“It could be worse you could have seasickness”
This was once said to me when I was on a yacht with my sailing club going around the Lizard Headland in Cornwall, UK. At the time we were in a force six with wind over tide and there was some tricky navigation to be done down below. I was first mate and the only member of the six strong crew who did not have seasickness (including the skipper). So it was me going down to the navigation table to check our position and work out our course to steer and tell the others what we needed to do .
It was later on when the wind had died down and I was chatting with one of the crew about my MS symptoms and my mobility impairment that he said the famous words "It could be worse, you could have seasickness"
After laughing out loud with everyone it actually made me think a bit and realize that everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, whether they are able bodied or a person with MS. This has really come back to me in the last few days as I have arrived in Panama and joined the Oceans of Hope circumnavigation of the world. Already after only a couple of days on a boat with six crew with MS and four professional crew, I have seen that everyone has their part to play and has something to offer on our leg from Panama City to The Galapagos Islands, and we haven't even left the Marina!
I was nervous before flying out from the UK with my friend and fellow 'Penguin' Yacht club member Cliff Davies. Despite having sailed quite a lot and passed several qualifications, I know that having the progressive type of MS means that each time I go sailing, I know that I will be more limited physically and have to find a way around things or ask for more help. Then there is being in a confined space with eight people you have never met before, what language will be spoken and why didn't I become fluent in Danish in the two months before joining the yacht ?
Now that I am here a lot of my fears have disappeared after meeting the other five crew members in Panama City before getting on the gorgeous Oceans of Hope Yacht. Pia, Erland and Dorthe or as Cliff myself and Colleen call them collectively 'The Danes'. We have all been out for a meal and beer on our first meet up which was fun and I realized that we were all excited about sailing together but everyone had their fears as well.
Thanks to Erland, we all went on a fabulous boat tour on the Panama Canal the day before we were due to join the boat. What was the first boat that we saw when we got to the locks up stream but 'Oceans of Hope' ! We could not believe it and thanks to our lovely Panamanian Tour Guide we rafted up with OOH in each lock going downstream.
So we got to meet not only our professional crew before our start day but also the previous crew (who were really tanned) after their three week leg and from crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It really was a magical day with a few tears being spilled with the emotion of it all.
So tomorrow we will slip our moorings and set off on our eight day leg to The Galapagos Islands... what lies ahead for us all we wonder. But what I have learned by signing up for Oceans of Hope is 'Feel the fear and do it anyway.'
Report from Bosun Bertram:
Goodbye to Panama and their amazing Canal. We have bunkered fuel, topped off the water tanks, purchased all the vacuum-packed bread they had in the entire capitol and stowed more than 800L of drinking water and sodas in any corner of the boat, and are now ready to embark on our Pacific adventure.
Today we left the dock at La Playita Marina at 13:00, and are now on our way out to these little tropical islands whose names I can't either pronounce or spell - still we will spend the night there at anchor before we take on the first leg of our Pacific Crossing to The Galapagos Islands.
Local time onboard is 14:45 and our current position is 8,41.29N , 79,30.18W.