A great leap into a life af loat
Sat in our woods with Cornwall at its best, the sun lights up the steam of my morning coffee and eases the night along its way. The birdsong, something we’ve missed, is a riot of love, alarm and hunger amid the relentless growth of spring. This verdant world is the perfect place to reflect on the last seven months of blue that the good ship Pearl has forged, all 7,600 miles of it double-handed.
To get here, we have taken the long way around the world on that modern vessel known as a jumbo jet. Andy, my youngest brother, was married in Sydney and it was poignant, as it has taken 50 years for the planets to align and reveal the love of his life. It’s amazing that the first of the planets lined up in 1854 when seven Cornishmen sailed a 37ft fishing lugger to Australia. They were the inspiration for our recreation of that extraordinary voyage. Andy remained down under, fell in love and the rest is history.
It isn’t long since Tracey, when asked if she sailed, would laugh and say that ‘nothing goes to windward like a 747’. Yet here was Tracey at 36,000ft, looking at the Pacific with the longing of a free spirit, a spirit that has found its wings at sea. Seven months ago, on a wet and windy December morning, we took a leap of faith and set sail on a dream to explore the world’s oceans. Tracey’s was the greater leap for up to that point, she had only done two night sails.
When asked about the trip, it’s hard to know where to start. ‘Brilliant’ just doesn’t do it justice. One of the strange things to get used to is that it’s not over
– this is our life now. We’re in Cornwall, but only to catch up with friends and family. This is a break from sailing and it’s nice to have the distance to reflect on what has been.
We have had so much fun while myriad experiences have tempered us into a tight, self-reliant team. I remember kneeling on the foredeck in the darkest of nights with the spinnaker up, wild surges tumbling phosphorescent water about my knees and the wind rising at an alarming rate while the log registered 17 knots. I had to haul the snuffer down but the power was too great. I shouted, ‘Ease the red one!’ into the maelstrom… The reply, ‘They’re all the same bloody colour in the dark’ had us in fits of giggles. ‘Well turn the bloody lights on.’ ‘Where’s the bloody switch?’ But we got the job done and our sides ached in the morning, mostly from laughing.
Tracey has had a new language to learn. ‘Ease the headsail.’ ‘Which is that one?’ ‘The one at the front.’ ‘I thought you said that was the foresail.’ ‘It is.’ ‘Well make your mind up.’ And I did. Trouble is, next time I’m on the foredeck, I can’t remember which one I chose so the foresail-headsail gets eased. A few months later and Tracey is throwing ‘foresail’ and ‘headsail’ about as if she was born on a boat.
All it takes is a bit of time, patience and experience.
It’s unfair to ask what the best bit was but if pushed, we have a range of favourite moments. Dawn in the middle of the Atlantic. A tropical sunset with sundowners and tunes in the cockpit. Being adopted by a minke whale. A rocket launch as we round Cape Canaveral where you could feel as much as hear the tearing power. The extraordinary people we have met. The Bahamas, where the water is so clear that it’s as if the boat is levitating. The kids joining us for a holiday of a lifetime. Our daughter drawing Tracey aside to say that she now understands what we are doing and why: ‘Proud of you, Mum.’
We don’t have to wake up from this dream and we can’t wait to get back to Chesapeake and our continuing adventure.
The red rope? They’re all the bloody same in the dark!