15:15 UTC 13/11/07 25'43N 018'53W Wind NE2
We've been at sea for almost 48 hours now and had the perfect start. Gentle breezes, a calm sea, sunshine of course, and dolphins, oh the dolphins. They've visited us six or seven times, including at night, trailing vivid streams of phosphorescence through the jet black sea.
Yet despite the perfect conditions, the first day is always hard work. Not just the gaining of sea legs and overcoming tiredness, but for me there is the apprehension of the voyage. This one has been years in the planning, the culmination of two years work on the boat, and the key stepping stone to our new life. So departure is a momentous moment.
The most common question in the last couple of weeks has been 'are you excited?' and the answer is still no. Excitement doesn't seem to go with a trip like this. Setting out brings to mind all the doubts, all the 'what if' questions? Many boats are setting out right now, and the ARC (a big transatlantic rally/race) leaves in two weeks. Yet many will say it's too early, the tradewinds aren't established and there could be a late season storm. The capitane at the marina says 'you go now?' in his faltering english and raises an eyebrow at my answer. I struggle to sleep, troubled by thoughts of facing big winds, of mechanical problems, or the other ten disasters I could name and a hundred I haven't yet thought of.
But we've been through this before and made the case for this trip. The boat is strong, the crew is good. We can motor through the light winds, we can forecast, avoid and survive the big ones. The die is cast, we are on our way and what will be will be.
In my restlessness, I analyse my thoughts and why I am thinking them. I realise that I am afraid. Not the adrenaline rush of imminent danger, but a deeper fear that we will be tested and found wanting. It is a necessary fear, without it we would have no respect for the ocean and its dangers, and it is the fear that drives us to prepare carefully and weigh the risks. Nothing worthwhile can be done without risk, but to be without fear is to invite disaster. Now, more than ever, I feel contempt for the 'No Fear' brand and bumper sticker so popular among the teenage drivers of flatulent pimped up cars. No Fear - Know Nothing.
But back to that question - excitement? No, but a deep satisfaction to be here, to have got to this point. A contentment with the choices we have made and the way that we are following through on them. More than anything, a delight and joy to have made these plans as a couple, a family, and for this trip to be not an end in itself, a box to be ticked before returning to the rat race, but a route to a life and experience that we have planned and anticipated together.
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