I spent last night with friends on a small island in Auckland Harbour. Waiheke Island is an alternative, green, beach community of about 10,000 souls. This morning at the weekly market I met a few of them, including author Mark Sommerset. He has written a charming children's book called "Cork On The Ocean".
I picked up one of his COTO bookmarks that seemed particularly appropriate. On it is written a short quote from his book:
"Don't be afraid," murmured the maid.
"Be happy the sea isn't flat,
for what is a high without a low?
Where's the adventure in that?"
This is very much on my mind as I prepare for my series of motivational speeches next week - taking my Atlantic experience and relating it to "real" life in a way that people will find useful, no matter what their challenges. My problem is not finding these "lessons learned" - it is narrowing them down to a one-hour presentation.
The ocean is indeed a wonderful teacher, and I loved the way that Mark's story presents this to a children's audience. His story is about going with the flow and making the best of adversity - useful lessons for readers of any age!
This blog post comes to you from sunny Auckland, New Zealand. I am here to do a series of speaking engagements for AXA Insurance - a demanding schedule of 7 presentations in 7 cities in 5 days. Motivational speaking takes a surprising amount of energy, so it will be an intense week - but it also GIVES me a lot of energy, in that kind of positive energy exchange between speaker and audience, so I am really looking forward to it.
Once the speaking tour is over, I will be taking part in the Lake Taupo Relay on the North Island, then heading south with an English friend, Sinead, to explore the South Island. We've booked to do the Routeburn Track - one of New Zealand's classic walks, through spectacular mountain scenery - which will be a real treat. I'll be posting some photos to my blog - so watch this space!
On a totally unrelated subject, here is some good news for the environment - the stunning success of the Irish tax on plastic bags, which within weeks had led to a reduction of 94 percent in the number of bags being used. Other cities, states and countries are now following suit. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a virtually plastic-bag-free world? Let's hope that one day history will record that plastic shopping bags were an unfortunate but mercifully brief episode in human progress.
Thank you for the marvellous responses to my last blog - about the film project. There have been some very helpful offers of skills and time, and some very welcome donations. Keep 'em coming!
Speaking of films, last night I gave myself a rare treat - I took time out to watch a film. "Deep Water" is the tragic story of Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who decided to compete in the 1968 Golden Globe Round-the-World Yacht Race. Woefully under-prepared, he set out anyway, due to pressure from sponsors and media. His boat started falling apart almost immediately, and would certainly have sunk if he had continued on the race route into the hostile Southern Ocean. But if he abandoned the attempt, he would have to pay back all his sponsorship monies - which would lead to certain financial ruin.
So on the horns of this dilemma - death or bankruptcy - he came up with a cunning plan. He would hang around off the coast of Brazil, fake his race position reports, and then rejoin the competitors as they came past him heading back north up the Atlantic. But his plan started to fall apart when, one by one, the other competitors dropped out and he stood in serious danger of winning - meaning that his faked logbook would be subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny, which it would surely fail - leading to public disgrace and humiliation.
Through his deceit, he had put himself in a terrible situation - compounded by the mental strain of being alone at sea for 8 months. He could see only one way out....
What, you thought I was going to tell you the ending? No way!
You'll have to see the film. But be warned, it is VERY sad, made even more harrowing by the participation of Donald's family. Even after all these years their sense of grief and betrayal is palpable.
For me it was especially interesting to see a throwback to a time when going to sea meant an almost total lack of communication with dry land. When I was on the Atlantic I got some inkling of what they would have gone through, when my satphone failed a month before I reached Antigua. I was abruptly plunged into total isolation, without access to weather information, advice, or my mother.
Strangely, for me, this was the best part of my row. I became much more focused in the present moment, rather than becoming hopeful or despairing depending on the (usually inaccurate) weather forecast. I found a new kind of serenity that had previously eluded me.
But I only had to last a month without comms. Eight months could have been a very different story. It would take a strong mind to stay sane for such a very long period of solitary confinement.
[photo: me with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the winner of the 1968 Golden Globe Round-The-World Yacht Race, who donated his £5000 winner's prize to the Crowhurst family. Picture taken in Hamble, UK, last year.]
Want to see a movie about my Pacific row? Footage of leaping dolphins and swooping seabirds, incredible sunrises and sunsets, storms and scary waves - and no doubt a lot of soul-baring moments to camera? Well, hopefully it will come to pass - if we can get a few $$$ together.
Earlier this week I met again with filmmaker Bill Chayes of Chayes Productions. We have agreed to form a partnership to produce a series of three documentary films about my adventures. Each program will document one of the legs of my trip; California to Hawaii, Hawaii to Tuvalu, Tuvalu to Australia. It will be a non-profit project with these objectives:
- To inspire others to take that leap of faith to set their own goals to reflect their own personality and to begin to take steps to achieve those goals. We will tie my story to those of three "parallel lives" - three people on dry land who are facing their own personal challenges, such as coming to terms with illness or disability, or launching a business, or becoming a parent. I will be in contact with them from the ocean, and will get inspiration from their lives, as hopefully they might get inspiration from mine. We hope to show how we all look for role models to help us overcome obstacles and rise to higher levels of achievement.
-To present the message that the future of the oceans will have a huge impact on the future of humanity. As oceans rise, or lose their capacity to absorb CO2, our cities, health and wellbeing will be affected in ways we can only begin to imagine. Through sending back eyewitness reports as I row across the world's oceans, and taking part in beach clean-ups in each of the staging posts along my route, I hope to create a 'ripple effect' of general awareness leading to responsible ocean stewardship, showing what people can do to help preserve this wild, wondrous, and vitally important environment.
The documentary will be targeted at the educational market, using the connections I have already established with schools that use my ocean adventures to illustrate lessons in geography, science and exercise. Teachers also (scarily!) like to use me as a role model, particularly for the female students.
As well as the education market, we intend that the film will also be screened at film festivals worldwide, and that ultimately there should be a theatre release, capitalizing on the current popularity of adventure films (Into The Wild, Touching The Void etc) and environmental themes (An Inconvenient Truth, The Future of Food, Sharkwater, etc).
Look to this website and blog in the near future for updates about the film project, including fundraising events - featuring me and my boat.
In the meantime, if you want more information and/or want to help us out with a donation specifically for these films - or if you know somebody else who may be keen to participate in this exciting project - please contact Bill Chayes at email@example.com.
[photo: on camera last year, during the Pacific preparations. The camerawoman here is Bebe Flynn.]