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Man Films As He Sails Yacht To Hawaii And Back Without A Crew
October 23, 2015
"I don't know really why, but I spent some time below decks. Maybe, I knew it was over. I knew by dawn where we'd be, and that everything would change." So says Christian Williams on his Ericson 32-3 yacht, Thelonious, roughly 6,000 miles into his Pacific Ocean solo sailing journey.
July 1, 2014, was the beginning of an epic solo adventure that lay before California Yacht Club member Christian Williams. After a year's worth of preparation, Williams set sail from Marina Del Ray, California, his sights set on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, some 2,300 miles over the limitless horizon.
Equipped with a GoPro camera, satellite telephone and "too many books," according to his blog, Williams narrates the voyage in the YouTube video below, giving viewers an opportunity to ride alongside the lonely skipper. The concept of being lonely, as it turns out, takes quite a shift as his odyssey evolves.
A few days into the trip and the solitude that comes with having no sailing crew to converse with has started to set in. "Alone is really alone out here," admits Williams. "There's no cell phones, no radio, television, sirens, helicopters, airplanes ... nothing." His only interaction with the outside world is when he posts his position every day at noon using his satellite phone. Williams says he finds himself "kneeling, praying to the satellite gods above the clouds."
The sun comes up on day seven as Williams recalls the struggles of solo life on the sea thus far. "I think the last three or four days I have never been so sore just holding on," he says, "Basically I had to stop eating or cooking because a handhold is so important." In spite of the rocky ride he has just been in, he still appreciates the fact he is upright, witnessing the birth of a new day. "Day seven. A beautiful morning," he says as he stares at the sun-kissed horizon.
In the morning, at sunrise, Williams says he tries to find ways to make himself alert, then proceeds by demonstrating one such method. The silver-haired skipper hops on top of the hull and begins dancing to "Bamboleo" by the Gipsy Kings. With no fellow crew around to judge his moves, his free-spirited personality shines through.
Williams is now well on his way to Kauai, and his yacht really begins cooking across the sea. "We came for sailing and this is it. Days and days of it. Weeks and weeks of it," he says. "Driving across deep blue seas. Alone except for the wind and the waves. Absolutely perfect sailing." His adventure is humming along, and despite pelting rain, he can feel the Hawaiian Islands within his grasp.
As long as he holds his course and doesn't make a mistake, he'll be on the shore by nightfall. That is, unless the coastal winds completely die, leaving him within eye-shot of his destination, which is exactly what happens.
Instead of letting this disappointment get to him, he does the best thing he can think of. "When you're down and out, and disappointed, when the world has turned to ashes, there's only one solution that I know of," says Williams. "That's to make a good spaghetti sauce, open a bottle of your remaining wine and sit out the night slatting, with the lights of Kauai, enticingly ahead." In the morning, he motors into port.
The first leg of his journey is now over, and in spite of his arduous adventure, he is received without much of a welcome parade. He promptly ties up Thelonious at the Coast Guard dock in Nawiliwili Harbor and meets up with family who have been waiting for his arrival.
After 20 days at sea, Williams speaks on the adventure he just experienced. "You wonder, after being absolutely alone for such a long time, whether you'll find out something about yourself. Like the man who climbed to the top of the mountain and got all the answers." Journeys such as the one Williams has undertaken can be viewed as ritualistic, a sort of open-water walkabout.
Tending to his own musings, Williams reveals that he found "that we're really the total of everyone we know. Everyone we love. Everyone we've ever met," concluding with, "I am not sure you can ever be alone. Not while your head is full of people. Not while the conversation continues."
After recharging his soul and refueling his yacht, it's time for Williams' journey to continue -- time to for him to say goodbye to family yet again and trade the solid confines of Kauai for the open waters of the Pacific.
That is, until his steering column breaks, and two hurricanes bearing down on the islands extend his respite. Fortunately he's not alone and bonds with half a dozen fellow sailors who are forced to put their upcoming treks on hold.
Back on the blue plateau of the expansive Pacific, Williams is alone once again. He takes the time to read ancient theology and to practice his sewing. "The days were warm, and the nights were long and quiet," Williams says.
The skipper then gives us an inside peek into other activities he partakes in to pass the time. For as he says, "An intelligent person is never bored."
From using his silverware, tea kettle and a few mugs as an impromptu drum set to submerging his camera below the calm seas to get a breathtaking underwater vantage point of his surroundings, Williams truly finds a way to make the most of every moment.
The path home first sends Williams north of his California Yacht Club destination, but 28 days after leaving Kauai, he returns to the comforting California coast at 5:30 a.m. By 11 a.m. he is joined by a familiar crew of friends, family members and 10 bottles of alcohol to celebrate his remarkable accomplishment.
After 48 days of solo sailing and 6,000 lonely miles at sea, Williams ultimately comes to the realization that "our boats will take us anywhere. All we have to do is step aboard, untie the lines and shove off."
§ Christian Williams via YouTube, sfbaysss.org, billboard.com, state.hi.us, tourism.australia.com, calyachtclub.com, and sailboatdata.com