As the Golden Arc rolls to its conclusion I wanted to write a few reflections on what has been a long journey for all of us left at home, friends, family and supporters alike.
Will and George incidentally have just landed at the Cat Cay Yacht Club after a terrific 14 hour overnight effort. The Club have kindly welcomed them as guests for the night. I’m sure they will be grateful for the hospitality.
That leaves the final leg to the Florida Coast. The plan is to kick off late tomorrow afternoon and arrive sometime on Boxing Day. They will be aiming for Fort Lauderdale but strong northerly currents could see them land as far north as West Palm Beach, further up the coast. The leg is further complicated by going into much busier shipping lanes than they have so far experienced and stronger winds forecast for the period, gusting up to 23 kts which puts a question mark over the timing. Notwithstanding that, the end is in sight.
When they first dreamt up this enterprise I thought it was mad. I still do. It was though, the least barmy of all their options, one of which was to traverse the East Africa coast in a dug-out canoe. It almost makes the Golden Arc seem sensible. The motto of the old parachute school is ‘Knowledge Dispels Fear,’ and it became apparent to me through the months of preparation and planning by the boys, interspersed with the odd bit of university study, that the expedition was a real runner. The last few weeks were very hectic with kit arriving with almost every postal delivery and a heightened sense of tension and anticipation at home. So just before the expedition start date Will went on a climbing expedition to California for two weeks, (What else would you do?) leaving George to fly to Grenada with all the kit, (I think they parachuted less equipment into Arnhem). So, it began.
Having sat here for 3 months closely monitoring their progress day by day one does of course experience a huge range of emotions. Fear, pride, concern, envy and frustration spring to mind but most of all I’ve felt a deep respect for what they’ve done. The thing that separates expeditions from other activities is the need for self-discipline, endurance and tenacity. That is, the will to get up every morning and do it all over again over a prolonged period. To deal with problems and frustrations with kit, the weather and with local bureaucracy in a practical and unemotional way and to maintain the ability to make level headed and pragmatic decisions. That they’ve done it in good spirit and humour throughout is impressive.
However, the expedition would simply not have been viable without the many kindnesses and warm hospitality on all the islands that Will and George have experienced right from the day they landed in Grenada back in September. That, for us at home, has been heart-warming. Is it because people on the islands have a more visceral connection with the sea and seaman, one that many of us on these islands have lost when once it was a part of our way of life? Perhaps it is something as simple as a deep-rooted willingness in the DNA to help the traveller, to help the Pilgrim on his way. We are all looking forward to hearing more on their return but to anyone reading on the islands may I offer a genuine thank you from us all here.
Monitoring the expedition has not been at all a solitary task. Many others have been drawn in and keep an eye on the ‘blue dots,’ and your warm support has been most welcome. I won't miss it. I'm not sure what practical value I added anyway but it made me feel kind of useful which I guess is half the game! The worst moments were when the Delorme satellite tracker occasionally wouldn't update for an hour or two..... that's when the messages would start coming in, especially in the early days. Stress was somewhat mitigated when Will later explained, 'oh.... the dry bag ripped so I used a sandwich bag. When it was silver foil side up in my pocket it obviously blocked transmissions.' That's ok then......
It is rather an inconvenience that the weather delays in the Dominican Republic mean they won't be back for Christmas. When I mentioned to Will's mother a month ago that I thought it doubtful they would make their flights, if I'd said the house had just burnt down it couldn't have cast a bigger cloud of gloom over the weekend. I take a more utilitarian view of events, the expedition comes first and arriving safely has priority over some festive jollity over a piece of turkey. For those though, who find themselves helplessly drawn into a weepy eyed moment of sentimentality, here's a clip to help you get there. Grab a tissue.
Merry Christmas lads; proud of you both and stay safe.