aging parents, sister Jo, nieces, nephews, friends, colleagues, loved vets and nurses and four friends.
The trade off is that when I see what is over that horizon, when I return having explored off the edge of the map “where there be dragons…”, I am complete, I am me. I am ‘the optimist’. I am open and can hear and listen, make time for people. I am present, not dreaming of far away unexplored reaches. I am a better husband, better Dad, better friend having returned broken, bruised, battered but with eyes wide in amazement at the incredible things we found. Full of the delight of life, at the wonder of this incredible creation, planet earth.
The joy of seeing ice crystals turn to gold dust in the air at minus 50 c, as the low sun casts yellow rays through the flecks in the air all around.
The wonderment of watching the Bedouin in the southern Sahara brew tea three times. One for life, one for death and one for friendship.
The sheer breathtaking beauty of watching a black leopard stalk it’s prey. A mythical creature, dangerous and unlike anything I have ever seen.
The memory treasured of running out of food with Simon, on the very edge of the Arctic Ocean. Two stress filled days relieved by getting picked up by two Inuit and 30 Greenland huskies.
The laugh of Ned Mosby on Poruma, in the Torres Strait, explaining that if I eat of the fruit of a certain tree, I would always come back.
The northern lights dancing in the chill night air as Grizzly bears shuffled close to the tent in Alaska’s vast wilderness.
The cost is huge. Tonight I count that, but I also know that despite all of that, I am best to be true to who I am and work hard to make up for it when I’m home.
We are 40 nautical miles from the mouth of the Cook Strait, where the Southern Ocean really starts. The moonlit night and calm ocean are a welcome relief, but also slightly eerie when we know what is to come. Still thanks to the good people of Nelson, the Nanook is fixed and ready, she is sturdy and safe and will get us to Chile across many horizons to the East.
Tonight at dusk, as if to remind me of the wonder of exploring with my son we had a visit from the dolphins. Racing to the bow in delight as the days last light slipped away. Dancing, turning, chirruping and playing in the wash under the bow. Spiraling this way and that, showing their bellies, smiling up at us. Kit, Jordy and I delighted in their performance, in their complete freedom, in their happiness. They danced as creatures only do when they are entirely immersed in doing exactly what they were created to do…