Fixing a boom breaker line that had parted during a storm in the Norwegian Sean
Entering UK territorial waters bought a comfort similar to a favourite blanket – even the place names on the Shetland Islands conjured a soothing familiarity – Sullom Voe, Muckle Flugga, Lerwick. No more grappling with unpronounceable Russian or tongue-twisting Norwegian (even though some of the names in the Hebrides may have Viking origins). I am past the Shetlands
now, south of them that is and past Fair Isle. The Orkneys are on my right, below the horizon. I am closer to London than some northern UK dwellers. That kind of abstract thought raises morale not that morale needs too much feeding with the third day of following winds which are set to continue driving me south at a good lick.
Last night I spoke to the coastguard on the Shetlands. I needed sleep – could they tell me what shipping was in the area? I’d spotted three trawlers and two ships during the day. Not every vessel showed up on Radar they said – I stayed awake through the night. It was a good time to think. My thoughts and feelings are changing, morphing as the end nears. I sail the boat, attend to routine maintenance but my mind is more occupied with the sensation of change. A hugely important chapter in my life is drawing towards its end and with it comes a peculiar juxtaposition – a rising euphoria set against the ebb of impending loss. The euphoria is easy to understand, the loss less so. Perhaps it’s the ending of this profound experience that I have shared with Barrabas or the ending of that special relationship which can only ever be manifested out on the open sea. Sir
Francis Chichester apparently hated Gipsy Moth IV. Perhaps. It’s difficult to know how a boat which has carried a man around the earth cannot then own a part of his essence, for that ownership to be willingly handed over with a dollop of love and gratitude. I wonder how Chichester or indeed Sir Robin Knox-Johnston or Sir Chay Blyth or the grandfather of single-handed circumnavigations Joshua Slocum felt as they approached home, only days away from stepping ashore? Similar feelings I suspect, a kaleidoscope of competing emotion. These men and others were true pioneers, stepping into what was then the unknown in terms of human isolation and endurance. Today there is inevitably less opportunity for such discovery but Barrabas has carved her own unique track around the world. Perhaps that is where my sense of loss originates, in stopping doing what no-one else has ever done before.