During the voyage itself I was occasionally aware that the end of the voyage would present me with a whole new set of problems. What I failed to consider was that aftermath problems are psychologically quite different from preparation or execution problems because you don't have the motivation that the prospect or the reality of the actually sailing provide.
I mentioned in some of my later posts that I was puzzled, even dismayed, at the prospect of life without the circumnavigation dream. Sure enough, it has been very difficult. It does not seem possible at all for me to get back into a nine to five role. Even if I could face the idea, the job market, as we all know, has not been receptive to anyone, least of all aging and marginal types like myself. I did consider continued voyaging and took a few steps in that direction, but the passion is just no longer there. The boat and I are 5 years older than when I started this project in earnest and the financial picture is not promising (although I am aware that the financial piece often works out when the passion is present.)
So if I am not a voyager and not a salaryman, what am I? In considering this issue over the last year I often have returned to a memory from my hitchhiking tour of the South Island of New Zealand. I met a couple whose life consisted of traveling the world (the dryer parts) by bicycle. I remember thinking that this might be the life for me. I don't know whether I will end up in full-time bicycle nomadism, but I have been taking steps lately to find out where this idea might lead.
I don't have a house or a car to get rid of, but there is the boat. In some ways I'd like to hold on to her, but it seems wiser and more feasible to let her go. So Blue Stocking is for sale. I'll have to spend the next few months getting her ready for the market. In the meantime, by the way, I'll be quite vulnerable to low-ball offers: I'd like nothing better than to facilitate someone else's grandiose dreams while getting out of a lot of the hard work involved in catching up with deferred maintenance from the voyage. My email address is ketchbs at gmail if you want to get in touch about this or just leave a comment on the blog (I would keep comments of this nature hidden of course.) I don't have pictures or a listing sheet yet, but maybe in a couple of weeks. I'm not that crazy about letting the old girl go, so procrastination is admittedly an issue. But I generally get things done eventually.
The first two thirds of the trip from Bermuda were easy and fun. Getting across the Gulf Stream (250 miles wide where we needed to cress) was neither easy nor fun. The forecasts I was getting by radio were dire and frightening. The actual conditions were better than forecast, but still challenging especially with fragile end-of-voyage sails. Basically headwinds sometimes too strong, sometimes too light, and occasionally just right. We kept sailing, but often our course was 60 or more degrees away from the goal. And the forecasts kept being dire and frightening, but the weather kept being a little better than the forecast. I didn't have enough fuel to motorsail as much as I ordinarily would have, because the one reserve tank I had fuel in (30 gallons or so) chose this leg to develop an impossible contamination problem and I discovered about the same time we got the first scary forecast that I did not have that extra fuel. I have 2 reserve tanks, but finances are so tight now that I decided not to put anything in the other one (at $5 a gallon) in Bermuda. Bad decision. But we lucked out and we made it with actually only one day of underway time more than I estimated. (almost exactly 7 days). This voyage was a lot tougher than expected and my boys really rose to the occasion. Maybe they even surprised themselves with their courage and skill.
We came into Woods Hole around 11:30 and there were a dozen or so people there to meet us (including a local reporter). But.....a well informed fellow on shore informed us we had better clear in officially before we actually landed. So we started telephoning (you know how that goes working with the gov't). Turned out we definitely had to go to a clearance port (New Bedford probably--20 miles) by boat and no we could not pick up fuel first--if we were in distress we could call the Coast Guard. I was livid, but the only appropriate option was to do what was required. so we waved and yelled greetings and headed out again. (I wasn't actually quite out of fuel--I had three gallons in jugs which was enough to get there and fuel would be available there. I had taken that out of the main supply when I learned I had no reserve fuel, planning to run the tank dry and save the fuel in jugs for final harbor work, etc. But it was hard to leave, especially for the boys. (Did anyone out there read the Odyssey? Wily Ulysses actually got in sight of Ithaca and beloved Penelope before being cruelly struck back by tempests, not to reach Ithaca again for many moons. This wasn't quite as bad, but analogous, anyway!) While underway to clear customs we finally connected with the actual local office and arranged to meet the officer at a closer and more pleasant port than New Bedford--Marion. It took 5 hours to get there, check in (10 minutes once she arrived) and return to WH and were able to score 5 more gallons of fuel--the fuel dock would not accommodate our 6 feet of draft right then at low tide. But that was ok really because I didn't have much moolah. We got back to the dock at Woods Hole at 6 and many of the same people and a few others were there and there was a very nice celebration with lots of strokes for me and the boys. A bit of a high point. Tearful, actually.
