Connecting the Disconnect

A few months ago I had some fleeting doubts about whether the sailing life was still for me. After 10 years did I still enjoy living on a boat, sailing the world? We were stuck in the boatyard doldrums so I knew not to pay such passing worries much attention. However, when the subject popped into my consciousness a second time I made a mental note and filed it away for closer inspection once our situation changed.

As it turns out my initial hunch was right.

After only a few days afloat, although still anchored next door to the yard, I felt a sense of calm settle over me. Not only did our new location provide me with a new perspective on things, it made me look forward to our sailing again. When, after waiting for yet another typhoon to blow through Luzon, we were finally pulling up anchor I felt none of the first trip anxiousness that I usually battle; no tight stomach, no low-grade headache, no sleepless nights.

When we haven’t been open ocean sailing for a while I often spend my first night at sea feeling a little off, not exactly seasick but lethargic and listless. This time I felt great. When I came up on deck for my midnight watch I had a spring in my step and a smile on my face, despite not getting much sleep.

Smooth Sailing towards Busuanga
Finally Sailing!

Midnight watches are always kind of special, but that night it felt almost magical. The moon set in a warm Cheshire grin on the western horizon shortly after Steve went down below, then it was just me, a gentle breeze and a sky full of falling stars. As I do everyday on passage I wrote in my journal under the dim glow of a red head lamp,

“The wind blows through me, carrying away my doubts and filling me with contentment. Connected fully with the elements, present and alert, I am alive. Surrounded by the ocean I feel at home.

It is here, amongst the stars and on the sea, that I can properly measure my self. It is here, reliant on wits and wisdom, that I know my worth. It is here that I am full.”

The wind died the following day and after motoring for 30NM we crept into our anchorage with just enough light to navigate the long, wide inlet and drop anchor as the sunset. (Also, very happy to report that the engine is working smoothly and much improved!)

Calauit Island, Philippines
Calauit Island, Philippines, 12.26 °N, 119.88 °E

It turned out that despite there being a large tower in plain sight there was no cell phone coverage in the area. I didn’t think any such havens stilled existed in today’s modern world, especially in the Philippines where it sometimes feels like there is hardly a place without people. What luck to have stumbled into one on the first trip post boatyard.

We spent a delightful three days “disconnected.”

However, rather than feel like we were out of the loop it felt like we were finally in command of our own loop. We didn’t worry about charging devices or posting photos. I could sit alone with my thoughts, without distractions, without the ever-present itch of social media begging to be scratched.

Sunrise over Calauit Islands
Sunrise over Calauit Island

News travels, even if you don’t have internet. While buying a few bottles of beer at the small local shop we heard that another potential typhoon was heading towards the Philippines. It was time to seek better shelter and get a comprehensive weather update. It was only when we were preparing to head towards “civilization” did I realize how light and easy those few days had felt.

As we neared the next town I watched the hills for another tower, phone in hand. Under the guise of checking weather I logged on, then felt a surge of anxious energy course through me as notifications popped up on the little screen. There were 15 emails, 4 chat messages from family and a hand full of Instagram notices. Hardly anything to get worked up about but when I put my phone down half an hour later I was deflated. Empty again.

I have often said to Steve that it is when we are on land that I feel most unmoored.

Perhaps that is only because it is then that technology plays a bigger part in our everyday lives. I don’t feel more connected when we have internet access, I feel more separated from the real world, that is the world around me, the one I interact with and physically exist in.

A Beach for 2

It turns out that the weather system that was bearing down upon us failed to get organized. Last night there was a marvelous lightening storm, today we are expecting a bit of rain. There is nothing more than 30kts forecast. On Monday we took a van 1 hour to the nearest big town and stocked up on veggies, bought a crate of beer, a dozen eggs, a whole chicken and credit for the phone. We ferried water from shore and now we wait. When the weather clears we’ll head back “out island” in search of clear water, calm seas and a place where we can’t get a cell signal, at least for a few days.

They say you can’t control the wind, but you can reduce your sails so it doesn’t knock you down. Perhaps we’d all be better off if we applied the same adage to technology now and then too.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jim Todd says:

    Nice words Heather, from time to time I have the same struggle, but I always know I’m home when I get offshore again… always good to see you here..

    1. Heather Francis says:

      Thanks Jim. Don’t suppose we will actually see you in an anchorage in Palawan anytime soon?

  2. Em says:

    Wonderfully written (as always). So descriptive and soulful. I can relate the feelings that you expressed so well in
    This post. I am happy that you can find solace afloat.

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