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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Being connected

16:30 UTC 18/11/07 19'46N 024'29W Wind S1

A mere ten years ago, you would not be reading anything like this. We are all familiar with how much our world has changed with regard to communications, yet the implications rarely generate more than a passing thought.

I am writing this on a very advanced, rugged computer that cost less than three hundred pounds. I connect it to a radio that bounces signals off the ionosphere to a ground station in Belgium, who relay that to a computer somewhere that turns it into an entry on our weblog. I pay nothing for the weblog, and just two hundred and fifty dollars a year for the radio connection. By virtue of your internet connection, probably a broadband one, you can read this and the rest of our collected facts, figures and thoughts at your leisure.

If I were to write a book, and maybe I will, reading about our travels would require a commitment and a dedication that is made difficult by many modern lifestyles. The purchase of a book is a careful, deliberate step even if it is done in the literary mecca that is the Luton Airport WH Smiths. Entering into a relationship with a book demands that you set aside time and distance away from others in your household and find more than five sleepy minutes to cover a few pages before bedtime. The web allows us to break our attention and interest into ever smaller chunks, a snippet here and a fact there. You are, perhaps, following our journey almost in real time and I find myself reporting on that basis too, more like news journalism than travel writing. It's not a bad thing, just a different thing.

Not many years ago, even within my lifetime, travellers of all ilk could depart their home port and not be heard of for weeks or even months before a telegram or an extortionate phone call home. Arrived safe Antigua Stop Will meet plane St Johns Stop Bring marmite Stop. I wonder about the effect of that on those left behind. Yachtsman's wives, left at home, would have no reason to suspect any problem until their husbands were long overdue in port, but I am certain that most would continue to spend dark hours trying to dispel unpleasant thoughts of disaster until contact was made again. Many a classic cruising adventure has arisen because a partner prefers being out there with the other to staying at home worrying; they usually prove themselves more than a match for their other half.

Yet our daily communication does not dispel these fears, it can even heighten them. When I miss a report through technical difficulties, poor radio reception or sheer thoughtless forgetfulness, it raises the old concerns and fears that lie so close to the surface and have to be pushed back again with cool rationale. In a world where so little seems unknown and Google can answer any question, no news is rarely seen as good news. Of course, vast amounts are unknown; the daily lives of billions of people pass without reportage or comment, as may the hideous actions of many odious governments. So familiarity - with the position and actions of this yacht and her crew - breeds what?

I am flattered that so many people read these entries, pleased that you take a few minutes of your day to see where we are. I'm even more flattered if you've got this far into this article, that has taken real dedication, thanks. So I ask myself why do I write them, why did I set up such an elaborate website, and why do so many travellers do the same?

There is certainly an element of responding to demand. From the outset, telling people of our plans has opened up a rich vein of conversation and interest that has persisted and developed as our departure drew nearer. This site is a wonderfully accessible way to share our news, and to keep in touch with all those friends we care so much about around the globe. It has also been a two way street. No plan leaps into consciousness fully formed (unless you believe that J.K.Rowling really had all seven Harry Potter books worked out on a single train journey). For us, talking about our plans has shaped our thinking from the start, morphing and changing our ideas with so many questions. This trip is the product of those conversations, and of the conversations that never happened, the ones I imagine as I write and I use to form the thoughts and ideas.

There must also be an element of the showman, the self-publicist, the 'hey look at me'. Why else would I have taken the trouble to wrap the site in a carefully conceived graphic design, and include many pages of background information. Comparing sailor's websites is instructive. There are many who have no such thing, they are quietly out there, 'living the dream' and few people know it. Yet these are often those who have 'dropped out', withdrawn from a world that they have a poor opinion of and set sail for somewhere else they hope to like more. Many more run the basic blog, a diary of places visited, things seen and done, a communication with friends and family back home and a sensible way of augmenting the occasional postcard with something more immediate and relevant. A few, like me, expand beyond and it is there that you are more likely to find the musings and wider thoughts, sometimes instructive and illuminating, other times self-indulgent and trite. You must be the judge on this one. What is for sure is that I spend a lot of time and effort doing this, my own little broadcast to the world. It may be an advertisement in the traditional sense (need some web design? drop us an email) but is also the continuation of many years trying to overcome the school-yard voices that say 'you're not that good really, you'll see'. I don't want to prove anything anymore, I'm fairly sure of that but old habits die hard and those voices resonate down the years and are only now starting to die away and let me be quiet without hearing them whisper in the night.

So our continued connectedness, out here in a calm and placid mid-atlantic, arises from a complex combination of technological, social and psychological effects. It also raises interesting questions about the effect of being 'always on' back in the 'real world', which is where I thought I was going with this article. However, the realities of our connection are defeating me; I can only send so many characters at any one time, and I feel I must do so soon or our daily report will be missing with all the aforementioned consequences for those left waiting on the distant shore.

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Blogger yvette vinyard said...

Absolutely bloody marvellous!!! Happy sailing!! Yvette Vinyard, Jasmines mum, year 1, St lukes!
Family all looking happy and healthy! Max still riding his bike while Geza drops off Izzie and tries to recruit more mums for some or other school function!

9:41 pm  
Blogger Talya said...

Hi Nick,

I've been following this ever since Melissa went off to meet you at Ramsgate and left me in charge of her flat. Thank you so much for keeping up the messages, and for this one in particular. I'll keep track of your itinerary and hopefully I'll be able to see you and Ty Dewi in New York when you cruise north in the summer.

1:07 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Request for Dave to get in touch with John, Di, Ken or Beth as soon as reasonably possible.



9:43 am  

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