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Alone

October 9, 2011

Day 11

Local Noon Position (1128):
By GPS: 01.47.68N by 145.19.33W
By Sextant: 01.49.1N by 145.17.0W

Course: 20 degrees true
Speed: 5.5 knots
Wind: 10 SE
Sea: 2 – 4 ESE
Sky: 40% occluded. Consistent light to moderate cumulus. Not nearly organized enough to be wet. Bar: 1012
Temp: 78 degrees

MILES
Since last noon: 119
Total for passage: 1163
Daily Average: 116

DAY SUMMARY
Wind accelerated last night around 0130 to 12 knots ESE and was a steady 15-16 knots by 0230. Lots of sail adjusting required and I slept little; for some reason I wasn’t sleepy anyway. By noon winds began to slacken to 10 knots and back into the SE, but have been 12-13 all afternoon. The Southern Equatorial Current is largely behind us; total current against us last 24 hours as 1/3rd of a knot. Wind is abeam and flowing into a one-reef jib; full main and mizzen. Visitors today: one large boobie, white belly and back, mottled brown wings and head, powder blue beak–immature brown boobie? Almost dove on our fishing lure. I ate the last cabbage last night. It was furry–I threw most of it away. (Note to self: French Polynesian cabbages are too delicate for sea.) One more meal of potatoes remains, but other than fruits and onions, which we have in quantity, that’s it on the fresh foods.

ALONE

I have been reflecting upon a remark I made in an earlier post, i.e. “one gets used to being alone”, and would like permission to amplify it this morning along the following lines: it is interesting to consider the vastness of the Pacific and the isolation this vastness imposes on the singlehander, and it is interesting to consider how little I’ve consider it.

I haven’t thought about it at all.

The first two days of twenty knots on the nose, queasy stomach, leaky boat to one side, I’m having a ball. Sailing the Pacific is like gliding atop a shimmering liquid sapphire whose white caps are her pearls and flying fish, sprays of diamonds. Every day skies are deep blues above that fall to a light eggshell at the horizon. Clouds come and go but never dominate. Winds are often light and not entirely in our favor, but refreshing and consistent. The moon is waxing. I am learning to navigate. The hook occasionally brings up a fish of such magical color, one hates to break out the knife. At this moment, everything is excellent.

But how can one experience such satisfaction in isolation?

Beyond Murre and myself, I can count on the first few digits of one hand the signs I’ve had on this passage that a thing called “humanity” exists:

1. The ship from several nights ago.

2. The fishing buoys from two days ago (so unexpected they frightened me).

3. Satellites I see passing overhead at night.

That’s it.

All else is nothing but water and sky and wind.

Compare this to your own situation. Likely you drive a car to work or drive the kids to school, you work with people, your occupation provides a service that humans (as opposed to ants or Martians) value, you socialize on the weekends, go to restaurants or movies or concerts or baseball games. Signs of humanity–freeways, sidewalks, houses, billboards, televisions, airports, trash–are so commonplace they are the thing. We live in environments of our own devising because we like it that way. We like us. Even the recluse usually lives in a city. After all, who wants to be alone by himself?

Which raises the obvious question: what is it to be alone?

Ironically, I tend to feel most alone at a party. Usually I **am** alone at a party, my wife having gone off to be with people who can carry on a conversation in public beyond the preliminary greetings and a nod. And with equal irony, I must say I don’t feel alone here, a thousand miles (roughly the distance from Los Angeles to Dallas) away from the nearest other human.

I am edging toward a terrible conceit: that I am some kind of nature-child who thinks that whales are his ancestors and that he could communicate with dolphins if only they would hold still long enough. This is crap and not what I mean. The ocean doesn’t know me from Adam, and if I’m stupid enough to put myself in the way of one of her hurricanes, she’ll wipe me out without a second thought. Without a first thought, even. The ocean is not a being, though she is beautiful.

When Rilke said, “You are lonely my friend because you are alone,” he wasn’t suggesting his young pupil dash off and join a social club. He was stating a simple fact simply. Humans are discrete physical units. It doesn’t matter how many people are at your death bed, when you exhale that last time, it’s just you. But I think he was also saying, “and get over it already!” Aloneness is part of the human condition, and once you snuggle up to it, it’s not all that bad. Actually, it can be quite enjoyable.

So, here I am edging toward another conceit: that I am somehow a more enlightened being than you because I can enjoy being alone out in the middle of aqueous nowhere, that I am the next Bernard Moitessier, the next Monk of the Ocean, Ram Dass of the Sea, that these daily articles will devolve into Randall’s Inspirational Readings. No, I don’t mean that either. In fact, I’m surprised. One expects adventure on his adventure–excitement and fear, some pain and discomfort. One does not expect contentment–that usually comes after.

Maybe I don’t feel lonely or think of myself as alone because I have a boat that insulates me from oblivion and houses many of my favorite things. I have books to read (though I don’t) and activities to keep the day occupied. Maybe most importantly, I have this computer, which connects me daily to the “outside” (that word strains under this load) world. I may be physically isolated, but I have sidestepped the psychological impact. You might suggest that sweet weather and email have allowed me to deny the obvious. Subtract those two and see how I feel.

Fair enough. There is plenty of ocean between me and my goal. It’s just day eleven of what could be a month of northing. Anything could happen.

Still, I am likely one of the more aloner people you know right now, and when I wake in the morning and look out on the blue upon blue that is my world, I think it’s just grand.

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One Comment
  1. Evon Reeves permalink
    October 9, 2011 7:37 pm

    Randy boy, I think some of your feeling of satisfaction is attributed to the fact that you have people…People who love you… When you entered our home you became Randy boy. When Lavonna arrived she was sis. Dad and I were honored to love both of you and welcome you into life… And yes, as you say the e-mail connection to your people is paramount. And being able to express your feelings through your computer is all good. Our hearts are with you even out on that big ocean by yourself??? Love Mom and Dad

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