A Tough Act to Follow
A Tough Act to Follow
Over the years, on countless occasions, I've talked to sailors returning from a long cruise who've insisted that the hardest part of an extended voyage is finishing it and coming home. In fact, I'd heard it so many times that it almost became a cliché. I mean, how difficult could it be? Wouldn't an extended period "away from the world" while enjoying the ocean, the islands, and fellow cruisers be a stimulating, engaging, and even inspiring experience? How could you not return refreshed and invigorated?
Well, a few weeks ago, my mates aboard the 64-foot cutter Ocean Watch and I sailed back into Seattle after a 13-month, 27,500-nautical-mile circumnavigation of North America and South America (www.aroundtheamericas.org), and the answers to my queries became instantly and painfully apparent. A once-in-a-lifetime voyaging adventure, I now realize, is an extremely tough act to follow. And it's not just me. From the phone calls and emails I've exchanged with my fellow crewmates, it's clear I'm not the only one having a hard time readjusting to the pace-and minutiae-of everyday life.
Traffic jams. Gas bills. Auto repairs. And let's not forget the nightly news and the endless noise of TV pundits babbling and shouting and accusing. Once you're under way, it's amazing how quickly the chores and aggravations of modern existence fade from memory. And as soon as you're back, the sheer volume and inconvenience of all those tasks you once took for granted are equally startling. As you try to settle into some semblance of a daily routine, it seems that one thing after another crops up to destroy the rhythm. Did all this stuff always take so much time?
In my case, perhaps appropriately enough, the Around the Americas expedition really started on April 1, 2009-yes, April Fool's Day; feel free to insert your own joke here. On a chilled Rhode Island morning, I drove my pickup over the Newport bridge bound for the U.S. West Coast and the beginning of the voyage. That day, I vowed that I wouldn't consider the adventure complete until I steered my truck back down the bridge and into town.
I'm not quite there yet.
Once we'd tied up in Seattle, I flew home to take care of some business and soon realized the "clichés" I once scoffed at were actually quite accurate. My hedges needed trimming. The house required some repairs. The bills were piled sky-high. Help!
Luckily, the Silverado was still in Seattle, so after a couple of weeks of basically wandering around in a haze, I scooped up my 12-year-old daughter, Maggie, and flew west. After one last visit to Ocean Watch, we loaded the truck and headed east on the North Cascade Highway and into the solitude of the mountains. I started to breathe normally again.
Of course, I realize now that this is a temporary respite, but the days on the road, the company of my kid, and the grand vistas we're soaking in are providing a nice period of decompression before Real Life really kicks in again. For anyone contemplating a getaway voyage, I'd heartily recommend adding a similar break to the itinerary.
But beware, fellow sailors, especially those on the cusp of a cruise that you've long been awaiting and planning for. What those who've sailed before us have to say is very true. The easy part of the whole endeavor just might be taking off.