We hope that the descriptions of the places we’ve visited have resonated with you. Perhaps they have reminded you of places which are special to you. Such places become important symbols of freedom for each of us.
The evening after the children went back to school, I started reading aloud to them one of my long-standing favourite books, “Ring of Bright Water” by Gavin Maxwell. In his Foreword, Maxwell describes this freedom in these terms: “freedom, whether it be from the prison of over-dense communities and the close confines of human relationships, from the less complex incarceration of office walls and hours, or simply freedom from the prison of adult life and an escape into the forgotten world of childhood, of the individual or the race.”
Maxwell continues: “For I am convinced that man has suffered in his separation from the soil and from the other living creatures of this world; the evolution of his intellect has outrun his needs as an animal, and as yet he must still, for security, look long at some portion of the earth as it was before he tampered with it”.
Here, Gavin Maxwell is articulating far better than I can emotions similar to those we have felt as a family about going to sea for a year. The remoteness and anonymity of many scenes and “places” we visited mid-Atlantic are in fact absolute: they are impossible to track down or to replicate. For Maxwell, a bay and a house in north-west Scotland are his symbols of freedom. The sea and sailing have become ours.
I write this just as we are selling Rafiki. We have willingly returned to our “over-dense communities” and to the “close confines of human relationships” and Rob and I are even looking forward to the “incarceration of office walls and hours”. Are we mad? (But then again, many – at times, even we ourselves – thought we were mad to leave in the first place.) I don’t think we’re mad. In fact, it is precisely because we know that such freedom is attainable that we can feel happy and fulfilled for the time being back in our normal lives. We certainly don’t plan to cast off again for a good decade at least, but relish the thought that, as one bluewater sailing writer has put it, “all you have to do to reach Narnia once more is steer for The Wardrobe” – just head off again into the sunset. Once a bluewater sailor, always a bluewater sailor…
The Narnia analogy seems apt to us. Our sailing life feels like a technicolour dream from which we’ve just woken up. The morning-after freshness and good cheer is still with us. But the sailing we have left behind has a distinct “other world” quality. The balance to strive for is being able to live and function happily in this world, while retaining the vision and invigoration from the other. We hope we’ve got the balance right, as we slip back into our old lives.
Whatever your “symbol of freedom” is – wherever your “Narnia” is (and maybe there are several of them): may you find it and connect with it. Sometimes, it is enough just to know that it is there for you.
Thank you for the wonderful support so many of you have given us and for reading our blog.
Goodbye, or as we would say on the marine radio: