Beau October 18th, 2009
I believe that if we are truly fortunate and determined, we can experience moments within our lives that are transformational. That we may create opportunities to experience and encounter amazing things… life-changing things, and to lift ourselves up in ways that we’ve only previously imagined. It doesn’t have to be an epic journey, or a singular event. It might be the experience of helping another person truly in need, or sharing the life of a new-born child that might never have come before. Maybe it’s a personal spiritual event that only the individual will ever really know about.
And yet maybe it is indeed an epic journey. For Jessica Watson, today begins an incredible journey that most of us can hardly imagine. At just 16 years old, Jessica is attempting to become the youngest person to ever sail non-stop around the world. She left Syndey Harbour in Australia this morning, beginning what may be an eight month journey… by herself. Can you imagine?
It’s a dream I’ve always had, and yet with nearly five decades behind me I doubt I will experience that dream in my lifetime. I’ve seen the tumult of the seas first hand, but from a far different perspective. Some of which included standing on the deck of a thousand foot long aircraft carrier, watching enormous waves pitch such a ship around, sometimes breaking over the bow more than 60 feet from the ocean’s surface. I’ve flown off such a pitching home, and landed on the same. I remember the ship pitching and rolling so precipitously at times that the enormous propellors, taller than a house, were lifted nearly all out of the waves for brief moments. I’ve watched the smaller frigates and cruisers far astern being tossed like toothpicks (as I merely rolled around on the carrier), and marvelled at the power of nature. I’ve seen Cape Horn and waves that looked like mountains rip catwalks and lifeboats off the side of the ship. I’ve seen storms in the North Pacific toss aircraft over the side. I’ve launched off the bow in an approaching typhoon, riding hell bent toward the waves as the ship pitched up just in time and my craft went airborne. So much more, and yet it’s all so beautiful too.
I remember watching the sun set while waiting to launch off the deck, only to see it rise briefly as I climbed thousands of feet into the sky, and then watching it set once again on the same day. All those years I looked below at the world’s oceans, thousands of miles from anywhere else. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place at times. And a lonely place. I remember flying alone in my small fighter from Iwo Jima toward Tokyo just after sunset one evening. Everything was cloaked in a glowing gray and white, incredibly beautiful to see, and spanning nearly the entire 600 miles of ocean between was another typhoon far below. I looked down from around 39,000 feet at the swirls of white clouds, and traveled over the eye of that storm marveling at the energy of wind and waves that must be taking place so far below on the ocean’s surface.
Perhaps it’s because of what I have, or more importantly- what I have not experienced, that I find her journey all the more amazing. Jessica and her supporters have prepared for this journey for a long time now, and she is an accomplished sailor. Yet the strength and courage that such a journey must take is staggering to me to consider. In an age of digital communications, and where news travels literally at the speed of light, we may too easily take for granted her age or journeys such as this. No matter the technology she may have on board, nothing can change the fact that a young woman, alone, is sailing around the world in a sailboat. She is facing the seas alone, and I pray she will be successful on her long journey. Fair winds Jessica! And following seas where you most need them!
You can read updates about Jessica’s journey at her blog, Youngest Round.