Going Solo describes one man’s lifelong dream. It’s also the name of our blog that documents his journey of sailing around the world single-handed, non-stop, west about from Victoria, B.C. Canada. That is, of course, against the prevailing wind and currents. Hmmm … going against the wind and current. “What’s that about?,” people want to know. A metaphor for how he sees the world? Perhaps.
We named the blog Going Solo because it also represents my journey while he sails around the world single handed. I’m on watch in my own ‘cockpit’ of sorts, at my own ‘nav station’ creating and updating the blog. I’m also writing about my own experience and creating art.
I’ve written a lot on the Going Solo blog about my husband Glenn, the boat (West Wind II), and his reasons for taking on one of the world’s toughest challenges. Each day, I update the blog with his latest position on a Google Earth map, add photos and insert links to websites but mostly it’s about the day-to-day musings of this single-handed sailor as he battles the ocean, the weather, gear failure, leaks, and his own shortcomings. It’s not always a struggle. He also writes about the exhilaration of surfing down waves at 9+ knots, the balmy tropical weather, the magnificent nightly spectacle overhead, and the thrill of being visited by a single majestic Royal Albatross.
Hanging On, Letting Go
Long before Glenn left, part of my journey is about finding a way to let go of him, physically and emotionally. I’ll admit it’s difficult to let go of the person you care most deeply about when all of your instincts are telling you to hang on. It’s true we’ve been here before, most recently in 2007, when he made his first attempt at a solo circumnavigation when the letting go seemed impossible.
This time around, even after months of talking about it and making the final preparations, it wasn’t any easier. On September 2, 2013, the day of his departure, I stood on the wharf at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, oblivious to the crowd that had gathered, untied his stern line, and tossed it to him across the lifelines. And there it was. I let go. And in that moment, I also set him and his lifelong dream in motion.
Fear as a Compass
When I see friends and acquaintances these days, there’s often a question that hangs in the air like a ghost. “Do you ever get scared?” There was a time when I found this question startling, too personal to be answered gracefully. What would I say, No? It would be a lie. But to openly admit it, face-to-face, and often in a public place, seemed to invite further comment, which was a place I didn’t want to, or need to go. I felt protective of my feelings and state of mind. I felt I couldn’t afford to have a meltdown because I was the only one who could scrape me back together.
And yet, fear is very much a part of my experience. I do feel scared sometimes. I let my imagination paint a vivid picture of the high winds, giant swells with the tops blowing off the waves, and green water rushing over the toe rail alongside the cockpit. I have an image of him on deck, at night, with the boat pitching and rolling, wearing his headlight, changing headsails. I can see him being washed overboard, hit on the head by the boom, cutting himself, or falling on the slippery deck. And, when he writes to me about how it feels to take a swim in a beautiful warm tropical sea, I can imagine the boat drifting away faster than he can get back to it.
My answer about fear these days is, “Yes, I do feel scared sometimes, absolutely.” My survival technique is to observe it, acknowledge it, and then carry on the best way I know how. It’s a continual learning process. Answering the question “Do you ever feel scared?” has become less about feeling assaulted, it’s an opportunity to meet people where they’re at, and share my authentic experience, fear and all.
A few weeks before Glenn left this time, I saw a blog post from Seth Godin. It was a very timely message about fearlessness. I liked what it said about seeing fear as a compass not a barrier. Seth writes, “The fearless person is well aware of the fear she faces. The fear though, becomes a compass, not a barrier. It becomes a way to know what to do next, not an evil demon to be extinguished.”
My solo journey
This time around I’ll continue to update the blog for the thousands of visitors from 38 countries (as of today) who drop by daily. I’ll acknowledge their comments, forward their questions to Glenn and post his answers. I’ll do research about the wildlife and geography of the area he’s sailing in, and I’ll reach out to the media around the world with news of a Canadian single-hander in their midst. And this time, my journey includes creating art. It’s my way of seeing and understanding what this journey is really about for me.
Here’s one ‘work in progress’ called Black Crow that incorporates my own photography and words.
Black Crow started as a digital photograph which I later turned into a line drawing. After playing with it for a while, I thought about what the image meant to me. I’ve always loved the intelligence and shiny black beauty of crows so it was natural to take a photo of a crow – this one perched high on a pole in an urban garden. I then set out to describe her in words. I then realized this crow represented me. I was on my own, standing firm, head to wind, gaze fixed on the goal. Calm, steady, unflappable.
Maybe this is my way of finding my compass; my way of knowing what to do next.
All images by MaryLou Wakefield – All Rights Reserved
First published at – STOrythatMatters
Guest Author Bio
MaryLou Wakefield combines her experience in strategic communications planning, marketing and public relations with a creative approach to online and social media communications. She’s written content across multiple platforms for organizations in high tech, health care, education, and the arts. MaryLou has been widely published in local, national and international publications on topics that include education, high tech, public relations, health care, sailing and cooking. She’s an avid explorer of social media as an innovative communications tool and contributes to the online conversation across social media platforms including her blogs STOrythatMatters and Going Solo.
Website / Blog: Encore Communications