I’m curious if I were to publish my manuscript as a digital E-book on Amazon documenting my youngest circumnavigation in 1996, how many would be interested to buy it for say $10…? A few years overdue haha but depending on sales numbers, it could certainly help empower a new global assault or two…A sample below:
‘’Give me a spirit that on this life’s rough sea
Loves to have his sails filled with a lusty wind,
Even till his sailyards tremble, his mast cracks
And his rapt ship runs on her side so low
That she drinks water, and her keel plows air.”
Conspiracy of Charles, Duke of Bryron
Moonlit waves, cast afire by the prince of tides — the moon and his
soul-mate — the starlit sky, conspire together with their beauty to
waver my resolve to stop and claim the fabled age record. For me, the
pursuit of a record is the means to a more ominous but gratifying cape
to round, befriending that stranger of the subconscious…the ‘real’
me. For sixteen months, I’ve witnessed nature’s magic. The growing
intoxication with this simple existence at sea, allows me to forget
the finish and to savor what remains of the world.
The call of the sea had blinded me years before, ever since I’d
stepped back ashore as a fifteen year old boy. Cruising the South Pacific with my family for six years as a child had certainly had a profound effect. To cope with land from the age of fifteen onwards, I’d cherished and developed my passion. My love through much evolution — like a pearl, became something renewed others would support to help see
To find my way home to the sea, I had to do ‘it’ – younger
than anyone that had gone before. My passion had to become something of a
real escape plan or kind of hard physical currency, to satisfy
hungers of the material world ashore. To justify the wager, they needed the inspirational value of a first or rather – the water smudged marks of a world record. To reclaim the happiness I remembered in the South Pacific, I’d have to discriminate too many of those stops in beautiful places for the sake of a transitory record. Yet the money was on the table — to see me ‘lap’ the world younger than anyone in the history of sailing and I couldn’t have been happier. I was finally escaping land again as my parents had!
…Twenty-thousand miles later, with approximately four-thousand miles
to reach the finish line in Hawaii, I nurse “Mai-Miti” through her longest
nonstop 5,500-nautical mile passage from Panama to Honolulu. Passing
north of the Galapagos Islands, foamy white water runs down the length of the deck
as we crawl upwind at a snail’s pace. The only way to progress in the face of the unfavorable seas, head-wind and adverse current is to push my veritable ‘wife’ to nearly
one hundred percent of her potential.
But I try not to push Mai Miti beyond her tolerance as one critical
gear failure could spell a pre-emptive finish of the circumnavigation. I prefer to ‘spend’ my current half-year time advantage over Robin Lee-Graham’s 21-year-old
circumnavigation record to better insure favorable weather windows, routing and a successful final score. I had only shot at finishing under twenty-one…we don’t get any younger!
It was one of my many French sailing mentor’s, the triple solo round the
world race winner – Christophe Auguin who said, “Only push when you
must”. While I try to pace myself on the last stage, I also dream of a
circumnavigation without pit-stops. The proximity of the
finish dictates our compass heading but it’s the voyage I’ve truly
come to love.
For the moment, I have a several thousand mile lead over 17-year old
Australian David Dicks from Perth, Western Australia. An ocean in back
of me in the Atlantic, David and his S&S 34 – “Seaflight”, were
rounding the halfway mark of their nonstop circumnavigation at Bermuda,
during the middle of hurricane season.
As David threaded his way around the Atlantic pinball machine of
storms, the pronounced rotation of developing Pacific cyclones was also
discernible on the weather maps in my wake…with still five thousand
miles to reach ‘home’.
Exactly one hundred years after the first ever solo circumnavigation of the world
by American Joshua Slocum in 1895-’98, a global match race was underway between
two teenage solo sailors from each hemisphere. Chances were that we’d both lower Robin Lee Graham’s 21-year-old reference mark for circumnavigating the world
The question was, who would end up being the first to finish? However, if you really got down to it, the record was a Trojan-Horse. It was a means to escape to the sea, but no matter – David Dicks and I were in a race to become the world’s youngest solo circumnavigator — one going east and the other west…
We tell ourselves stories in order to live…we look for the sermon in
the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We
interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple
choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the
imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas”
with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria,
which is our actual experience.
-Joan Didion, The White Album
In the beginning, the dream wasn’t mine but a manifestation of my
gypsy-minded parents. For as long as I could remember, they had
dreamed of a life of freedom at sea. Fortunately, my mom realized
there would never be the perfect time to bite the bullet and cut the
dock lines. To quote small boat sailors Lynn and Larry Pardey, “Go
small, go now!”
So with that in mind on Easter Day of 1985, at the
Waikiki Yacht Club in Honolulu, Hawaii over Easter brunch, my mother –
Jan Caldwell, confronted my father, Brian Caldwell Sr., with an ultimatum:
…”Honey, you look awfully stressed, let’s sell everything and go. If
we don’t do it now, you’ll have a heart attack on the job and I’ll go
anyway. Besides, I want to do it while I can still wear a bikini with
the maidens in Tahiti!”
Little would their nine-year-old son
understand the impact of their resolution. And if my parents could
have foreseen the aftermath of the sail on their son, they probably
both would have had heart attacks right then and there!
