With Covid and other life events taking their toll Rory Hunter, an Australian living in Hong Kong, chose a unique way to socially isolate and heal: a solo boat journey home. Along the way he recorded his experiences in a blog called Seeking Solitude, from which this entry is taken.
I’ve been able to have a restful day getting in a couple of naps to rebuild my strength from the previous few days. The islands of Yap, Palau and various atolls are all within sailing distance so pose somewhat of a navigational challenge. These islands mark the halfway point in this open ocean stage of the Pacific, so it’s a great milestone and one I’m very happy to achieve after the recent challenges. There’s a very long way to go though, and I’m still not at the halfway for the entire journey, which gives me a reality check and forces me to focus on the tasks ahead.
Its 2pm and off in the distance I see land for the first time in fourteen days. It’s Ulithi atoll and I’ve sailed further south than the rhumb-line just so I can take a look. I smile from ear-to-ear upon its sight and shout in joy. I’m surprised at how happy it makes me, the sight of land. I’ve dreamed of exploring atolls like this, having the place entirely to oneself and spending days under water on the untouched reefs—swimming, diving, fishing and surfing—enjoying the safety of the waters and the beautiful colours and marine life. I wonder if I should stop, just for a night?
I think I see another boat in the distance and wonder if the occupants would like some company over dinner? I’d certainly love some human contact. Maybe they even have cold beer! I bet they’d have some good stories to share and I’d love the conversation and interaction. I fanaticise about seeing some people, talking and laughing together for about an hour, but as we get closer I see that it’s a wreck and my dreams need to be put on hold. There’ll be plenty of time for that type of sailing in the future. For now, I need to focus on the task at hand, getting to Pioneer Channel and out of the northern latitudes.
Life is always greatest at the margins. I see lots of birds and sea life with fish jumping all around. I throw out my line and get a strike almost straight away. I didn’t hook it properly though, so it’s gone after a few minutes. I don’t have to wait long before the next strike. It’s a decent sized Dorado and after 20 minutes I get him close enough to the boat that I can see the bright yellows and greens of its skin. Just at the last moment the hook pops out and I see him swim away gracefully. I have plenty of food, so I thank him for the fight and try again. I get one more strike before nightfall but can’t seem to hook this one either, so I cook up various root vegetables and make a delicious hash while dreaming about the one (or three) that got away.
Moonrise is a blood orange tonight, as it slowly appears over the horizon, framed by dark clouds with even a palm tree silhouetted in the foreground, and it more than makes up for missing it the night before.
I think about all the change that has taken place in the world these past few months, much of which will impact an entire generation. Our great depression, the hundreds of millions of people who have lost jobs, the millions of businesses that have shutdown, many never to reopen. I count myself amongst the lucky ones. I wonder what’s happening back in the ‘world’. At least for a minute, then remind myself that ignorance is bliss and to enjoy this unique moment of solitary detachment.
In many ways today was just what I needed. I got some much-needed rest and a solid (and surprising) morale boost from seeing land for the first time in two weeks. I ended the day happy and in good spirits. Dumb luck wins again.