Now that we actually have gotten here and I'm back on my mooring, I feel safe to say I appreciate that the gods have provided me (and my boys) with a final great sailing adventure as a coda to this incredible, now successful, adventure.
There is a long list of things I have worried about (mainly vulnerabilities of the boat, but including pirates and freighters and heart attacks and so on) for many years in connection with this voyage. I am so thankful (who do I thank?) that none of these terrible worries (except catastrophic marital failure) came to pass. Fred says he counted up and BS has covered about 35 thousand miles in these thirty months. The most miraculous aspect of it is that over that time and distance I don't think I even used a box of bandaids. The worst (really the only) injury was Janet's broken rib. The worst illness was my kidney stone.
Right now it looks like BS's bluewater days--and probably mine--are over. It took an endless series of small miracles to get us home from New Zealand, and I'm not going to head out sailing again on that expectation broke and in debt. And that I guess is a little sad. But what a ride we've had! I hope you have enjoyed being along and that you will pay attention to your dreams and let them come true as I have. I cannot begin to tell you how important your--mainly anonymous--readership, interest and support have been to me in this difficult but rewarding time of my life. Do not ever forget that writers have not the slightest value without readers and do not ever minimize the value of that contribution. Another tearful moment. Good bye and thanks.
On June 9, 2009 at 5:10 local time we entered St. George's Harbor on Bermuda. This constituted (technically speaking) the completion of Blue Stocking's circumnavigation since we started west from here in January of '07 and arrived from the east, crossing our wake in the entrance channel of Town Cut. Bermuda welcomed us (as Opua had seen us off) with an intense little thunder shower and I might have stood off for a while if I was totally unfamiliar with the entrance. But I felt confident about my position and orientation even though the visibility was poor and the approach went smoothly.
The entire trip north from St. Martin was smooth and pleasant. We had plenty of wind for the first two thirds--still in the trade wind belt. Around 28 north we entered the Horse Latitudes and the wind (and our daily runs, which had been 140 miles or so) dropped dramatically. The winds were light for the last three days or so, but enough to keep going and our final voyage time was just about seven days for 870 miles.
Fred caught a nice big mackerel on the first day, so we ate royally. I had even sprung for a couple of rib eyes so we continued the great eating through the third day. (The little Koolatron Peltier-effect cooler Fred brought from the US is providing just enough refrigeration--cold, but not ice-cold, beer and confidence-inspiring mayonnaise.)
We'll be hanging here for a week or so and start the last leg--back to Cape Cod--soon after my younger son arrives by air on the 15th.
I have a great sense of satisfaction from completing the circumnav and, especially, from managing to get the boat back home considering the apparent hopelessness of my situation in New Zealand. The not-so-great part is that I no longer have the dream of carrying out a circumnavigation to sustain me spiritually as it did for the last several decades. I was well aware when I set out that I would be left with this void when (or if) I completed the voyage and I've been keeping my mind open to possibililties for the next chapter of my life all along. There have been a few hopeful developments, but I face another set of daunting tasks on arrival home. If the US economy is as bad as I have been hearing, it may not be a simple matter to rebuild my cruising kitty, or perhaps even to hold onto the boat. If any of my readers have advice or suggestions, please feel free to send them along. Thanks to all for your continuing interest and support.