But hindsight is great; it’s more scary to think where in life I might
have ended up had we not left life in the ‘dirt’ – (ashore). In what seemed
like the blink of an eye, we’d sold all material things, save for our
Ericsson 32 yacht – “Foxy Lady II”.
We hoped she could carry us safely wherever our gypsy mood swings took us. It certainly wasn’t considered the ‘ideal’ floating ‘brick-shit house’ double-ended 4-knot slug that sailors of the time advocated as being ‘offshore-approved’. But working because the ‘grass is always greener’ held little appeal for my mom ready to step into her new bikini and my dad, the now ex-branch manager of Xerox Corporation in the Pacific…
…Fast forward a few years:
‘Thoughts on Heading Home’
by Jan Caldwell (BJ’s mom)
“We have had an idealistic, lazy, exciting, sometimes very scary life
for the past few years, and have experienced more in this short time
than some experience in a whole lifetime. I hate to give it up even
for a little while. We have been so lucky to have been able to live
our dream and I can’t even put into words the faces, places, smiles,
sunsets, friendships, unbelievable highs and sometimes even, you can
believe it, very low, lows.
Overpowering, sweet fragrant scents that drift from a distant island
out to sea to greet your arrival. White sand beaches so bright and
soft, the texture of flour, gifts of love, flowers, food, treasures
from a serene and happy people, content in their day-to-day life, so
simple by our standards.
How can you willingly give this up so soon? We’ve only just begun; so
many more water logged miles to cross. Passages, three hours on and
off, sleepily scanning the horizon for huge ships that could smash our
little home. Passages, eating funny, sleeping funny, watching miles
click off, bored, impatiently waiting for it to be over. Lonely night
watches, thoughts drifting to home, family, remembered things of times
long ago and not so long ago, not wanting to see another light at
night but looking so hard, trying to focus tired eyes.
Finally, as the passage is almost completed, not wanting it to be
over, having enjoyed the complete solitude of being totally alone at
sea. Coming to grips with that sea, loving it, respecting it, fearing
its unpredictable nature. Worrying about cyclones that also threaten
to destroy our volatile little shell of a home.
A newfound unexpected joy in an unpretentious life. Trying hard to
grow up and act like a big girl by learning to live with your family
24 hours a day, every day, while maintaining your sense of humor on a
32 foot boat.
Realizing that your best friend is also your husband. Respecting, and
having complete faith in his ability to get us in safely. Being truly
amazed at his skill in dealing with day-to-day problems of keeping
everything on board in working order.
Being here in a most beautiful, exotic place, described as having
“fantastic cocaine white beaches. Still largely untouched, stunningly
beautiful, a tropical paradise of the first degree. Talcum powder-soft
beaches, gentle turquoise waters, towering Norfolk pines contrast with
curving palms, gum trees, ferns, wild orchids and other flowers to
create an environment of exotic richness.” Wild, free, green and red
parrots, darting through the sky, screeching their disapproval at our
intrusion. Not having to share a secluded beach with anyone else, the
gift of the sun on our bodies.
Not even tiring of doing laundry by hand – in a rushing waterfall with
small, tame fish nibbling at my feet. Standing hip deep in a fresh
water stream in Wallis Island, with a local lady bathing nearby,
another beating her laundry, showing me the proper way it is done, no
common language being spoken, their little bit of English and my small
bit of French, but being able to communicate anyway, with eyes, hands,
In the same village, a very poor, somewhat dirty, young, unwed mother,
putting flower leis around our necks, she had made herself, giving her
a pareo from Hawaii, she is standing there every time we come to shore
to greet us with her small baby on her hip, so curious about us and
our life, watching her slowly walking every day to the stream to get
fresh drinking water, then gathering wood for her cooking fire.
Taking her to our boat, she in turn takes us shelling. Then a
beautiful, dark little girl, whose name escapes me, but her face never
will, so shy, with an ever present smile –
How can I leave this sometimes primitive life, I found so late and
have come to love?
Every Christmas, being lonely, homesick, not being able to find things
I crave – a turkey, cranberry sauce, thinking of walking into a
‘’real’’ market and cooking up a real feast!
So, tomorrow is Brian Jr.’s birthday, 13, where did my little boy go?
Having had the opportunity of watching him grow from a small boy, to a
capable sailor, so anxious to always hoist the anchor and see a new
port. Having taken him through four plus years of his education, with
many doubts on my part at the beginning, but realizing early on, it
was to be a true bonus of cruising.
Christmas, only nine days away, thinking of family, holiday shopping,
Christmas music, crowds and all the mad rush.
Having given BJ the best present of all, the world.
We may be headed back, but a sadder thought of never having come.
These are all thoughts of going back, which most cruisers must deal
with at some point in time.’’
‘’I wish I were with you, sharing the laughter & domestic doings of
what I have come to think of my second home. All of it was good, in
every sense of the word. And in this life, nothing good is ever lost.
It stays part of a person, becomes part of their character. So part of
you goes everywhere with me. And part of me is yours forever.’’
- – The Shell Seekers
- “Now I’m sailing back to you Hawaii,
take me back in your arms again.’’