California to Bali Solo Expedition
Yes you can do it too!!! I learnt to sail late in my life, drawn by the sense of adventure and the freedom that sailing offers. Although I took sailing classes, I learnt far more from the almost 11 months I spent alone at sea than anything I could have learnt from classes.
Sailing is not just about mastering the skills and techniques of handling a boat but it is about overcoming fear and of surrender. It is about discovering who you are and what you’re made of.
I left San Francisco in May 2010 and arrived in Bali in April 2011. My voyage took me to Hawaii, Tikopia Islands (Solomon), Vanuatu, Rennell Islands (Solomon), Port Moresby, Torres Strait, Saumlaki (Yamdena Islands), Wetar, Baranusa, Kalabahi, Ende, Bima and Satonda Island. In times of trouble I found help from friends and perfect strangers, men at sea and on shore, who were excited about my voyage and wanted to see me reach my destination. It wasn’t an easy voyage.
Three days out, I had to decide whether to turn back or to continue. When I set out, I knew that a storm was coming but I thought, “how bad could it be?” I was in for a surprise. I met the storm head on and for two days, two nights, I was tossed in the ocean like a floating ping pong ball. When the seas quieted down, my boat was a total mess. Worse, all my sails were torn. I was only 100 NM from San Francisco and the nearest point ahead was Hawaii which was 2,000 NM away. I decided to continue. Once a sailor sets out, he should never turn back. I was as ready as I could be. Turning back would bring bad luck.
I stayed focused and never thought of not making it to my destination. No matter what happens, I will reach Bali and I will be reunited with my family in Indonesia! There were many times, though, when I felt helpless. When there was no wind. When fresh water was running out. When I was unsure whether I had enough supplies to make it to my next port of call. But the Divine never left me. Mother Nature answered my prayers for water with rain, for food with fish.
Alone at sea for weeks on end gave me a deep sense of peace and of being just a small part of the Universe, bound by an unseen force to the mysteries of nature. I fathomed the meaning of surrender and letting God set his course for me. I discovered the power of belief, focus and determination. I understood the importance of being prepared but also the inevitability of the unforeseen. I realized the true value friendship and selflessness.
I arrived in the Benoa harbor in Bali, Indonesia in the dead of night. There was a welcoming party. I was numb. Blinded by the lights. All I could think of was relief. I made it. Worn out, wiser and 20 kgs lighter. It was April 3rd, 2011- just one day of the many days during my solo voyage that I will never forget.