If the sea had been calling me I certainly hadn’t heard it.

Well not until that life turning trip on a friends catamaran.

I answered a call from a very good friend who needed crew, no experience required, for the Vanuatu to Bundaberg leg of their trip.

I would love to do that, I said to my partner of 17 years, but I can’t leave you with everything here.  She said go. So what if the cows starved (it was spring, no chance of that), the dog languished, the cat wouldn’t get the usual attention and the chickens wouldn’t get out every day. I had a permanent tenant in the holiday cottage, so there were no bookings to manage. This was my chance to escape the eternal round of drudgery a small farm creates. The life I used to love until feelings of ill content sat like a cowpat on my psyche.

My daughter had just had a second daughter and my son had twin girls, all whom I loved dearly but I wouldn’t be away that long.

I sent her an email and I waited…

For 40 odd years I had been a country person. I love just about any animal but I’m particularly fond of horses and cows. I had ridden for 30 years until one day I lost my nerve. This was rather irritating because at the one time of my life I could actually afford a decent horse I didn’t want to ride.

I’ve had dogs, cats, horses, cows, bobby calves, orphaned sheep and goats, ducks and chickens, I even had a monkey when I lived in Penang, Malaysia for 2 years back in the dark ages of 1981!

I was a wildlife shelter in Melbourne that took in kangaroo joeys, baby possums and any injured creature found. I was known for taking any little orphan to the ladies tennis on Wednesday, I was also known as the person who enjoyed the lunches more than the tennis.

I renovated a cottage on my property and put it on the holiday market, I continually had a little project underway, and one always needs a project.

But there comes a time in the life of many that what was once a pleasure turns into a chore, that donning multi layers of winter gear and gum boots is no where near as much fun as it used to be. Sourcing hay in years of drought or mixing buckets of milk for calves or cleaning out chook yards stopped giving me a sense of achievement. Bottling fruit, making jams and preserving produce wasn’t much fun anymore. The trouble was that I knew I didn’t want to do that any more but I had no idea what I wanted to do.

I got an email back, yes; you’d be welcome she said but you can’t be on a time line. Never have I booked a flight so fast to a place I had not heard of before. Espiritu Santo, the adventure had begun!

It was the best thing I have ever done, it was the only thing I had ever done just for me.

Those 28 days were filled with experiences vastly different from my usual life.

Until we left Luganville I was just a tourist on a friends boat, it was a different story from the day we sailed away from Espiritu Santo.

It was rough and although I wasn’t terrified I wasn’t having much fun either. I heard my friend ask her husband should they turn round, he said it would be worse if they did. I thought if they turn around I will get a plane home.

There was no turning back and no plane home, but there was an awakening of something I hadn’t felt before. A slowing down of the mind occurred, it was almost a forced meditation that over the days became normal. The endless blue horizon was hypnotic but there was also talk and laughter and silence and camaraderie.

 It was a paring back of everything that is crowded into our connected lives, a time to reflect on what we really needed not wanted.

The loose routine of life on a passage was a gift of time and silence, of reflection and isolation and of becoming reacquainted with myself.

Let’s go Shelley, we can do this!

Where it all started. A parting word to my friends on SV Cruising Kitty after the crossing from Vanuatu to Bundaberg. October 2017.

My heart is heavy as I stow my mainsail in the sail bag, furl the genoa, not even leaving a handkerchief overnight.
I pull up my anchor, not a plough variety, I hoist my overboard duffel with its very heavy cotton sheet, which would possibly make a good asymmetrical spinnaker, onto the finger of the marina, my sailing adventure over, 24 nights of fun gone…back to my other world, where wind is true, not apparent, north is north not magnetic, no halyards or sheets, no knots or waypoints and no met Bob or predict wind.
Where dragging only refers to my feet as I head off.

Jill de Vos October 2017