There is a place in the middle of the North Pacific called Nemo North.
I want to go there.
On a sailboat.
I am not sure when the idea first came to me. The notion of crossing an ocean on a sailboat has both fascinated and terrified me since I was a youngster. As a teenager in Vancouver Canada I occasionally sailed dinghies.
I love the feel of the wind powering up the sails and lifting the boat forward. Then a friend, Doug, bought a 26 foot sloop and had it moored in False Creek, near Vancouver City Center. He taught me how to sail it and would allow me to spend nights on it and take it out on my own. I began to dream of one day living on a sailboat.
I sailed sporadically over the subsequent years. While living in the UK I spent some summers sailing Lasers in the Mediterranean and spent a wonderful week aboard a 40 foot Sun Fizz sailing out of Corfu.
Once we moved to Japan, I gave up on the idea of sailing as the language and the cost seemed to make it impossible. Although, following my wife’s family tradition of spending August at Yamanaka-ko, I discovered the campground had a Laser, which I would rig up and sail to my heart’s content.
Quite frankly though, my grasp of how to sail was very rudimentary. The only point of wind I knew to go was at 45 degrees (Close reach) and my adrenaline would pump as I heeled the speeding laser over, often capsizing it and loving every minute.
I had all but given up having a boat in Japan until early 2018 when I learned of the Tokyo Sail and Power Squadron (TSPS) which offers courses in English to take the Boat License exam which could also be taken in English.
I joined in June 2018, signed up for the first course, wrote the Class 2 exam and passed. Meanwhile I had gotten to know other sailors and crewed a little on their boats.
And then in an instant, late in the year the idea: to sail from Tokyo to Vancouver BY MYSELF!
For years I had many adventures and challenges by bicycle in Japan and elsewhere. My first bicycle adventure was cycling the length of Japan during Cherry Blossom season in 2000. I was in the book writing phase of my life, my British Publisher loved the idea and gave me an advance that paid for and covered the cost of a custom made bike and all of my travel expenses.
That bike trip changed my life, it was transformative and spiritual in texture. While I have had many challenges since including bike rides across the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia, circumnavigating Honshu with my dog by bicycle and more, nothing had matched the Cherry Blossom Ride for capturing my thoughts, soul and focus – until now – and rather than a bike it is a boat.
So Pacific Solo was born. Dreams can be fragile at first so for a few weeks I kept the idea to myself, nursing and nurturing it and asking myself why.
It was during this time of private introspection I realized that what captured me was not the idea of going to Vancouver by boat, rather it was going to the middle of the North Pacific, the furthest point from land – and to be there by myself. And when I questioned myself why, I came up with a number of reasons: see the great pacific garbage for myself, test my endurance, monitor radiation in the waters off Fukushima and more.
But most of all I decided I wanted to experience the “Planet Ocean” rather than “Planet Earth” and go to most remote place within reach.
Borrowing a notion from Immanuel Kant I wanted to experience reverence and awe by considering the expanse above, depths below and the mysteries within. And I want to do this before I die.
So in anticipation of my 64th birthday Party in March of 2019, I prepared to make three announcements in front of gatherings of friends and colleagues.
• It was time for someone else to lead HOPE JP to the next stage of growth.
And so I resigned my role of Japan Executive Director effective 2020. I am pleased to say that we found someone much sooner than we thought and on October 1st, Jeffrey Behr became my successor as Executive Director of HOPE International Development Agency Japan. I remain Asia Pacific Director. HOPE is my life’s calling and I will always be involved www.hope.or.jp
• Return to writing, speaking and consulting.
I launched a thought leadership initiative called Navigate 22, aimed at helping individuals and organizations navigate the maze of complex values and cultural and environmental challenges in setting goals with the 22 Century in mind and in view: www.navigate22.com
• To go to Nemo North before I am 70, by myself, in a sailboat.
Hence, I set the goal to Nemo North by the time I am seventy. I am 64 now and all being well I will leave sometime between 2022 and 2024 with the month of May being my departure window each of those years.
So that is where I am going.
And oh… Nemo North is the name I have chosen for that place. It is simply a set of coordinates of a point in the North Pacific that is furthest from land in any direction.
It also happens to be in the center of the Gomi (Garbage) Vortex which I want document and investigate on behalf of a lab. If you want to know more you can read about it my blog at: www.pacificsolo.com
Four months ago I bought a wonderful 31 year old Blue Water Certified Gib Sea 402 (40 ft French boat) named Wahine and am now preparing her and myself for our voyage.
Already there have been many mishaps and misadventures including my gear box going one day in August after a training day out in Tokyo Bay. I had to reverse into the Marina.
Then once that was repaired my propeller fell off and at present I am waiting to have new propeller made. I am living on the boat half time splitting my time in Nagoya (Seto) in our log house and in Tokyo Bay aboard the boat.
I am not a wealthy man and could not do this without the help of my Keel Club Members: betterU/Harry Hill, Tokyo Super Cars, Westlund Group, GDI Communications/James Hedden, Hekabio/Rob Claar, Jim Weisser and Mike Alfant. I am also very grateful for fellow Nagoyites Bruce McCaughan and Ryan Seale for supporting me with procuring the url: www.pacificsolo.com, and helping me get the story out.
I am well aware that the challenge I have set myself is daunting in so many ways. I have much to prepare for and learn. I have competencies to acquire and I need to attain and maintain the physical strength and agility needed to get about the boat and the mental fortitude to go solo.
“It is out there at sea, you are really yourself”, said Vito Dumas who wrote Alone in the Roaring Forties. To be frank, that is the most frightening aspect of this anticipated journey. Being alone with myself!
I am also aware that this is one of the most selfish things I have done. While I have the support of my family, particularly Kande who is remarkably supportive of my dream, I am going to cause worry for the 2-3 months I will be alone in the Pacific.
We are surrounded by a clan and community connected by blood and by spirit that puts the wind in my sail, ballast in the keel and a bearing that keeps me true. And at the forefront of my thoughts and pondering as I make the voyage will be my grandson and his generation and the legacy I and others of my generation will leave.
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