We’ve arrived in Sointula, and decision time is fast approaching with a lot at stake. I think I will sail down the west coast of the Island solo. The trip up north to Haida Gwaii at 5 weeks long, and seems too much for me as my first long solo sail.
I know that many people sail for very long periods by themselves – some even around the world – but that’s not me. As a dream it seems remarkable; as a reality it sounds very difficult. It feels like I’ve hit a personal limit, but of course my beliefs on this could dramatically change by the time I reach Victoria, which will take anywhere from ten days to two weeks. That will be the longest I’ve been alone.
I’ve done lots of solo road trips before, but sailing is different, sailing is very isolating. On the road you stop for coffee, pass through towns, fuel up on red bull and gas. You see people all the time and can share a few words with them. You are only as alone as you wish to be.
This time it will be very different; until I reach Tofino there is nothing but wilderness. Sure there are a couple out-of-the-way First Nations communities, but as they are located up deep inlets I won’t be dropping by unless I have to. There are no phones, cell phones or Internet.
At the end of the journey I will know if there’s any future left in this. Unlike many people who cruise the inside waters, I don’t go to places like the Gulf Islands or Desolation Sound to “get away” from it all. I want it “all” to be wherever I’m at. Sailing for me is primarily a slow and thoughtful way to journey and explore. I’m much less fond of daysailing and travelling to places I’ve been to before; I want to be chasing the unknown horizon.
But as this year has revealed I can’t count on others being able to shake off their structured lives to join me, and I won’t do this with Tracy. She has been a trooper on this trip, better than past cruises, but having her aboard is just too stressful on long cruises. And if I’m not willing to go the distance alone, this is as far as I get as a sailor. I’ve reached the end of my cruising grounds and the end of a dream.
If that’s the case we’ll put Fainleog back on the market when I get back to Victoria. If it turns out I love solo voyaging on the open ocean, then I’ll see how I can make it work.
I have to confess I feel anxious about sailing down the coast alone. I’m not sure what that’s about; I have full confidence in my skills as a sailor and trust in my boat to get me there. I guess it’s mostly an existential fear of being alone – totally isolated – for so long. This surprises me in that going on my own path is something I’ve been doing all my life. With very few exceptions I’ve learned not to count on others and this summer is a good example why not.
I’m conflicted in this because I’ve recently come to understand the importance of people in our lives, that independence can just be another face of fear of others not being there when you really need them. But there’s a danger in taking that lesson to extremes: once you know how important it is to count on others, they bloody well have to be there for you when you need them, which of course isn’t fair.
Still, it is difficult to be left in the lurch like this; the fact that friends and family won’t consider joining me now, or follow through with previous commitments reinforces my belief that I can’t count on others. In my early years I experienced a lot of neglect, and I developed self-sufficiency as a defence against the hurt of needing others. Finding myself on the threshold of being alone, that hurt is triggered: once again I asked for help and no one came.
Of course that’s too simple, and is the immature view of the wounded self.
I have to soothe that hurt with the knowledge that everyone has limitations, both internal and external. Where do you reasonably draw the line at expectation? Some think that expectation itself is the problem, and that peace comes when we accept others for the gifts they have to offer and ask no more. But what about the learning that we need others and the futility of going it alone? The last work I did on my van almost killed me, and it happened because I refused to clearly and strongly make my needs met.
I suppose you reach out to others and they give what they can; sometimes they will meet your needs and other times they won’t; there will be occasions when you’ll still need to find the internal resources to push through on your own. While we might crave the assurance that those we love and care about will always be there for us when we need them, the fallibility of being human means that won’t always be the case. As always, shades of grey in world that we wish was a more predictable black and white.
Aside from the above, part of me is looking forward to this test; it could potentially open a lot of doors for me. It would be easier to go with others but I’ll learn more going alone. As always, the more difficult path has more to offer.