I went to happy hour this week at the marina bar. Arriving by myself I sat at the only empty chair at the bar and ended up having a couple very interesting conversations.
Sitting on my left was Italian single-hander. We communicated completely in French as he spoke no English and beyond a few culinary terms and wine labels my Italian is nonexistent. Conversation is guaranteed to be lively when neither of the participants are completely proficient in the language they are speaking and they both have a drink in their hands.
On my right was a couple German guys. We chatted in English, which was fairly easy for all of us. They introduced me to a couple Irish guys, both with completely different accents as they were from different cities. One I understood easily, the other had a heavy Irish brogue and a couple beers under his belt and it was a little harder to catch every word he said.
But what what struck me sitting there listening to French, German, Italian, Fijian, a smattering of Spanish and several different dialects of English being spoken was the energy in the air. It is high season now and the majority of the people in the bar had made it to Fiji having sailed from Panama, Mexico or the Caribbean this year. And although I definitely don’t envy their hectic schedules and often their “been there, done that, got the tee shirt, tick it off the bucket list” attitudes, I do miss the excitement of all.
The first time land becomes visible on the horizon after days at sea. The giddiness of visiting a new country and meeting a new culture. The camaraderie that plays out in anchorages as you repeatedly pull up beside the same group of boats. The pride that is felt being so self sufficient and so isolated.
A large number of boats in the marina right now are part of a rally that is sailing around the world in less than two years. They have a set itinerary and deadlines to meet. They have to be at certain places at certain times; no loitering if they like an idyllic anchorage, no change of plans, sometimes no flexibility to postpone departure due to impending weather. The other night I heard repeatedly that crew members were feeling like things were going to fast, they’d stopped in a lot places but didn’t get a chance to experience them. They were surprised to know we’ve been hanging out in the South Pacific for the last four years. But I don’t think any of them were envious when I explained I am living on a boat on the hard…alone.
I am happy that three years ago when we felt like we were moving too fast we slowed down, that we decided to make sailing and experiencing the world our full time goal. We had managed to squirrel away enough that for the first three years we could dedicate our time to sailing. But since realizing that this adventure wasn’t a break from “real life” but was how we actually wanted to fill our lives at the moment, we’ve had to consider how to fund that dream.
So our priorities have shifted and we’ve made some sacrifices and deviated from the “norm” (that would be the sailing norm, we’ve already gone off the normal charts of most people). This year we have accepted that stopping in Fiji, making some money and spending time apart how we are going to make our new life work. For now.
But wanderlust is a funny animal, if you indulge it too much it becomes voracious, a hunger you can almost never satisfy. And if you let it lie dormant for too long it can feel like it is not just hibernating but has stopped breathing all together. I am beginning to worry about the difficulties of waking Kate, and ourselves, from our voyaging slumbers.
So my plan, while all this frenzied energy is in the air is to absorb some of it. To use these conversations as an inspiration to get a few more of those sailing yarns down on the page. And to remind myself to stop worrying so much about how things will work out, because they always do. In retrospect these tribulations, like so many others, will hardly seem worth remembering.
As Steve always says, we have to sail our own race. We’ll get over the finish line when we’re ready, on our own terms and in our own time. All three of us, together.